In May we looked at a "thumb drive" that stores 512MB of information in an aptly named thumb-sized enclosure(http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=8513). Meanwhile, gumstick- and postage stamp-sized devices like Memory Stick and SD offer similar capacities in the compact flash media domain.
But none of those devices really meets contemporary standards of what we expect from external hard drives, the storage devices that mostly sit alongside or atop our computers and augment whatever storage came in the box for quick and ready access to the files we use in our daily work. And since "daily work" in the digital studio involves digital video and audio files, hard drives boasting 80GB and up are anything but excessive. I picked up a 320GB hard drive in April for storing video files and still images (see May DRIVING RANGE); it's not even the first of July, and the drive is already over half full.
What's more, today it's not just size that matters, but portability, particularly for digital studio types who do the bulk of their work on laptops. Foolishly, perhaps, I shuttle between multiple desktops, and have on more than one occasion brought my 320GB Big Disk to the office with me. While it doesn't require a U-Haul trailer or anything, I'd hardly describe the drive as portable.
The latest crop of "pocket-sized" portable hard drives strikes me as just the happy medium (and it's a big medium, capacity-wise) I'm looking for. Introduced in mid-June, Kano's SureFIRE800 fits the bill well. Offering trifold connectivity—USB 2.0, FireWire 400 (1394a), and FireWire 800 (1394b)—the SureFIRE800 should work with just about any laptop you may have, and shuttle effectively between desktops if you've got yourself in the pickle that I'm in.
Kano submitted a 10oz., 5400RPM, 80GB unit for evaluation. I tested the Kano using FireWire 400 and 800 on three systems, a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 Gateway, a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 Sony VAIO, and a 2GHz dual Mac G5, transferring files back and forth between a same-bus LaCie BigDisk and a stalwart 60GB Que! drive from 2002 on the PC systems and using with the internal hard disk as a file source on the Mac. I also tested it with a 2.66gHz Compaq Presario with a USB 2.0 card. In all cases, the drive installed and was recognized with ease, and performed all the tasks at a satisfying speed. Video capture direct to the drive on the VAIO's FireWire 800 daisychain also went off without incident, with just under 10 minutes of DV captured via FireWire using Ulead VideoStudio 8 without a single dropped frame.
The only catch in the installation process is that if you want to use file sizes over 2GB, you'll have to re-format it as NTFS, rather than the default FAT 32. It only takes about 30 seconds, but it erases anything you might have previously stored on the drive. Of course, this only applies if you're working exclusively in Windows; if you're a Mac user, or plan to use the drive with both platforms, you'll have to stick to FAT 32.
Leaving no stone unturned, I also tested it with three pairs of pants, and it fit comfortably in the front pockets of each. (Depending on your taste in pants, your experience may differ.)
The Kano SureFIRE800 is available in four sizes: 20GB ($249), 40GB ($289), 60GB ($339), 80GB ($399). (All drive bundles also include Dantz Retrospect Mac/Windows backup software.) The capacity/cost ratio, as you might expect, lags behind non-pocket drive models; for example, I paid $399 for the 320GB BigDisk unit I bought in April. But if I could get that thing in my pocket, I wouldn't be paying for anything.
--Stephen F. Nathans