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Gadget Bag: Portable Hard Drives

External hard drives serve as entire image libraries in the palm of your hand
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Epson P-500

What fits in your jacket pocket and holds 75,000 digital images or more? The answer: a portable external hard drive. Built using the same high-quality storage components you’ll find inside most notebook or laptop computers, these external hard drives typically consist of a 2.5-inch drive mechanism, a controller card and a high-speed interface connection—all housed in a durable and transportable shell.

These plug-in drives are better than the larger, stationary desktop versions in many ways. They travel lightly from location to studio, or from work to home, and many are powered by a computer via the same USB connection that’s used for data transfer, so you don’t have to carry around an AC adapter. Some stand-alone models include rechargeable Li-Ion batteries for use without a PC, but all of them connect easily to your computer, allowing you to perform impromptu backups, transfer image files or share slideshows with clients. They’re readily available and highly reliable, and they’re priced low enough so you can own several large-capacity models without breaking the bank.


Iomega REV LaCie Rugged Hard Disk Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini

Portable Storage

Iomega stays true to its roots with the Iomega REV, a portable drive with a twist: It uses removable disks, similar to Zip disks, which can hold up to 120 GB of data each. Available with a USB 2.0 or external SATA interface, the Iomega REV provides photographers with an easy way to inexpensively expand their storage capacity as their needs increase. A five-pack of separate 120 GB disks costs $325, or about $65 each, so it’s affordable enough to toss a backup copy of 25,000 digital images into a safe-deposit box at the bank without first visiting the ATM for a cash advance. Estimated Street Price: $499 (USB 2.0 external REV); starts at less than $85 (a selection of conventional portable hard drives).

LaCie offers a complete lineup of external drives, including one model that just might be called the ultimate solution for photographers on the go. Aptly dubbed the Rugged Hard Disk, it features a protective aluminum shell, shock-resistant rubber sleeve construction and internal anti-shock rubber bumpers that allow it to survive any sort of abuse. According to LaCie, the Rugged Hard Disk can be dropped on a padded surface from a height of about 35 inches (when not operating, of course) without losing any data. It’s no slouch when it comes to performance either, and includes FireWire 800 and 400, and Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interfaces for extremely fast file transfer. And it’s orange—a color you can easily spot, even in a cluttered studio. Estimated Street Price: Under $200 (250 GB).

In terms of value per dollar, it’s hard to beat the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini as a complete portable storage solution. The 120 GB model includes high-tech extras like Maxtor SafetyDrill, which facilitates the complete recovery of your PC’s hard drive in case of a system crash, and Maxtor DrivePass, an embedded firmware feature that selectively limits data access when the hard drive is removed and attached to another computer. Other features include Maxtor’s famous OneTouch button for immediate backups and 256-bit software encryption. Estimated Street Price: $80 (120 GB).

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The Memorex Ultra Travel Drive has a unique shape that fits easily in the palm of your hand. The 80 GB model includes interchangeable color faceplates that allow you to customize your drive or change it for color-coding purposes. It features a built-in backup button and has a nonslip, rubberized skin that makes it stay put, even on a slick desktop. The Ultra Travel Drive includes backup and synchronization software and a USB cable, and is Mac- and PC-compatible. Estimated Street Price: $49 (80 GB).

Last summer, Verbatim, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi, acquired SmartDisk’s entire lineup of popular, über-tiny storage products. In keeping with the SmartDisk tradition of great styling in a compact package, Verbatim recently announced a Mac- and PC-compatible 500 GB SmartDisk portable drive that’s a svelte 3.4×5.4×0.6 inches and weighs less than six ounces. It gets its power through either a USB 2.0 or FireWire connection and includes BounceBack Express from CMS Products, a backup and recovery software. It’s also ready to use with Mac OS X Leopard’s Time Machine feature, which can back up your data to the SmartDisk drive automatically. Estimated Street Price: $150 (500 GB).

The Western Digital My Passport Essential is a 320 GB external drive that’s slightly larger than a postcard at 5.0×3.2×0.6 inches, weighs 6.3 ounces and comes in your choice of 11 eye-popping colors. It’s powered through a computer’s USB port, so no other power supply is necessary. Compatible with Windows and Mac, the drive offers 128-bit data encryption (Windows only) and includes Google software that allows you to find things quickly. The interface is Hi-Speed USB 2.0, so data transfer is fast, too. Estimated Street Price: $160.

jobo memorex

JOBO GIGA Vu extreme Memorex Ultra Travel Drive
Western Digital My
Passport Essential

Verbatim SmartDisk

Portable Viewers And Storage
One of the most popular storage viewers, the Epson P-5000 has been a favorite among photographers everywhere for years because it’s fully featured and ultrareliable, and is powered by a long-lasting rechargeable battery. The P-5000 can display over 16.7 million colors and provides Adobe RGB color space support. It features a category-leading four-inch color LCD, yet weighs less than one pound. The P-5000 is available with an 80 GB hard drive and has a pair of Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports (standard and mini) and interfaces that allow you to connect to most TVs to display images, slideshows and movies. Estimated Street Price: $695.

With the JOBO GIGA Vu extreme, you get much more than a portable hard drive—it’s practically a complete multimedia studio that fits neatly in your backpack. Built-in card slots allow you to download images while in the field, so you can reformat your memory cards and keep on shooting, and the large 3.7-inch color LCD permits image review (even RAW images) at any time. Available in capacities ranging from 80 to 160 GB, the GIGA Vu extreme is a true portable media player that’s compatible with MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video files, MP3 music files, and can output images directly to most TVs. Estimated Street Price: $599 (80 GB).

(800) GO-EPSON

(888) 516-8467

(734) 453-0300

(503) 844-4500

(800) 2-MAXTOR

(877) 474-8548

(800) 538-8589

Western Digital
(877) 934-6972