Technology

On-the-Go PC Storage


By Jon L. Jacobi Your PC's hard drive may be big and fast, but it lacks an attribute required for today's on-the-go lifestyle: portability. New external drives from Iomega and Maxtor provide that quality, as well as speed, size, and flexibility, but at a price.

Before Maxtor's new 60GB Personal Storage 3000DV, external IEEE 1394 (FireWire) hard drives had always been plug-and-play handy, but their performance lagged behind that of SCSI drives and internal IDE models. The Maxtor, however, writes data at a blazing 16 megabytes per second--nearly double the speed of previous IEEE 1394 drives. Its sustained read rate of over 8.5 MBps while copying data to a half-full hard drive was quite impressive, too.

Alas, with 60GB internal IDE drives costing as little as $150 at retail, the $380 Maxtor is hardly the cheapest way to add capacity to your system. But the drive, surge-protected by the IEEE 1394 bus, makes an excellent backup or video-editing drive, and it's ideal as a shared resource in a small- or home-office environment.

The Maxtor drive measures 6 by 8.6 by 1.6 inches (width by depth by height), and it weighs about 2 pounds and is rugged enough to take lot of handling. The drive draws a bit too much juice to run solely off IEEE 1394 bus power, so an AC adapter is required. But my only real gripe is that the drive lacks a power switch.

If you want something that is easier to carry around, Iomega's Peerless removable hard drive cartridge system could be just the ticket, albeit a rather high-priced one: $360 for the drive itself plus a single 10GB cartridge. Peerless cartridges weigh just under a pound and are only 3.5 by 5.3 by 0.7 inches in size (width by depth by height). Unfortunately, additional 10GB cartridges cost $160 and 20GB cartridges run $200--which makes for a pretty hefty dollar-per-megabyte ratio.

But the extra cash buys you a strong combination of reliability and storage in a removable cartridge drive. Peerless cartridges are hermetically sealed to keep out contaminants. Iomega says that they're also far more shock resistant than competing drives.

Peerless cartridges fit vertically inside a docking sleeve that uses a removable connectivity module (either USB or IEEE 1394) as its base. Only the USB module was available for my testing, so the fastest transfer rates I saw were 950 kbps for writing and 750 kbps for reading. Those are speedy times for a USB 1.1 device, but the company claims that the upcoming IEEE 1394 module should multiply those rates by at least a factor of 20.

In my opinion, however, most users' backup needs will be better served by cheaper technologies like CD-RW.

BUYING INFORMATION

Peerless

Durable cartridges good for those on the go, but a high price and slow USB connection will deter many.

Street price: $360 (drive, one cartridge)

Iomega

www.iomega.com

BUYING INFORMATION

Personal Storage 3000DV

This fast and rugged IEEE 1394 (FireWire) drive lives up to the technology's name, but you'll pay plenty for it.

Street price: $380

Maxtor

www.maxtor.com

BUYING INFORMATION

Peerless

Durable cartridges good for those on the go, but a high price and slow USB connection will deter many.

Street price: $360 (drive, one cartridge)

Iomega

www.iomega.com

BUYING INFORMATION

Personal Storage 3000DV

This fast and rugged IEEE 1394 (FireWire) drive lives up to the technology's name, but you'll pay plenty for it.

Street price: $380

Maxtor

www.maxtor.com

From the September 2001 issue of PC World magazine


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