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Buyer's Guide: Portable Storage Devices

Buyer's Guide: Portable Storage Devices - Rebecca Bradley rounds up the latest portable storage devices and offers a guide to what is on the market and the features you need to look for.

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Digital Cameras

Portable media players, also sometimes known as PMP's or Multimedia players, are devices which facilitate the transfer of images from the camera without the need for a computer. Some, although not all of these, have a playback function, allowing the user to review their images on the go, and various amounts of storage capacity are available. The main features of these devices is versatility, allowing playback of many different formats of video and music as well as images. Specifically, what is important to look for when buying a storage device is the size of the screen, and, if there is an image preview function, what the resolution of the screen is. Another important feature is the amount of storage space the device has, how information is transferred to your PC, and whether there is enough internal memory to cope with large images, as well as factors such as card compatability, image formats supported and how good battery life is.

XS Drive Centre

XS DriveCentre 6900 (60Gb) £240.70

Available in capacities of 40-160Gb, the XS Drive Centre from Card Media differs from the other storage devices in the test in that instead of having slots by which your memory card is read, data is transferred by attaching a separate memory card reader. This may be inconvenient in that it means a card reader has to be carried around in addition to the device, and it may not always be convenient to go through the process of attaching the reader on location.

Images can be displayed on the device as well as stored, and the reasonably large 3.5in screen makes playback easy. Quality of images displayed is reasonably good and the screen has a 320x240px resolution. Transfer speeds are fast, and a 2Gb file was downloaded in approximately 6 minutes 18 seconds.

As well as the storage and playback of image files, the XS DriveCentre has an array of other capabilities too. There is a built in voice recorder, video player, TV recording function, music player and games. Image files supported include JPEG, BMP and GIF. RAW files are not supported, and the supplied card reader is compatible with a range of card types including XD, SD, MMC, MS, CF and MD. Quality of graphics are high standard, and the device is fairly easy to use, controlled by a small joystick on the back of the 6900.

The Drive Centre 6900 is a good price, displays images as well as storing them and has fast transfer speeds. What we didn't like about the device is that RAW formats are not supported and that a separate card reader has to be attached in order fo files to be downloaded.

Transfer time: 6 mins 18 secs
Viewing screen: 3.5 inches


Vosonic VP2160 (40Gb) £74.90

One of the cheapest storage devices of the test group, the VP2160 also has the slowest transfer speed, taking almost 20 minutes to download a 2Gb file.
Available in capacities of 40-120Gb, the device has a 2in screen that displays information about image files but is not capable of previewing them. It is compatible with a range of memory card formats including SD, MMC, MS, CF, SM and XD and provides 3-6 hours of usage when the battery is fully charged. The design of the VP2160 is dull and uninspiring but, on the plus side, the device is very simple to use. Once a card is inserted and the copy function has been selected, there is a progress percentage appear on screen detailing how many of the files have been transferred. Once the copy is complete, the card can be removed and the files are automatically stored to the device's memory.A simple device at a budget price, the VP2160 is simple to use, but unfortunately its super slow transfer speeds and bland design let it down. The screen was also difficult to see in some lights. Comes with carrying case and USB cable for transferring files to PC.
Transfer time: 19 mins 43 secs
Viewing screen: 2 inches


Braun Pixelbank


Braun Pixelbank Storage Device (60Gb) £79.99
The Braun Pixelbank is a storage device which stores and displays information about images but does not preview them.

Supports a variety of cards including CF, MD, SMC, MS, SD, XD, the Pixelbank comes in a fixed capacity of 60Gb, and features a florescent blue light which makes viewing the screen easy. The device displays information such as remaining free memory and a battery power indicator,.

The Pixelbank is easy to use, and once a card is inserted and the copy function selected, progress is then detailed on the 2.5in screen. Transfer times were not the fastest and a 2Gb file took 13 minutes and 23 seconds to transfer.

Transfer time: 13 mins 23 secs
Viewing screen: 2.5 inches

Epson Storage Viewer

Epson P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewer (80Gb) £499.99
Epson's P-5000 multimedia storage device comes in a fixed capacity of 80Gb and allows the playback of files as well as storage. With a 640x480 pixel high-density 4.0in screen, image playback is high quality and provides excellent, sharp detail and good colour reproduction.

Compatible with SD, SDHC, MMC, CF and MD cards, the device supports RAW formats as well as JPEG, and has a super-fast download speed of 7 mins 51 seconds. A full battery allows three continuous hours of slideshow viewing and the P-5000 also features a unique file management system whereby images can be organised in terms of rating. As well as having the capabilities of storing and displaying images, the device also stores and plays music and video files.

