Most digital photographers have experienced the annoyance of being out with their camera, happily snapping away until the dreaded 'Memory Card Full' message appears. Now there are ways around this problem, a multitude of devices are appearing that allow you to backup your memory card to a CD or hard-disk whilst on the move. The Vosonic X'S-Drive II we're looking at here uses a hard-disk, in this case a 20Gb one, although it is available with larger drives. It uses a fast USB 2.0 interface and at a glance offers a quick and simple method of backing up our memory cards. Is this the case in reality, well read the review to find out.
X'S Drive II Specifications
- USB 2.0 connectivity
- Supports SmartMedia, SD/MMC, Memory Stick, MS Pro, Compact Flash I/II and Microdrives.
- Black and white LCD (No picture preview)
- 2x 3.6V Li-ion rechargeable batteries
- 20Gb 2.5" Hard drive (Others can be used)
- Dimensions: 130x75x25mm
- Weight: 300g
The important things to note on the specifications are the USB 2.0 connection and the Li-ion batteries which should mean fast transfer rates and good battery life respectively. There are no fancy features such as MP3 playback as you'll find on some other storage devices, but the positive result of this is a lower price.
These types of storage devices either seem to be extremely complicated to use or extremely simple. Whilst out traveling with their cameras and needing to backup pictures in a hurry most photographers would probably prefer the simple approach.
The main user interface on the X's-Drive II consists of two buttons, one for Power On/Off and one for starting the copying of the memory card to the hard-drive. That is about as simple as it could get! There's also a LCD display which is very useful for showing the remaining battery life and what the device is doing.
The device can take a good range of memory cards and the slots for these are permanently open on its side. If you do decide to buy one of these, it's probably worth buying a case for it to keep dirt/dust out of the card slots, although the review sample we were sent did actually come with a case.
When you start the copying process the device beeps once to tell you it has started and beeps twice on completion. You also get the visual confirmation of a moving arrow to show the data is transferring. The manual includes explanations of what all the symbols that may appear on the LCD actually mean.
A full 256Mb Sandisk Ultra card took four minutes thirty-three seconds to backup to the hard disk. Copying the same data back from the X'S Drive II back to our PC took a more respectable 59 seconds.
We had compatability problems with a Lexar 160Mb 4x card, where when trying to copy the images to the hard-disk the X'S-Drive II just flashed the card-error warning. However, after we formatted the card and took some photos on it again it worked fine.
The images you copy from the memory card to the X'S Drive II are automatically put into folders for each copying session. Up to 9999 folders can be created, which should be enough for most people!
The simplicity of this device is really quite appealing. The batteries are enclosed so there is no fiddling with them, just pop in the power adapter plug and charging is automatic. The battery-life of the X'S-Drive II is good, thanks to the li-ion battery back and the lack of any power-hungry colour TFT. It also has a auto power-off function where if you don't start the copying process within 25 seconds it shuts down.
The X'S-Drive II undoubtedly offers a simple, efficient and portable solution to the storage worries of many digital photographers. Whether it is right for you will depend on whether you can live without the bells and whistles that some competing devices offer and any budget restrictions you might have.
On the subject of budget, this is actually one of the cheapest storage devices available, costing only £250 for the 40Gb model from some shops. Other competing devices can cost almost double that for only half the storage capacity!
In summary the main positive points of the Vosonic X'S-Drive II are:
Simple to use
Tough outer construction
LCD adds useful visual information
Accepts wide range of memory cards without needing an adaptor.
You can fit a larger hard-disk yourself
Negative points are:
Odd compatability problems (Though these were remedied)
Card to hard-disk copying times are a little slow
No visual confirmation of which files are stored on the drive