External hard drives aren't normally the most visually stunning of creatures, although there are some exceptions.
The XL2000 isn't one of those exceptions.
It's a stark black plastic enclosure with a lined series of gaps along the sides that serve dual-duty as air vents, and allows the drive to be vertically mounted with the supplied stand. A Hitachi logo lights up on the front when it's powered up, and also serves as an ad-hoc activity monitor, but otherwise this is about as plain looking as an external drive could possibly be.
Hitachi sells the XL2000 in two capacities in the Australian marketplace. We tested the 2TB version, which carries an RRP of AU$249, while the smaller capacity 1TB version will set you back AU$129. From a price per GB standpoint, they're not bargains or pretending to be made of spun gold either, and naturally we'd suggest you shop around as external hard drive bargains pop up on a regular basis.
Whichever model of the XL2000 you opt for, you'll be using solely a USB 2.0 interface. We're just starting to see the first USB 3.0 drives hit the market, but plenty of existing models with larger capacities offer FireWire or eSATA as an option. USB 2.0 benefits from ubiquity, but at the same time it's just not that fast for data transfers in most cases.
The XL2000 carries the same simple software load as Hitachi's SimpleDrive and SimpleTough models. Nothing installs automatically, but you can launch a simple Flash-based installer that guides you through formatting the drive and installing the re-branded ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup utility. By default the drive is formatted in FAT32 for cross PC/Mac compatibility and also by default ArcSoft will install an Ask.com toolbar in your browser unless you tell it not to. We're not averse to free software, but we'd much rather the choice was an opt-in rather than an opt-out.
The very first thing we noticed about the XL2000 when plugging it in is that it's a rather noisy drive. Vibration carrying through the case can clearly be heard when the drive is working, giving our test bench a rather annoying vibration hum.
The limiting factor in USB 2.0 connected hard drives usually isn't the speed of the drive but the speed of the connection. The XL2000 transferred a 622MB folder of files at a slower than expected write speed of 16.9MB/s. Write speeds from the drive were a little snappier at 27.3MB/s, but that's still not that particularly fast.
It's probably not a stretch to suggest that if you're going to buy a large capacity external hard drive, it's because you've got large files to shift around, whether they're individual large video files or folders with large numbers of individual files within. The XL2000's sub-par copying performance means that it's not a great contender in this space, and the lack of alternative connection methods means it's never going to get any faster.