While the Epson P-500 is the most expensive storage device of the test, it is most definitely the best in terms of features and quality of playback.

Includes soft case USB leads and charger. DivX certified

Transfer time: 7 mins 51 secs
Viewing screen: 4 inches


DataBank Digital Data Backup/Storage (40Gb) £79.90
Databank's Digital Data Storage device is one of the cheapest products in the test but also has the fastest transfer speed of only 6 mins 9 secs (based on the transfer of one 2Gb file). The storage device does not allow the playback of images, but features a 2in monochrome screen on which image information such as transfer progress and file size is displayed.

The device is fairly simple to use, and once a card has been inserted and copy function has been selected, a useful progress screen appears detailing the percentage of files copied, but once the transfer has started, there is no other way to cancel other than simply pulling the card out (not recommended). Another useful feature is that it allows the deletion of files on the memory cards making them ready for use again, as opposed to deleting them in camera and wasting battery life. Also supports the storage of video and music files.

A good choice for those wanting simply a storage device, although the device is only available with a 40Gb storage capacity.

Transfer time: 6 mins 9 secs
Viewing screen: 2 inches



Vosonic VP8360

Vosonic VP8360 Personal Entertainment System
(40Gb) £219.90

The Vosonic VP8360 allows playback of files as well as storage, and comes in capacities of 40-120Gb. Featuring an LCD screen of 3.5in, image viewing is easy, and with 320x240 pixel resolution, image quality is reasonably good. A wide range of file formats are supported including JPEG, TIFF, BMP, GIF and RAW file, and the device also supports the download and playback of video clips and music files. Images can be downloaded from various formats of memory cards such as CF, IBM, SM,MS, SD, MMC and XD, as well as by USB cables (supplied with the package). Transfer time of a 2Gb file is approximately 12 minutes 2 second, which is about average when compared with other products in the group.

Vosonic's VP8360 is more of an entertainment system than simply a storage device, and even includes a Tetris-style game, as well as the ability to tune into FM Radio, record audio clips and record video clips from a TV, DVD or Satellite Receiver. Battery power is good and a fully charged battery will allow a 1Gb CF card to be backed up approximately 38 times on one charge. The device is controlled via a joypad, which can be slightly fiddly to use at first, and menus are well-laid out and easy to follow. Charged can be carried out either by cable or the supplied charging station. Headphones are included, as is charging adapters (for worldwide use) and a hard case for storage protection

Transfer time: 12 mins 2 secs
Viewing screen: 3½ inches


Product Transfer time* Screen size Screen resolution (px) Image
Cards supported Formats supported Capacity Price
DataBank 6m 9s 2.0in N/A No CF, SD, XD MS, MMC N/A 40Gb
XS-Drive Centre 6900 6m 18s 3.5in 320 x 240 Yes XD, SD, MMC, MS, CF, MD. JPEG, BMP, GIF. 60Gb
Epson P-5000 7m 51s 4.0in 640 x 480 Yes SD, SDHC, MMC, CF, MD. JPEG, RAW. 80Gb
Vosonic VP8360 12m 2s 3.6in 320 x 240 Yes CF, IBM, SM, MD, SD, MMC, MS, XD JPEG, TIFF, BMP, GIF, RAW 40Gb
Braun Pixelbank 13m 23s 2.5in N/A No CF, MD, SMC, MS, SD, XD. N/A 60Gb
19m 43s


N/A No SD, MMC, MS, CF, SM, XD N/A 40Gb

*Based on the transfer of a 2Gb file

All prices shown are including VAT. Please click on the links below for details of where to Purchase:

Braun Pixelbank
Databank Storage Device
Vosonic VP8360
Vosonic VP2160
Epson p-5000
XS-Drive Centre 6900

Products courtesy of Picstop , Epson , Card Media and Park Cameras .

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Another possible choice are Creative Zen products. I recently purchased a Zen Vision W ($249 US). It has a 30GB drive (there's a 60GB version); CF interface. If you visit their site http://www.creative.com/products/mp3/
They have a 32GB flash version...

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I've got an Epson P7000 and having just come back from a trip in India, must say that it's probably the most important accessory I've bought. As my camera's 25 megapixel the memory cards get filled up pretty quickly, so being able to back my work up constantly was invaluable. the 160gb gives ample storage, and the P 7000 is now available for about 450.

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