WD My Passport Ultra: Think Local Act Dropbox

WD-My-Passport-Ultra

Local storage is all well and good until a flash flood sweeps through your home or a thief makes off with all your tech goodies; cloud-based storage also has its drawbacks, should you lose your connection to the Web or if Amazon’s servers suddenly collapse under the weight of all your holiday snaps. It’s perhaps with these considerations in mind that Western Digital’s latest hard drive range uses software that combines local storage with Dropbox integration.

The new drives are the latest entrants in the established Passport range, focusing on slim, portable drives that only require a USB connection to power up. They’re ideal for swapping between computers and backing up your stuff, though they don’t quite reach the speeds or capacities of full-size external drives. The new line-up comes in four colours (red, blue, black or grey) and a choice of three capacities (500GB, 1TB or 2TB).

All the drives are USB 3.0-enabled and come with hardware encryption and password protection capabilities, as handled by the aforementioned WD SmartWare Pro software. The latest edition of Western Digital’s proprietary software solution does a neat job of mirroring the files on your drive with your cloud-based Dropbox storage, though you’ll only be able to have your most important files in both places at once unless you fork out for Dropbox’s paid-for packages ($49.99 or roughly £32 a month for 500GB, at the last check). Dropbox gives users 2GB for free, though you can quickly increase that with referrals.

Each drive comes with a carrying pouch and USB cable. The 500GB model has a RRP of €89.90 (roughly £76), while the 1TB version will set you back €129.90 (£110). Pricing has yet to be confirmed for the 2TB edition, which is coming to retailers in the next month or two.

My-Passport-Ultra-Hand

At first glance the most impressive aspect of the My Passport Ultra is how small and svelte it is, even when compared with drives from the same line up just one or two years ago. These drives really are getting to the pocket-sized stage. The 500GB version we put through its paces was set up in seconds and transferred data at an impressive rate, particularly over USB 3.0 — you can expect to shift around 5GB of data every minute, which blows most other drives out of the water. A transfer rate of around 30MB/s was achieved over USB 2.0.

Hooking the unit’s integrated backup software up to Dropbox only took a couple of mouse clicks, and there’s a useful quick backup option that picks out the most important folders from your PC automatically. We would’ve liked to see a tool for backing up to Dropbox and the external drive simultaneously, but for now it’s either one or the other. Of course, you can always use the My Passport Ultra to create a copy of your existing Dropbox folder to keep all bases covered.

With Western Digital’s wealth of experience, as well as the hefty capacities and polished looks of the new models, it’s difficult to look past the My Passport Ultra range when it comes to portable hard drive solutions. That said, there’s plenty of choice out there — Freecom’s Mobile range is worth considering, and the company seems to take as much interest in the look of its drives as Western Digital does. Seagate is another of the big players with a strong track record, and its Wireless Plus drive works without cables and can be accessed by mobiles and tablets as well as computers (though you will of course pay a premium for the privilege).

Connected Data’s Transporter: Off-Cloud Social Storage

Transporter

There’s a lot to be said for the magic of the modern age. At the touch of a button everything I say or do can be transmitted across the world to an audiences of tens. And “cloud” storage has created an impressive array of possibilities for people or small businesses who want to access all sort of information at any point in time, anywhere. Although as Louis CK [link] likes to point out, “Cloud” is a euphemism for “big building with no windows and lots of security guards posted outside”. The amount of personal data we willing beam off into space and entrust into the hands of faceless corporate giants is insane. If I had to write down on paper all the things I send to Apple and Google on a daily basis I’d have some *serious* reservations. If I ever got movie amnesia I’m pretty sure Apple, Google and Facebook could tell me exactly who I am, in harrowing detail. Then again I like being able to share my data with friends and family. And have things like photos and documents backed up seems like the commonest of common sense in this digital age. So what is a boy to do? Enter Transporter.

