Adaptec – SlimSCSI 1460 review

PC Card (PCMCIA) SCSI adapter
Photo of Adaptec – SlimSCSI 1460
£115 + VAT

Adaptec is the king of SCSI connectivity devices and currently offers two PC Card (PCMCIA) SCSI cards. The 1460 is the jack-of-all-trades model, working with virtually every operating system (including OS/2 and even DR-DOS) along with most SCSI devices. However, if you want to take advantage of UltraSCSI transfer rates you’ll have to splash out on the 1460′s bigger brother, the SlimSCSI 1480, which is a 32-bit Cardbus device. The 1460, by contrast, is a standard PC Card which allows compatibility with most devices but therefore limits the data speeds available.

Installation on our test notebook was very easy. Drivers are built-in to Windows 95/98 and NT, so you simply insert the card and everything is automatically taken care of. Adaptec also supply what they claim are optimised drivers on a separate disk, although we had no trouble using the Windows default versions. The manual is brief but takes you through every step of the action, including the technicalities of making sure your devices are correctly terminated. It also includes a Troubleshooting section. Support is also available from Adaptec’s Website and a copy of the excellent EasySCSI software is bundled.

The 1460 works very much like a PCI SCSI card would in a desktop PC except that, of course, it enables hot-swapping. It allows you to connect up to seven daisy-chained devices, which can include the usual range of SCSI peripherals such as hard disks, scanners and removable storage drives. Cables for both SCSI-1 and SCSI-2 external devices are supplied but notably missing is a DB-25 connector. You’ll need this to connect to the likes of Iomega’s Zip Plus and Syquest’s EZFlyer drives. This cable must be bought as an extra which we think is a bit of a pain, although a voucher is supplied in the box.

Although a 10MB/s transfer rate is theoretically available over the bus of the attached drives – the 1460 supports the Fast SCSI-2 command set – the actual transfer rates you’ll achieve are slow because of the PC Card 8MHz bottleneck, and Adaptec quotes transfer rates of up to 2MB/s. This is still very respectable, however, and should meet the needs of most users.

If this were all the 1460 did then we’d doff our hats to Adaptec and move on. But the 1460 can do more. It’s also compatible with Windows CE devices, version 2.0 or higher (including CE Pro). This means that handheld PC owners are no longer limited to the meagre 16MB or so of storage manufacturers allocate to them. By plugging in a Jaz drive, for example, you could suddenly find yourself with 2GB of available space. Not only that, but you can install CE programs to external storage volumes, allowing you to install programs to use at home, but travel ‘light’ with the machine when you’re out and about.

Installation into a CE device is slightly trickier – once you’ve established a connection from a host PC, you need to download special drivers into it. But the whole process takes a couple of minutes at most. Once done, the connected SCSI drive appears as a folder under ‘My Handheld PC’. Double click on it and you have access to the drive’s content, and are free to load or save files. It’s worth noting however, that the specially installed drivers only support removable storage and hard disks. You can’t, for example, plug in a scanner.

Company: Adaptec

Contact: 01276 854500


Verdict
The SlimSCSI 1460 is the kind of product that reaffirms our faith in computing. It's a very clever little device, and potentially a lifesaver for users who perhaps require SCSI devices and want to share the data with their notebook and/or handheld PCs.