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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hi-Tech Studio: Portable Hard Drives

Take copies of your most important files wherever you go, with the peace of mind that only redundant data provides

Top Drives

LaCie (www.lacie.com) offers a variety of elegant portable drives, including the Rugged All-Terrain drive. Clad in shock-resistant, industrial orange armor, they boast capacities of up to 120 GB, Hi-Speed USB and FireWire 400 and 800 connectivity, plus compact size and weight (about half a pound). But here's the big differentiation: According to LaCie, they can be dropped from a height of about 35 inches (when they're not operating, that is) without suffering debilitating damage. That's not something anyone should routinely do, of course, but it's great to know that if the drive gets jostled a bit more than it should, it will stand up to the torture. Retail price for the 120 GB capacity with FireWire and USB 2.0 is $299.

SmartDisk (www.smartdisk.com) has long been at the forefront of portable-drive innovation, and that's why the venerable FireFly Ultra-Portable always makes the list of compact, reliable storage devices. Weighing in at a scant 3.3 ounces, the FireFly boasts a magnesium outer shell that's strong and lightweight, and has improved heat-dissipation characteristics. It's bus-powered, so it travels light with just a single Hi-Speed USB cable and no AC adapter. The 20 GB model is scarcely larger than a playing card (2.5x4x0.5 inches) and retails for $149. Slightly larger in form factor but still highly portable are SmartDisk's FireLite drives, which offer bigger capacities, up to 100 GB, with prices starting at $119.

The chrome-plated, aluminum enclosure for Seagate's USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive (www.seagate.com) helps absorb shocks and resists even cosmetic scratches. Like the other drives here, it's powered by the USB connection, so you don't have to carry multiple cords. Capacities range from 40 GB up to the 160 GB model, which retails for about $379.

Transcend (www.transcendusa.com) offers an assortment of external storage options, including two very portable models, the Combo 2.5-inch and the PhotoBank. The Combo 2.5-inch is FireWire- and Hi-Speed USB-compatible and is powered via the data cable. Checking in at about 5x3.2x0.8 inches, it can hide beneath a postcard. The 80 GB version of the Combo 2.5-inch retails for $157. PhotoBank is a Hi-Speed USB device with a dual personality. With no computer around, it becomes the perfect storage device for field deployment: It will digest virtually every type of memory card known to man and copy the contents to its hard drive—no PC needed. Connect it to a PC, however, and it becomes an external HDD and USB card reader/writer. The supplied rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts about three hours on a full charge. List price for the 40 GB model is $255.

Western Digital's (www.westerndigital.com) WD Passport Portable drives are about the size of their namesake, albeit thicker. They're bus-powered and, according to Western Digital, incorporate a power-stingy design that helps prolong the battery life of notebook computers. The 80 GB Passport retails for $149 and sports a rugged metal exterior.




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