The Transporter is an off-cloud social storage drive for privacy sharing, accessing and protecting one’s files. There are already a host of drives that enable shared storage – QNAP for example do an amazingly comprehensive NAS. But the Transport is built with regular people in mind, with usage more in line with day to day social sharing – not just the needs of a small business’s IT department.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4WtrvTBDA18

The key feature of Transport is that you own and control all the data that is stored on the device – making it your own private cloud. Users can access files across the internet and the Transport can quickly and easily make contact with other Transporter devices and users (saving many a headache). Because all the files are stored on the device and nowhere else, usage is 100% private – so you don’t have to worry about a sudden change in terms of service ala Instagram’s famous slip up.

The Transporter people also eager to point out that there are no recurring fees for the device. After you purchase a unit, you have the ability to share thousands of files with as many people as you like irregardless of size. All the magic of Dropbox with none of the restrictions. I do a lot of work with video and the ability to share huge HD files globally is a huge boon to productivity. You can also do this on a smaller scale with photos or confidential documents via connected folders. And because files aren’t in “the cloud” but secure hard drives you can circumvent regulatory prohibitions that can cause issues for certain professions.

If you’re an SME, you can also create secure Iron Mountain-style offsite backups by buying another Transporter, storing it in a secondary location and voila – changes on one device are automatically reflected on another. You can even hide and encrypt data on the remote backup.

Intrigued? Find out more at Connected Data. The Transporter w/ 2TB Drive is $399 with UK pricing expected later in the year.

AirStash A02: Stream Theatre

AirStash-O2-on

I’ve just purchased an iPad mini. And in a dramatic break with tradition I didn’t max out on storage space as I have with pretty much every other Apple device I’ve purchased since my first foray into Mac Life in 2003 (with a PowerBook that still boots and gets online). This isn’t a break with my core values. Fortunately I don’t have any. It’s just … the world has changed since I first started investing in portably computing. Once you had your 20/60/100 Gb hard drive and that was it. Now things are different. My music is on Spotify, my movies are on Netflix and all my documents spend their time shuffling between iCloud and DropBox. I just don’t need masses off on-device storage. But what if I suddenly discover I need to carry 8 Gb of very important documents at short notice. Well then I have AirStash.

AirStash – or Maxell’s new and improved AirStash A02 is a clever bit of portable storage masquerading as the world’s chubbiest USB key. Their are already a few WiFi hard drives on the market (indeed the original AirStash was released in 2011) but AirStash brings a few new tricks to the game.

AirStash-O2

As you’d expect AirStash creates an ad hoc WiFi network between itself and any WiFi device. There’s an app (Android and iOS) but you can also access AirStash through a browser. And it’s a USB key that you can plug into a regular computer. And it’s an SD card reader so you just plug data from your cameras. And it’s a … well you get the idea. It’s a pretty versatile device.

It ships with a 16GB SDHD card, and is expandable up to 2TB using SDXC cards. AirStash works with RAW files from most cameras which is pretty nifty if you’re doing some proper photography on the road. You can also stream media to up to eight devices simultaneously so it’s pretty cool for group outings – kids in the back of the car each watching a movie on one of their iDevices rather than quietly contemplating just how damn lucky they are.

AirStash-Road-Trip

The built in rechargeable lithium polymer battery gets 7 Hours operation from a single charge. I couldn’t work out how to form a bridge network using AirStash – so I couldn’t watch a movie and get online at the same time. Then again … I’m watching a movie so there’s no great need to be online but I can imagine for video editing work or some such it would be slightly more useful. However this is coming in an app update.

The AirStash A02 is out now for £95.

Seagate’s Momentus XT: Giving laptops a longer ultra-fast lifeline

“Turbo-charge your laptop PC with the second-generation of Momentus XT”, Seagate, the global leader in hard disk drives and storage solutions, claims.

When you first buy a laptop, notebook or PC, it is great how fast they run and how instantaneous they seem to perform. Six months, thousands of pages browsed on the internet and hundreds of files, photos and songs uploaded down the line, your superfast, ultra-responsive beloved laptop is beginning to slow down.

