Mountain Solutions – ABSplus review

Portable external hard drive and back up device
Photo of Mountain Solutions – ABSplus
£249 + VAT (6GB version tested), models available up to 48GB (£649 + VAT)

You may recognise ‘ABS’ as a safety device for your car, but according to Mountain Solutions, it’s also a safety product for your notebook PC. ABS, in Mountain Solutions parlance, means Automatic Backup System. The company markets a range of portable external storage devices that support ABS and in this review we look at ABSplus, based around a neat PCMCIA-connected hard drive.

The drive is a conventional one-third height 2.5-inch unit. Our test sample had the smallest capacity in the range, at 6GB. Larger models through to 48GB are also available. The drive itself is mounted in a rugged and light – dare we say – ABS plastic case. This is a PCMCIA-fit drive, not a PCMCIA drive that would fit and be enclosed by the slot. It can be used even with ultra portable notebooks that may only feature a single PCMCIA slot. But instead of yet another cable to get tangled or lose, the PCMCIA connector is integrated with the case as a flat, flexible extension of the unit and it folds neatly away when not in use.

No external power or batteries are required or provided for. All the power comes from the PCMCIA interface and, therefore, your laptop’s own power supply. This is both good and bad; it’s good for simplicity and convenience, but as the drive could take several hours to backup or restore your notebook’s drive contents, using it while running on batteries only is a risk that needs careful consideration. We measured an average data transfer rate of about 33MB per minute, so 10GB of data could take as much as 5 hours to be backed up initially. The software is simple and easy to use, though.

As much smaller Type III and even Type II ultra-slim PCMCIA hard drives are now available, what advantage does a relatively large external 2.5 inch drive like the ABSplus have? The obvious answer is cost; 2.5 inch drive prices have fallen rapidly in the last year and the cost per megabyte, plus maximum capacity, is much better than PCMCIA hard drives.

However, Mountain Solutions suggests that the brave or technically skilled could use the ABSplus drive mechanism itself as a physical donor replacement for a failed notebook drive. This is because the ABSplus software has an option to make a direct duplicate of the partitioning and contents of the host drive. Having replaced notebook hard drives ourselves, this is not for the faint hearted, especially as some notebooks do a great job of making the drive almost totally inaccessible. But some notebooks have easily replaceable drives, so there is definitely merit in Mountain Solutions’ suggestion.

Files can also be backed up selectively. If your ABSplus unit has a smaller capacity than your notebook’s host HD, you could choose to back up just the OS and a sub-set of your documents. As the ABSplus drive can be addressed as an additional drive letter, you can use other backup programs or applications with the drive as required.

Company: Mountain Solutions

Contact: 0800 0925 242


Verdict
The Mountain Solutions ABSplus is a clever portable hard drive that can fulfil the roles of both a smart backup device and a general external storage device. It appears rugged and well designed and it's lightweight. The donor drive replacement feature is interesting, but not all notebook users will be able to take advantage of it easily.