was no lack of gadgetry at this year's PMA, especially when it came to
portable data and picture storage and display. The themes and variations boggle
the mind, making it increasingly difficult to choose one product over another--especially
when products from one company show an uncanny resemblance to those from another.
However, many products distinguish themselves as innovative.
Portable Hard Drives
This category consists of two principal groups: data back-up devices and card
reader/storage/viewers. The first group focuses entirely on hard drives that
practically fit in the palm of your hand. Their sole mission is to back up data
from your hard drive so you can keep it handy when away from home or the studio.
The second group is more versatile. Here we see devices with built-in card reader/writers
that allow us to transfer memory cards from the camera while on the road, freeing
us to carry and use fewer memory cards on a trip. They can also be used for
data backup and increasingly as MP3 players. And just as important, most come
with a color display, some quite sizable (nearly twice the size of the camera's
LCD), for reviewing images and watching movies.
All these devices are battery-driven, recharging by household AC or, on select
units, via USB 2.0 connection to the computer (usually while the device is turned
off). Capacity ranges from 40GB (less on some) to a whopping 160GB.
Digital Foci expanded its line-up of portable storage devices with Photo Safe
in 40GB ($139, MSRP), 80GB ($179), and 120GB ($229) capacities. Photo Safe is
a battery-driven hard drive with built-in memory card reader and sports a backlit
LCD for viewing/confirming data operations, not viewing pictures/movies. The
user-replaceable lithium ion battery can be recharged via a computer's
USB port or external AC power. It weighs in at 0.6 lbs (battery included) and
Epson displayed the P-3000 (40GB) and P-5000 (80GB), priced at $499 and $699,
respectively, offering crystal-clear viewing on a 4" high-resolution full-color
LCD that's hard to beat. The device supports the Adobe RGB color space
and raw (as well as JPEG) file viewing, along with MP3 audio and video playback.
The only shortcoming is limited memory card support (CompactFlash, Microdrive,
and Secure Digital).
Fabrik/SimpleTech showed the USB-driven SimpleDrive Portable in four stylish
colors to match capacity: gray/60, blue/80, black/120, and red/160GB built around
a 2.5"/5400 rpm IDE drive. This storage device is said to have a high
shock tolerance. It was designed by the people who design Ferrari (I'm
getting a red one to match my red Ferrari).
JOBO enhanced their line-up of portable storage/viewers with the Spectator,
in 40, 80, and 120GB (MSRP $249, $299, and $379, respectively). This device
features a high-resolution 2.5" TFT color LCD and built-in card slots
supporting all popular memory cards. And the unit's integrated auto-verify
function provides added security and gives users assurance that the copy process
was successful. It is powered by an internal rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Memorex introduced the Ultra TravelDrive USB hard drives, which deliver up
to 160GB of storage capacity based on 2.5" hard drive technology. They
feature interchangeable faceplates in nature-inspired colors.
Ultra TravelDrive USB
The Sanho division of Brandess-Kalt-Aetna announced the lithium ion-battery-driven
HyperDrive SPACE storage drive. The built-in card reader/writer accepts 15 types
of memory cards for data transfer from/to the internal hard drive (capacity
ranges from 40-160GB). It incorporates a 32-bit verification system and LCD
for data operations (not playback), all in a very slim package.
Western Digital exhibited the USB-driven WD Passport, a 5400 rpm portable
drive in four capacities (60-160GB/$199) for data backup. Of course it's
built around a 2.5" Western Digital drive, which speaks volumes for reliability,
and it weighs less than 4 oz. The Passport comes with synchronization and encryption
Digital WD Passport
And now for something a bit different. It may look like a multimedia storage/viewer,
but the Smartparts Portable Video & Picture Player ($119) is only a playback
device--with a difference. It sports a 7" color display and supports
Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, CompactFlash, and xD cards, as
well as USB flash drives.
Portable Video & Picture Player