On-the-Go PC Storage

These external drives by Iomega and Maxtor provide portable storage with speed, size, and flexibility--at a hefty price

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.



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)




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



From the September 2001 issue of PC World magazine

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