The IBM Microdrive is a hard drive with a difference, boasting a footprint of less than one square inch and packaged as a Compact Flash Type II card. IBM has increased the capacity of the award-winning Microdrive to a phenomenal one gigabyte. This gives it far higher capacity and lower cost per megabyte than Compact Flash, which uses solid-state memory technology.
On the face of it, the 1GB Microdrive is a bit pricey, but at only 37 pence per megabyte, it represents better value than Compact Flash; about 5 or 6 times better, in fact. So if you need high capacity, IBM’s drive is cheaper. The high storage capacity allows professional digital camera users to store large numbers of uncompressed pictures, and more consumer-oriented devices to store around 1,000 high resolution JPEG images, or about 18 hours of MP3 music.
In use, the IBM Microdrive is not really any different to Compact Flash. The only perceivable difference is a slight whirring and ticking noise, betraying the hard disk drive origins of the device. Transfer times are approximately the same as for Compact Flash when used in digital cameras. For more intense operations, such as transferring a hard day’s work to or from a computer, the drive managed to write 1,000 digital camera pictures, totalling 550MB, in just over ten minutes in our tests, and took about eight minutes to read back the same data. As you might expect, this is lower than the specification of 4MB/second for sustained transfer rates, but is still quite impressive, being roughly equivalent to a 6- or 8-speed CD ROM drive.
The 1GB Microdrive as reviewed is supplied with a PC Card adapter for the Type II PCMCIA card slots that are standard on most laptops. Installation of the PC Card is a simple Plug and Play affair. Drivers are supplied on a floppy disk, but these are not always necessary: operating systems like Windows 98 can detect and set up the drive using standard drivers, making this a great method of transferring large amounts of data using a very compact device.
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