LaCie’s “little disk” pocket drive
Price: $99.99 (30 GB) and $129.99 (60 GB)
Is That A Hard Drive In Your Pocket or…
I own a lot of external hard drives. They are typically large, fairly heavy, and require an external power brick, meaning that they are not easy to carry for portable use. USB Flash drives are a great for portable use, and these days you can get 16 GB, and even 32 GB of storage in your pocket on a small, solid-state device. But they are expensive (16 GB at about $130) and often, 16 GB is just not enough space for many needs. What if you need to carry more or larger files, like video for example? What if the access speed of a Flash drive is just not fast enough? What if you want to carry thousands of raw picture data for your new digital camera?
There is an alternate solution to Flash drives for portable data. A new category of mini hard drives is now available to satisfy those needs, and LaCie has entered this category with the “little disk.” LaCie offers a 30 or 60 GB version of this small portable storage unit for less than the cost of the 16 GB Flash drive! This small, pocket-sized USB 2.0 drive packs a lot of punch into a small little package. Weighing in at less than 5 ounces (just 4.4 to be exact) and at just 2.52” x 3.15” x .71” in size, this thing slips easily into your pocket, backpack, or purse. Now you can easily carry your files, photos, videos and music wherever you go. Designed exclusively for LaCie by Sam Hecht (formally the head designer at IDEO – see http://www.amadonweb.com/samhecht.html for more info on Sam, he is an amazing designer), it has a dark brown colored, high-gloss finish and comes with a removable protective cap, and a small carrying bag to protect its cool finish.
Before we go further, a small warning on the naming of this product! It seems that LaCie has THREE lines of hard disk products called “little disk”, and they are not all the same. The devices mentioned in this review should not to be confused with a series of USB 2.0 drives from LaCie that are both larger in size, weight, and capacity, and called, yes, you guessed it, little disk! Nor should they be confused with another series of LaCie’s drives which are also larger in size, weight, and capacity, and include FireWire connectors, and are also called little disk. And while their cases look similar in design, they are different in physical size, weight, capacity and specs. And then there is LaCie’s “Little Big Disk” that does not look similar at all, but shares the name. Shouldn’t the bigger versions of the little disk be called the “little big disk” rather than a completely different design? OK, I digress, but if you go shopping for this drive, be sure to double check the product you think you are buying to be sure you are getting the one you want. Now, back to the review, already in progress…
A built in USB cable, which pulls out and retracts is all that is required for this USB powered drive to work with your computer (an extender cable is also include for greater flexibility.) Pop off the cap, pull out the cable, plug it in to your computer it, and it shows up on the desktop. That is it! In addition to a carrying pouch, LaCie also includes software on the drive to help backup and protect your data, including LaCieSync: Synchronization & Encryption Software for Windows; LaCie ‘1-Click’ Backup Software for Windows and Mac; and LaCie SilverKeeper Backup Software for the Mac.
For those who need to know numbers, inside the small case is a 3600 RPM drive with an interface transfer rate of up to 480 Mbps and a burst transfer rate up to 32 MBps, fast enough for playing videos, listening to music, or quickly moving files from your computer to the backup. And unless you buy the very expensive “high speed” USB 2.0 Flash drives, you will not get close to this speed with any Flash drive.
As drives go, this works just like any other USB drive, and dragging files and folders around is all that is needed to move data. However, I was especially impressed with the SliverKeeper software for the Mac that came free with this drive. This great little, easy to use sync application does a difference between any two folders (and their subfolders), and then copies any new or changed files from the source folder to a user specified target folder, in my case, on the little disk. It can replace existing files, or add new copies, your choice.
This was especially great for me as I just came back from vacation with friends where we were talking a lot of pictures for 12 days. Several times during the day, we would upload all the pictures to my PowerBook to clear the memory cards in the cameras. At the end of the day, I connected the little disk to the PowerBook, launched SilverKeeper, and pressed the large GO button (yes, I had to set it up the first time, which took 20 seconds to select a source and destination folder set.) SilverKeeper would scan my iPhoto folder and compare it to a backup folder on the little disk. Any new pictures added to my computer since the last sync were quickly moved to the pocket drive, which I kept in the room’s safe, knowing that all our pictures were secure. And since the little disk had plenty of room, I also backed up all my important computer files as well, just in case my PowerBook was stolen or lost. SilverKeeper allows you to create multiple “sync sets”, each with their own source and destination folders. You can select any set, press GO, and ONLY those specific folders and files are checked for backup. This is great when you only want to backup a specific set of files, like pictures or documents rather than a whole disk.
Not all is perfect with this software however, and it is not really intended for complex backup situations. For example, it has no scheduling features at all, requiring you to remember to run the backup yourself, which most people forget. Also, it looks for any file change, and copies the entire file, not just changes to the file (which is expected actually.) Typically, this is not an issue, but for my Entourage file, that causes is a 2+ GB backup every time I touch even a single email! But for the basic backup and saving of important data, this is a great, inexpensive way to go.
I did only a little testing on the Windows side, and as a disk, it worked just fine. But I was not impressed with the “one-click backup” software backup on that platform at all. Here too, the software has no scheduling function, and using a keyboard shortcut (Control S) to enable the software backup caused very annoying duplicate copies of the same files on the target disk. If there was a workaround, I did not find it. Rather than replacing the folders on the target, the software simply added the date and a number to the target name and created yet another copy of the folder. This too was very annoying unless you really want multiple copies of every file, and cleaning up requires special attention to the folder names. Stick with drag and drop! As for the Outlook software, since I do not use Outlook, I did not try it.
Lastly, the drive comes formatted FAT32, which works fine on both Windows and Macs, but limits some file features on both systems. Also remember that FAT32 has a 4 GB file size limit, so if you have lager files like DVD image files, or large video files, you cannot copy the files to this drive. You can reformat the drive, but be sure to save the included software first, as no CD is included in the box.
Overall, I found this device to be an excellent way to carry some extra storage space, backup important files on my laptop while traveling, and add a piece of mind to the worry of lost data. It is priced well, the size is excellent, and it has a reasonable capacity. A bit of work on their software, and this would be a 5 out of 5 product!