Seagate-Momentus

Sounds familiar? This is where Seagate’s new Momentus XT may step in, the second generation of the company’s solid state hybrid drives, which, according to Seagate, will be the fastest drive the company has ever produced for personal computers.

With a simple drive upgrade, users can almost immediately boost the boot-up speed and over-all performance of their PC. In fact, so effective is the Momentus XT promising to be, that seven original equipment manufacturers are allegedly gearing up to ship laptops powered by Momentus XT, although which seven manufacturers remain undisclosed.

Not only is this second-gen of Seagate’s solid state hybrid drives almost 70 percent faster than previous Momentus drive versions and up to three times faster than a traditional hard disk, but it also provides 750GB of storage capacity.

For anyone reading this who likes to understand the reasons to why a simple drive upgrade can make their laptop run significantly more efficient before you commit to ‘upgrading’, then I will endeavour to enlighten you.

Basically – no there’s nothing basic about this technology – the Momentus XT is powered by Seagate’s Adaptive Memory and FAST Factor technologies. Whilst FAST Factor technology blends the strengths of SSDs and hard disk drives for a faster running computer, Adaptive Memory Technology effectively identifies data usage patterns and subsequently moves the most frequently retrieved information to solid state access for faster access – I warned you there is nothing basic about this technology.

A fast running laptop that has exceeded its six-month ultra-fast and responsive time span! Sounds too good to be true? Well things that sound too good to be true usually are too good to be true and the major drawback of the Momentus XT it seems is its price – $245, pretty hefty hey?

Seagate GoFlex Cinema: Helping your TV multitask

The TV seems to be the focus for many a technology company at the moment, and Seagate is the latest to turn its attention on the old gogglebox as a means for watching not only EastEnders and endless repeats, but also for all your digital multimedia content.

Seagate-Cinema

I guess it makes sense to bring all your entertainment into one space and make the whole experience more sociable, rather than sitting alone in front of the computer screen. So, welcome the GoFlex Cinema multimedia drive.

This new high-capacity drive “is designed to transform the television into a digital media centre,” says Seagate.

So what can you do with the GoFlex? Well, first, you can play back most video formats (including MKV, H.264 and MP4,) in 1080p HD quality, and you can view your digital photos this way too. What’s more, you can load content onto the drive without having to go through your computer (really handy if your laptop is like mine and crammed full of content already).

So, to watch your latest holiday snaps when you get home, just connect your digital camera direct to the drive, and use the remote control to drive the slide show. If there’s not enough space you can upgrade to a higher-capacity GoFlex Desk drive.

If you are a bilingual computer user and use both a PC and Mac, the good news is that the GoFlex drive is compatible with both Windows and MacOSX.

The 1TB model costs around £130, while the 2Tb and 3TB modesl are selling for around £164 and £191 respectively on Amazon.

More details at Seagate

Don’t put a lid on it – Freecom’s USB DataBar

I know it’s my own fault, but I’m forever losing the caps of USB sticks. Admittedly, most of them have been freebies from PR companies, courses or various seminars, which is probably why I don’t take care of them. And, of course it’s my own fault that they get gunked up with biscuit crumbs, sticky sweets and the rest of the detritus that seems to lurk at the bottom of my bag.

DataBar

So it was with great joy that I received the news that Freecom has come up with a clever capless design for its latest USB sticks – dubbed DataBar. Industrial designers Niels in Vorm and EigenID are behind the clever design, which sees a sliding mechanism retract the USB connection into the stick when it’s not in use. It’s a simple, but incredibly clever, design feature.

“The whole point of USB sticks is that they are small enough to carry around wherever users go, but with traditional designs it’s easy to misplace the cap when moving a stick around from one place to the other,” said Cas de Heus, marketing and communications manager EUMEA at Freecom.  “With the DataBar, we have overcome this problem thanks to the capless design – and what’s more, this ‘all in one’ USB stick is as stylish as it is practical.”

The DataBar is USB 2.0 compatible and has up to 64GB of capacity, which can store more than 43,000 pictures, should you wish.

