Memory cards and flash drives go up to around 2GB in capacity, 2.5-inch hard drives kick in at around 30GB, but there’s a gap in the middle around the 5GB mark which is not well served, except by audio players. Freecom has a simpler and possibly more robust device, which is ideal for carrying up to 6GB of data in your pocket.
The ToughDrive XXS is a 1-inch hard drive built into an internal, anti-shock frame and covered in silicon rubber. It has, apparently, been drop tested to two metres, further than most of us are likely to drop it. The rubber cover should help absorb shocks, but it also scuffs easily so you need to be careful how you handle it.
It’s feels solid enough and has a neat little USB 2 plug which unfolds from its end for connecting to any likely socket. Windows XP recognises it as an external drive immediately and a small blue LED, built into the plug, starts to flash as data is transferred. An extension lead is provided, but the plug on the drive is small and should fit most desktops and laptops without needing extension.
Somewhat disingenuously, Freecom quotes the drive as having a transfer rate of 480Mb/s. This is the transfer rate of the USB 2 connection that the drive uses, but the drive itself only runs at around 64Mb/s.
We ran tests, transferring a gigabyte of mixed files and then a single 1GB file and came out with figures of 2:28 (minutes:seconds) and 2:01 for reading, and 2:48 and 2:17 for writing, respectively. The drive is virtually silent in use and works much like a MicroDrive; it’s based on a similar mechanism.
While these performance results aren’t going to break any speed records, they’re better than those of the drive’s main rivals. And since the capacity of the ToughDrive XXS is 6GB, you’re likely to be handling files smaller than 1GB, so you shouldn’t have too many long waits.
Freecom includes software to provide compression and encryption of the files you store on it. Since the drive is physically small and subject to pick-pocket attack, this is welcome and the extra capacity the compression offers adds to its value, too.
Main competitors for the ToughDrive XXS include Imation’s Micro Hard drive, at £105 for 4GB, and Seagate’s 5GB Pocket Hard Drive at £65, so the 6GB Freecom device, with its ruggedised packaging, looks good value at just over £70.
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