First look: Seagate 5 GByte Pocket Hard Drive

Chicago (IL) - The evolution of digital media and exploding popularity of digital imaging, audio and video has created a whole new demand for removable and portable storage media: With five-megapixel pictures and home videos floating around everywhere, the good old floppy just doesn't cut it anymore.

The hugely popular USB sticks are a nice solution to transport digital files, but offer with typically 256 or 512 MByte not quite the space for a picture or video collection. In a similar move what has made portable audio players a more attractive media, Seagate announced earlier this week a portable harddrive. The "Pocket Hard Drive" delivers five GByte of space (4.66 GByte effectively) by using a 2.5" harddrive - the largest capacity in the ultra portable segment so far.

Portable harddrives are not particularly exciting products besides the fact they offer loads of room for your data. But Seagate has done a nice job to come up with useful solutions to make the user's everyday life a bit easier. The circular casing of the drive conveniently fits in the palm of your hand and consists of two parts. The inner casing can be turned and unrolls a USB 2.0 cable with about four inches of usable length - which clearly is too short for a sensible use with desktop PCs, but works fine with notebooks. On the road, this simple concept ensures an always available USB cable which is safely stored away. The case also integrates rubberized feet, which provide the drive a stable position on almost any surface.

We admit we are spoiled playing with trendy electronics. However, we feel Seagate's innovative concept of the Pocket Drive deserves a better choice of casing materials. The plastic used is not appropriate for a device ringing in at about $200. In fact, it makes it feel somewhat cheap. Also, it is just a matter of time until the surface will show ugly scratches and make the appearance of the device less attractive.

Where the drive excels, is its streamlined functionality. With no installation necessary, the drive can be used immediately after plugging it into your USB port. A software toolkit, allowing the creation of a bootdisc and partitions, configuration of a password and access protection as well as simple formatting and restoring features, is included on the harddrive itself and can be launched from there. We liked the simple interface but were a bit confused about an unnecessary two-step process to close the application.

As expected, the drive delivers sufficient data transfer speeds through its USB 2.0 interface. It is no match for Flash-based USB sticks, but the 3600-rpm harddrive transferred 100 MByte of data in just above 23 seconds. Filling the complete drive with a mix of audio, video and image took about 18 minutes.

There is no doubt that the 5 GByte Pocket Hard Drive can be a handy companion for users who have to move large amounts of data between different locations. Its advantages are its ease of use its small and light form factor. If Seagate equips the drive with a longer cable and uses brushed steel instead of silver-painted plastic, the device will not only be useful but only offer the style many users expect in this price range.

The Pocket Hard Drive come sin two versions. 2.5 GByte sell for about $150, the tested 5 GByte version is priced at $200, with street prices ranging about 20 percent below suggested retail.