Prices start at a slightly pricey £5.49 for the 2GB stick (you can pick up an ordinary 8Gb stick for around the same price), up to £135 for the 64GB version. Find out more at www.freecom.com

Plextor PX256M2S SSD review

Harddrives ain’t the most glamorous of components; no matter how large or fast they get. SSD harddrives have injected a bit of glamour into the market by dramatically increasing performance, but they’re usually dismissed as toys of rich gamin’ playboys. Then one – the Plextor PX256M2S – landed on our desks and we changed our minds; it was wonderful.

Plextor PX256M2S

Using flash memory – i.e. the kind found in SD cards – Solid State Drives are much faster, smaller, lighter and less power-hungry than their old-school counterparts.

The Plextor is the same size as a standard 2.5″ drive, but weighs a meek 72g – nearly half the weight of a standard 2.5” HDD. It’s also pretty aesthetically pleasing, all smooth and silvery.

Aesthetics aside, the performance speaks for itself, with write speeds of 480MBps and read speeds of around 330MBps.

To achieve that intense throughput the drive uses the latest generation of SATA interface – the 6Gbps, SATA3 kind. That means your motherboard has to support SATA3 to get the full benefits – SATA2 may provide a bottleneck to the breakneck speed of the Plextor.

Of course, if you’re spending around £250 on a hard drive, shopping around for a slightly better motherboard is worth the effort.

Beneath the 256GB model, there are 64GB and 128B versions offering “up to 370MBps” for writing and up to 110MBps for reading.

Whatever the incarnation, however, the drives are fast. A straight-up clone of our 210GB Windows 7 installation onto the drive took 45 seconds to boot the first time – down from 77 on our old 5200RPM harddrive.

After a couple of boot-ups to perfect the file-cacheing, the Plextor fell down to just above 30 seconds – considering 7-10 seconds of that was BIOS time, that’s lightning.

The included software (Acronis TrueImage HD) allows you to easily transfer your existing Windows installation over to the Plextor, although some people have reported slight files errors. Of course, a clean install of Windows will always be the best option, and any problems will be the software – not the outstanding SDD.

While we love the fast boot times, it’ll also work well if you’re looking for a second drive for scratch disks (video or photo editing) or want to use Windows 7’s ReadyBoost feature. Ideally, get two.

Strato’s Hi-Drive: 5GB of free high security cloud storage

For storing files, the world is taking inspiration from England’s summer: it’s all about the Cloud. And while Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail rule cloud-based e-mail, YouTube is the King of cloud video, Flickr and Facebook champion cloud pictures, Dropbox is the only big name in cloud-based file storage. That’s something German-based Strato plan to change.

Strato

If you haven’t heard of Strato, it’s because they’ve mainly been focussed on the business market. Now, however, they’re turning that experience to the consumer side.

To get people interested in their new service, the company is offering 5GB of free storage via www.free-hidrive.com – over double that of Dropbox or Wuala.

The main selling point of Strato, however, is not the extra storage space – it’s the way the company stores your data. Everything is saved at two ISO2709-rated data centres – the same protection banks use to keep your money in their vaults.

The CO2-free server farm is based in Germany, which means that access to the data is protect via Germany’s strong data privacy laws – tougher than those found in the US.

In terms of usability, files can be added to Strato in four ways – web browser, e-mail, a mounted local drive and the Windows Phone 7 and Androids apps. An iPhone app has been created, although it’s currently stuck in the limbo that is Apple’s approval process.

One reason for this hold-up may be down to the Android app’s ability to open, send, share and even stream music and video files – if this was on iPhone, it might be a potential rival for Apple’s own cloudy plans.

Meanwhile on Windows Phone 7, the app is actually the first third-party application on the OS to allow cloud storage.

Like Dropbox, the service also comes with Backup Control, so you’ll be able to access different versions of saved files.

If you love the service, you can soon buy 100GB for €9.90/month, or 500GB for €29.90/month with multiple user accounts.