The original LS-120 Superdisk drive (reviewed here), which could read, write and format 120MB disks using its optical tracking technology, was a minor success, overshadowed in its heyday by Iomega’s Zip. The Superdisk’s main strength was its compatibility with standard 1.44MB floppies and this is carried forward to Panasonic’s replacement device, the LS-240 Superdisk. Now, though, it has another trick up its slot, the ability to reformat a standard 1.44MB floppy to 32MB.
There are internal and external versions of this drive, but it’s the external USB unit which is reviewed here. That USB connection is not ideal, as the cable clips around two of the sides of the 3.5-inch format drive. While this design keeps the cable out of the way when you’re carrying the drive around, it also means it’s very short. So short, in fact, that if the USB sockets are at the back of your computer, the LS-240 will have to be at the back, too.
Once you’ve installed the accompanying software for the drive, Windows (98, Me, 2000 and XP) recognises the LS-240 as another drive and you can move files on and off 1.44MB, 120MB and 240MB disks in the normal way. The extra capacity of the 240MB Superdisk is welcome, with graphics and particularly photo files increasing in size all the time.
The real bonus of the drive, though, and something Panasonic should make more of, is its ability to store up to 32MB of data on a standard 1.44MB floppy disk. To do this, you have to use the supplied SuperWriter 32 utility. This works like a typical CD-R applet, where you build up a batch of files and then write them all to the disk in one pass. In fact, each time you add a file to an existing set on a 32MB-formatted floppy, the entire contents of the disk is rewritten, which makes the process rather slow.
However, the very fact that you can store this much data on a standard floppy means the stacks of 1.44MB disks that most of us have lying around suddenly acquire a new life. SuperWriter 32 is definitely first generation software and some of the messages are in pidgin English, but it does work. Equip two PCs with LS-240 drives and you suddenly have a very economical way of transferring large files between them.
The price is a bit high, but you should see this start to drop if enough people see the benefit of this new Superdisk drive.
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