Portable Storage; Hard Drives, CD/DVD Burners, And Flash Drives

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Today's high-resolution digital cameras eat up lots of memory. High-capacity memory cards cost as much as a portable hard drive, so why not use a portable storage device and transfer card memory to that drive? Portable hard drives are battery-driven and most employ a 2.5" disk drive, while a few use the more expensive 1.8" drive. As an alternative there are portable CD and DVD burners--also battery-operated. While discs provide a readily distributable storage medium, burning data to a disc is time-consuming. Portable hard drives, on the other hand, are almost as fast as the drive in your computer. Capacity ranges from 40GB (less on some) on the most economical 2.5" and 1.8" drives, reaching 120GB on the newest 2.5"-drive devices.

Of course, if you only need something really small--about the size of a pen knife--for data transfers or backup from your computer or downloads from the camera, a flash (pen/thumb) drive is a practical and economical choice, especially since they are powered by the high-speed USB port. A select few flash drives are U3 smart technology-enabled, which lets you run applications directly from them. Even more interesting perhaps is the new storage capacity on some flash drives--reaching 8GB.

If flash cards keep exponentially increasing storage capacity at this rate, we might not need anything physically larger. They will probably be able to incorporate a small-enough LCD screen for us to monitor operations and even view thumbnail images. There is now at least one flash drive that monitors storage capacity, albeit not on an LCD. Select flash drives support USB OTG, which stands for USB On The Go. That means you plug the device directly into the camera to transfer picture files, without the need to remove the memory card and then insert it into the device--avoiding the pitfalls of accidentally dropping the tiny card in the process. This also means the drive draws power from the camera's battery, and requires you to carry the camera's USB cable around--there's always a tradeoff. And it assumes the flash drive has a larger capacity than the stored memory in the camera.

All in all, these devices made an impressive showing at PMA. But this is only the start--don't be surprised by what you see in the years ahead.

Battery-Driven Drives
Apacer (distributed by JOBO AG) displayed the Disc Steno CP300 mobile DVD burner ($299). This battery-driven DVD reader/writer supports multiple memory cards and features a small color screen for playback and monitoring, and burns/reads CDs as well.

Apacer Disc Steno CP300

On the road, it's not always about transferring picture files to a portable device. Many of us take our laptop computers with us, transferring pictures directly to the computer, often for immediate previews while shooting on assignment. And what folly that is without some means of backing up those pictures from the laptop to an external device! CMS Products had an ultra-compact solution at hand in the ABSmini, a 1.8", ultra-portable data back-up system, offered with 40, 60, or 80GB capacity, with data back-up/recovery software.

ABSmini

Digital Foci came on the photo scene with several products. Picture Porter Elite offers a large 3.6" screen and built-in card reader ($599/80GB); Picture Porter, with its smaller screen, also supports multiple memory cards ($359/20GB); and Media Buddy is the vanilla version, sans color playback functions ($299/80GB). Each supports multiple file formats, and while all function as MP3 players, the color models come in handy for video playback as well. Now if you only want to back up data from your computer, then the DataPocket (capacity from 30-80GB, $129-$209) is your cost-effective, portable solution.

Picture Porter

Media Buddy

Epson has upgraded their multimedia storage viewer, which now carries the moniker, the Epson P-4000, increasing storage to 80GB ($699). The device boasts a large 3.8" LCD with Epson Photo Fine technology for enhanced color, detail, and clarity. The P-4000 can store over 75,000 images, over 25,000 songs, or about 90-300 hours of video. It supports JPEG and raw files (on select digital SLR cameras), MPEG-4 and Motion JPEG video files, and MP3 and AAC audio files.

Epson P-4000

EZPnP Technologies revealed a prototype of their latest portable storage device, the DM180 Plus. This device is entering the marketplace as we speak, in 20, 40, 60, and 80GB models. It features a one-touch copy from flash memory cards (supports all popular cards), with playback of photos and videos on a 2" screen. It's also usable as an MP3 player. Powered by a replaceable lithium ion battery it supports USB 2.0 OTG. Priced at $399 for the 40GB model.

EZPnP DM180

Media Street showed the eMotion DF-PMPS Personal Media Player & Storage device. This device has a 20GB drive and a 10-in-1 card reader, and also serves as an MP3 player ($379).

JOBO AG (formerly JOBO Fototechnic) debuted the GIGA Vu PRO evolution in capacities ranging from 40GB ($495) to a whopping 120GB ($895). It features a nearly 4" display that is said to be three times brighter than its nearest competitor. The device is WiFi compatible, and supports OTG direct USB connection, real raw file decoding for all major brands, dust detection, and, to really prove its mettle as a road warrior, a floating hard drive to resist impact and shock. With direct support for CompactFlash/Microdrive (other cards with adapter), it will download a 1GB card in less than 2 minutes. It also plays MP3 music and MPEG movie files.

JOBO GIGA Vu PRO

The new San Ho HYPERDRIVE mini was introduced by the Brandess-Kalt-Aetna Group. The HYPERDRIVE mini offers data transfer speeds up to 16MB/sec, allowing a backup of a 1GB card in under 2 minutes, and accepts eight different types of memory cards. The battery will hold a charge sufficient to transfer more than 30GB. The device is also an MP3/WMA player, and features a blue backlit matrix screen. It employs a user-replaceable 1.8" IDE hard disk ($199/20GB version; $249/40GB).

San Ho Hyperdrive

SmartDisk introduced the PhotoBank, a USB photo storage device ($179). PhotoBank has 40GB of storage capacity, and can hold over 40,000 photos (at 800KB file size). The LCD status indicator and the single key enable quick one-step transfer.

SmartDisk PhotoBank

Wolverine Data introduced the Wolverine MVP (Movie/Video/Photo). Each Wolverine MVP features a 7-in-1 card reader built-in for file transfers, with a choice of internal 60, 100, or massive 120GB drive, at $399, $499, $599, respectively. You can view up to 40 different raw files, as well as JPEG. It is also a complete music player, for MP3 and other audio formats (up to eight hours), and it plays movies (up to three hours). The MVP employs a 2.5" drive, which is user-swappable. The lithium ion rechargeable battery can be swapped out with readily available replacements.

Wolverine MVP

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