Once a mainstay of portable file management, the Zip format and its associated hardware began to fall by the wayside when CD-RW drives gained popularity. However, Zip is still kicking. The new $180 Iomega Zip 750MB external USB 2.0 drive offers better ease of use and greater storage capacity than a typical CD-RW drive. Unfortunately, the drive delivered mixed results on our tests, and disks can run $15 each when bought individually. Still, students, families, and SOHO users should consider Zip for its strong protection and file-management capabilities. Once a mainstay of portable file management, the Zip format and its associated hardware began to fall by the wayside when CD-RW drives gained popularity. However, Zip is still kicking. The new $180 Iomega Zip 750MB external USB 2.0 drive offers better ease of use and greater storage capacity than a typical CD-RW drive. Unfortunately, the drive delivered mixed results on our tests, and disks can run $15 each when bought individually. Still, students, families, and SOHO users should consider Zip for its strong protection and file-management capabilities.
The Iomega drive measures 6.5 inches long by 4 inches wide, so you can't carry it in your pants or shirt pocket like some of today's portable hard drives. And unlike previous Zip drives, this version needs its own power supply, which hampers its portability somewhat. Still, the drive boasts a slim profile and comes with a small rubber stand that lets you rest the drive on its side--a handy feature for users with overcrowded desktops.
The drive sets up in minutes with the help of the brief but illustrated Quick Install Guide. After you load the IomegaWare software, simply plug the drive into the USB port on your computer using the included cable, and you're good to go--assuming you already have a USB 2.0-ready motherboard or adapter. If you don't, you can run the drive from a USB 1.1 bus, but you won't get optimal performance. The drive works with Windows 98 (USB 1.1), 98 SE, Me, 2000, and XP (USB 1.1 and USB 2.0), as well as Mac OS 8.6 to 9.x (USB 1.1) and OS 10.1 or later (USB 1.1 and USB 2.0). If you need help, the included CD contains an in-depth user manual, which explains system requirements, the use of your drive, and basic troubleshooting.
Useful software bundle
The Iomega comes with an impressive software bundle, which worked like a charm in our hands-on tests. With Automatic Backup, you can choose to back up any file or folder to Zip disks or any other destination and schedule backups as you please. By default, the software saves five revisions of every file, but you can change the number to suit your needs. The Sync software (PC only) works similarly to PDA software and syncs file changes from your hard drive to your Zip disk, as well as among multiple PCs, provided you have a Zip drive for each, of course; this is a particularly nice feature if you move files back and forth between work and home. You also get a copy of MusicMatch Jukebox Basic, which lets you play, rip, and burn MP3s and CDs.
If you do decide to take the drive on the road, Iomega's Active Disk technology lets you launch and run software applications directly from your Zip disk, without installing them on a host PC. This helps keep your hard drive free from clutter and puts the software you need right at your fingertips no matter where you go. You can download a variety of Active Disk software titles from the Iomega Web site, including several shareware programs such as StuffIt and Trillian.
The Zip disk also offers an easier way to secure important files than conventional floppies or recordable CDs and DVDs. You can, for example, password-protect Zip disks for write or read-and-write access. To do so, simply right-click the disk icon in My Computer, select Protect, and choose your protection level. The next time you use the disk, it will prompt you to enter your password.
Iomega claims a transfer rate of up to 7.5MB per second (or 50X/50X/50X in CD-RW terms) with a USB 2.0 interface. But in CNET Labs' tests, the drive delivered mixed results. It took only 1 minute, 24 seconds to copy a single 393MB file to disk, an average transfer rate of about 6MB per second. However, the drive had trouble dealing with several files at once, taking a whopping 18 minutes to copy a 500MB mixed-file directory. By comparison, the Yamaha CRW-F1 burned a 400MB directory to CD-RW in 4 minutes, 46 seconds, and the Philips DVDRW228 burned a 500MB directory to DVD+RW in 2 minutes, 51 seconds.
The company also claims its new drive can read original 100MB Zip disks, as well as read and write to next-generation 250MB disks. However, in our tests, the drive read only one of three 100MB disks (we didn't have any 250MB disks available). When we called Iomega's tech support, a representative told us that, indeed, some of the original 100MB disks might not function in the new drive.
Iomega's strong support policy includes a standard, one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT, and Iomega's comprehensive Web site offers manuals, tutorials, FAQs, live one-on-one chat, and user-to-user forums. Fee-based support is also available for drives outside the warranty period.
The Iomega Zip 750MB external USB 2.0 drive can hold more data than a CD but offers limited portability and mixed performance. Still, students, family users, and stationary SOHO users will appreciate its strong security and backup and synchronization utilities.