LaCie – Datawatch USB2 review

It's a USB flash disk: and a watch
Photo of LaCie – Datawatch USB2
£49

The demise of the floppy drive has been predicted for about ten years now, and PCs without floppies are finally becoming more common. The replacement is the memory drive (flash disk, pen drive, call it what you will); a flash memory chip in a small case with a USB plug sticking out of one end.

These are very handy and, with capacities of up 1GB, a lot more spacious than the 1.44MB floppy. But they’re also easy to lose, and if you do lose one it’ll disappear with a lot more valuable data than a floppy.

LaCie’s solution is to strap the memory drive to your wrist, and while the company’s developers are at it, they’ve built it into a watch. The way this works is rather neat, as the memory chip itself is built into the back of the watch and a short, integral USB cable, complete with standard plug, sits in a groove in the watch strap.

A small, sliding cover reveals the end of the plug and you can either jack yourself into a computer by plugging it straight into a USB or USB 2 socket on the front of the PC or the back or side of a laptop, or use the supplied half-metre extension cable to do the same thing, Borg-style.

The watch works without any special drivers in any Windows XP or Mac OS9 or later system, simply installing itself as an extra drive. You can then transfer files to and from your watch as if you were using a low-capacity hard drive.

The USB 2 link in the watch is trumpeted on the Lacie site as offering over 7MB/s transfer rate. This is not particularly good, however, as the USB 2 standard supports up to 60MB/s (480Mb/s). However, it’s still faster than the original USB standard, which is 1.5MB/s, and in practice you’re only talking seconds to transfer even substantial files. There’s a 256MB version of the watch as well as the 128MB one we tested.

The watch itself has a simple analogue quartz movement and a low ‘bling’ factor – probably what you want, so as not to attract unwanted attention. Even so, it’s pretty basic. There’s no date display, no alarm, none of the extras which come as standard on even the humblest digital watch.

With 128MB memory sticks running at around £20 and a watch of this sophistication probably costing another £15, paying an extra £15 for the integration of the two is reasonable. The watch claims to be water-resistant, but with a USB plug hanging off the side, we wouldn’t like to test this out.

Company: LaCie

Contact: 020 7872 8000


Verdict
The Datawatch is a neat idea, well implemented by LaCie. It's easy to use and fast enough for transferring quite substantial files. It reduces the chance of losing your backed-up data, but the watch itself is a bit basic.