There’s little doubt that the Iomega Zip drive is now the market leader in removable storage devices, ahead of its nearest rivals the LS-120 and Sony’s HiFD drives. However the Zip’s 100MB of storage has started to seem a little miserly given that the demand for capacity continues to rise – driven in part by the increasing use of graphics, video and sound files on the Internet and company-wide intranets. But the new Zip 250 has leapt ahead of its rivals, offering 250MB of storage, over 50MB more than Sony’s HiFD super-floppy drive.
Like its predecessor, the Zip 250 is available in a variety of flavours, both internal and external, and with a choice of interface. The most popular of these will probably turn out to be the external drive, which is currently available with either a parallel port or a SCSI connection to the PC. A USB version is on the horizon, though a USB Zip 100 drive is already available.
The drive itself is a slender little thing: slim, rectangular and with the squarish lines eased off a little so that it’s easy on the eye. The parallel version offers a pass-through parallel socket so that printers or other devices which also use the port can continue to be used. Setting up is remarkably simple, which it needs to be if the unit is going to be used to its full advantage. Iomega’s software neatly by-passes the usual Windows hardware installation process, so that you don’t need to reboot your PC to have the drive installed. If you plan on using the Zip 250 to transfer files between machines then this feature will be a God-send.
Once connected and installed the Zip 250 appears to Windows as another storage device to which you can read and write files and directories. The Zip 250 offers faster performance than the Zip 100, however the parallel port is likely to be a bottle-neck on some machines and for the best performance the SCSI version is the one to go for. The down-side of course is that you need to have a SCSI card on each of the machines you wish to use the drive with. Even so, the parallel port version still offers data transfer rates of up to 18MB a minute, which while it’s not at hard disk level is still considerably faster than diskette transfer rates.
Although the Zip 250 is backwards compatible with the Zip 100 and can read and write 100MB disks, the reverse isn’t true and 250MB disks can’t be used with the older drives. The disks look identical except for a small tab on the underside of the 250MB disks, so if you plan on mixing 100MB and 250MB drives make sure you clearly differentiate between the disks. The new disks mean that the cost per megabyte is reduced yet again, especially if you shop around and buy in bulk.
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