Avatar – Shark 250 review

removable storage drive for mobile users
Photo of Avatar – Shark 250
£175 + VAT. 250MB cartridges: £25 + VAT

It’s quite rare to find the word ‘cute’ associated with something as generally mundane as a removable storage drive, but that is definitely the best word to sum up the Shark 250. In what seems to be a swift kick up the rear to the likes of Iomega and Syquest, US company Avatar has launched this tiny portable device, with a storage capacity that belies its size.

As can be seen from our photograph below, which shows the Shark 250 next to a box of matches, this is not a particularly large product. In fact, it will fit quite comfortably into the palm of your hand, while its compact 2.5-inch disks, called HARDiskettes, are small enough to be concealed in a shirt pocket. Yet each disk can hold 250MB of data – that’s two and a half times as much as a Zip disk, in far less physical space. A single HARDiskette is supplied with the drive.

What is not so small, however, is the cable assembly for the drive. We looked at the parallel port version, which has a chunky pass-through connector for a printer, and must also be hooked up to the keyboard port (via another pass-through connector) in order to get its power. The same arrangement is true of the SCSI version, but the PC Card (PCMCIA) unit is free from such clutter, with the notebook interface also acting as a power connector.

The Shark 250 is not only small and spacious, but it’s fast, too. Based on hard drive technology, with the platters inside the cartridge and the heads inside the drive, the tiny drive has a rated access time of 12ms, with peak data transfer rates quoted as 1.2MB/sec for the parallel port version, 2.0MB/sec for the PC Card (PCMCIA) unit and 2.5MB/sec for the SCSI variant. In fact, the basic drive is the same in all cases; only the cables are different, so you can buy one drive and change to a different interface at a future date if you wish. Avatar’s drive is supplied with drivers for DOS/Windows 3.1x and Windows 95, and the company includes plenty of software utilities with the Shark 250, such as NovaDisk Lite Backup, PC Crypto and WebScan from McAfee, and DocuMagix HotPage Plus.

Until such time as Iomega sees fit to launch its Clik drive in the UK, or some other as-yet unknown removable drive technology arrives, the Avatar Shark 250 will remain the cutest storage device on the market.

Company: Avatar

Contact: 01491 413663


Verdict
By far the most elegant removable storage drive available, the Shark 250 is fast, compact, has plenty of capacity and is only marginally let down by the cable paraphernalia that comes with all versions except the minimalist PC Card (PCMCIA) model.