Friday, December 15, 2006
Posted by Jason Dunn in "HARDWARE" @ 08:00 AM
Although I haven't experienced much data loss in my lifetime, I'm still paranoid about losing it! I've had more than one hard drive fail on me, and human error is an all-too-real possibility when it comes to having your files deleted. There's nothing worse than losing memories, because unlike a Word document that you can re-type to be more or less the same, a digital picture of a once in a lifetime vacation can't be duplicated so easily. When I travel, even on vacations, I typically bring along my Fujitsu P7020D, a small 10.6" screen laptop with an 80 GB hard drive. At the end of a day of shooting pictures, I'll move the photos from my 8 GB CompactFlash card onto the laptop hard drive. What would happen if that hard drive failed or was damaged? These are the things that keep a geek up at night.
Upon the recommendation of a fellow Mobian from Akihabara News, I purchased a NEXTO CF OTG. Yes, that's right, I actually bought it with my own money, so you can tell I'm serious about this topic. ;-) The unit is very simple: it's essentially a 2.5" mobile hard drive enclosure with a small, non-lit LCD screen, a basic operating system, and a built-in battery. It has a CompactFlash Type II slot, meaning it will accept any sort of CompactFlash card or microdrive. By using a CompactFlash adaptor (not included) I was also able to use Secure Digital cards with it to copy over video files from my Canon SD800. The drive has a nice red aluminium casing that seems quite sturdy, while still remaining light. It can work with hard drives over 128 GB in size, so if you really want to slap a monster 160 GB drive in here, it should work. I used an 80 GB Samsung drive I had kicking around and the installation was fast and easy.
So how does it work? Very simply: you press and hold the power button to turn the unit on, and insert a CompactFlash memory card. It will offer to copy (with data verification, which is critical) or move the files from the CF card to the internal hard drive - if you can see the screen that is. Because it's not back-lit, I found it a little difficult to see under some lighting circumstances, but it's a minor issue overall (and a back-lit LCD screen would use far more battery life). The on-board operating system is very basic, but it allows you to format the hard drive (after several "Are you Sure?" prompts) and perform other basic functions. I should point out it offers "USB On The Go" functionality, but I didn't have any OTG devices to test it with - theoretically, you can connect one OTG device to another, and copy files over directly without needing a PC in the middle.
The copy process is very fast - I filled up my 8 GB CF card with 7.71 GB worth of RAW images, and did a copy. It took 16 minutes and 16 seconds to copy all 7.71 GB worth, meaning it copied one gigabyte in 2 minutes 17 seconds. That's so much faster than what I get from putting the same CF card in the CF card slot on my laptop, it's not even worth talking about. You can connect the unit to any USB port and it will show up as a regular removable hard drive, where it's even faster: it took 12 minutes, 53 seconds to copy 7.71 GB to my laptop via USB 2.0. When data is copied from the CF slot to the drive, a new folder is created based on the date and time. This makes it really easy to find a batch of photos or files later.
It has a built-in battery, which is hugely helpful because it means it's truly a stand-alone unit. The battery isn't very big, but it does the job: I was able to copy the same 7.71 GB of data mentioned above a total of five times (38.55 GB), and 89% of of the way through another full copy (6.83 GB) before the battery died. Not bad at all! It recharges via USB, which is very handy because I have all sorts of USB power cables and AC adaptors. It also includes a soft case with a mesh pouch on the back, perfect for a USB cable and a SD to CF card adaptor.
This is one of the most useful single purpose gadgets I've ever purchased. It's become a standard part of my travel gear when I'm shooting photos, and I feel much more secure knowing that I have a copy of all the photos I've shot on the NEXTO CF OTG as well as my laptop.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He doesn't leave home when shooting photos without this handy gadget.