ComboDock FireWire 800/400/USB2 Bridge Solution – Review

ComboDock FireWire 800/400/USB2 Bridge Solution
Company: WiebeTech
Price: $170 US

First thing I did upon receiving this one-of-a-kind product is look back at our comments on its predecessor . Please take five minutes to read the middle review from 1/6/03 and become familiar with the approach WiebeTech is taking to bare-drive docking.

All the technical glitches and uncertainties David Weeks and I encountered in our 2003 drive dock reviews have been addressed with simplicity and success in Wiebe’s new ComboDock. Connectors attach without any hesitation, and ample printed documentation is provided so newcomers to the process won’t sweat waterfalls over their exposed hardware.

When your new brushed-bronze colored ComboDock is affixed to an exposed hard drive, its vulnerability is limited by common sense. Drives and ports are engineered for serious industrial operation, but not for recreational tossing or twisting. My ComboDock + 40GB bare 3.5” hard drive sit flat on my desk, without unnecessary clutter or obstruction.

ComboDock is not bus powered. At this time, there are no bus powered FW800 devices anywhere on the planet, meaning you’ll need an extra surge-protected electrical outlet to use it. With cables coming and going in every direction, ComboDock’s ON/OFF switch is within short reach, as are its FireWire and USB ports. You can study all the specs here. Direct ordering from the manufacturer is also available.

My setup and initial testing began by following Wiebe’s minimal printed instructions. I unwrapped a couple of components, affixed a metal bottom plate to my new 3.5” Hitachi Deskstar bare hard drive, attached ComboDock to the drive, glued on six rubber bumpers, plugged in a couple of cables, switched on ComboDock, formatted Hitachi for Mac OS, and immediately began archiving/transferring my precious personal data from iMac -> Hitachi. What could be easier?

Drive docks exist so users can quickly swap bare drives back and forth. If this is a project that makes you consider a heavy dose of tranquilizers, stop reading and go back to using your SCSI/USB Zip Drive. But if you’re any type of geeker or hardware honcho, you’ll immediately sense the potential for a fast, flexible way to access multiple hard drives for instant highest-speed data transfer. ComboDock is swift! That’s not a scientific appraisal, but it’s as true on my modest consumer equipment as it will be on your dual-processor G5 mega Mac.

Intended users are people who want or need to backup onto different drives for a variety of purposes, such as redundant daily secure storage; IT pros who have to test or relocate equipment; audio and video hounds who desire a cheap way to manage several different volumes of footage for Final Cut Pro or any other application; and people who want to impress friends with how geeky they are when using heavy metal exposed hardware.

My personal setup has ComboDock + Hitachi HD placed close at hand between G3 iMac and CD burner. I use all three every day, and can’t imaging living or working without them. My computer tutor business doesn’t lend itself to many bare drive swaps, but I jump at the opportunity to do so with ComboDock in my digital toolbox. Try it — you’ll like it, but keep it flat, level, and unobstructed.

Depending upon your interest and need for ComboDock, our rating is between FOUR and FIVE, due to a slight wobble when picking up ComboDock or attached exposed drive one-handed, but either way this unusual product gets our two-handed applause and recommendation.

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