Editors' note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our ratings scale.
Having once cornered the removable-storage market with the Jaz drives, Iomega is hoping for a comeback with the Iomega Rev. This USB 2.0 drive (an internal model is also available) was designed with data backup, drive imaging, and extra storage in mind, much like the drives that preceded it. The difference here is that each Rev cartridge stores a whopping 35GB--or quite a bit more if you use compression. (Iomega promises up to 90GB per cartridge, but that's at an extremely high level of compression, so your mileage may vary.) The Iomega Rev is compact, cute, and bootable, and it provides an undeniably appealing alternative to tape drives. Extra Rev cartridges give it the potential for limitless capacity. Still, it's expensive. You could buy a 160GB external hard drive for half the price and enjoy more than four times the raw storage capacity. We also have concerns about relying on as yet unproven media for something as vital as our data backup (the Zip drive's infamous Click of Death lingers in our memories). The Iomega Rev measures 6.1 inches long, 4.3 inches wide, and 1.2 inches high, and weighs just under a pound--smaller than most external tape and hard drives and suitable for briefcase travel. Its only control is an eject button that also lights up to indicate drive access.
Because it's an external USB 2.0 drive, the Rev is about as plug-and-play as they come. Following the seven-step procedure outlined in Iomega's quick-start guide, in just a few minutes we installed the drivers and the software, plugged in the drive, and quickly found a new drive letter under Windows. However, although you can drag and drop files to the Rev drive, the need to install drivers first means you can't shuttle the drive from one machine to another as easily as you could an external hard drive.
Following a common trend, Iomega supplies little printed documentation. In addition to the aforementioned quick-start guide, there's a single sheet of instructions explaining how to use Iomega Automatic Backup Pro (for incremental data backups) and (to image your hard drive). Iomega also provides a more complete Rev manual in HTML format on the software CD. However, if you want help with the software itself, you'll need to look to the help files contained within each app. With an average seek time of 13ms and data-transfer rates of up to 25MB per second, the Iomega Rev drive stays in the speed ballpark with heavy-hitting external hard drives such as the Maxtor OneTouch. Because it uses removable media, however, the Rev drive is much more versatile for tasks such as moving large files between PCs and creating backups for offsite safekeeping.
The Rev drive's combination of included software, Automatic Backup Pro (ABP), and Norton Ghost is ostensibly a good one, letting you make incremental backups of everyday data or clone your entire hard drive. The only wrinkle in this otherwise effective approach is that Ghost commandeers an entire Rev cartridge, so you'll need at least one more for ABP backups or other storage tasks. Rev cartridges sell direct from Iomega for $59.99 each or $199.99 for a pack of four.
ABP is an easy and effective backup solution that lets you select individual files and/or folders for archiving. The software can make backups whenever the data changes, at regular intervals throughout the day, on selected days, or at your discretion. It can also save earlier revisions of changed files--an unlimited or user-defined number of them--complete with numeric tags that show you the revision order. Best of all, ABP lets you choose between uncompressed backups that are directly accessible from Windows and compressed, password-protected backups that require ABP.
We're less fond of Ghost, a DOS-based imaging utility that can't even run unless your system has a floppy drive or can boot from CD. Ours could, but even then we couldn't create a backup image, because Ghost couldn't detect the presence of the Rev drive (probably on account of a BIOS issue). For that and other reasons, we probably wouldn't use Ghost anyway. Fortunately, the Rev is compatible with Dantz Retrospect Express, Veritas Backup Exec, and other popular backup programs. Like the Jaz drive before it, the Iomega Rev drive proved a speedy storage system, one that stands almost toe-to-toe with external hard drives. Using Windows Explorer, we copied about 7GB of MP3 files to the drive in 8.5 minutes. It took 7.5 minutes to copy the same files to a generic external hard drive, also connected via USB 2.0.
When we switched to Automatic Backup Pro, the drive's performance slowed considerably. It took the program about five minutes to back up just 250MB of data, and that was without compression. We expected the compressed version to take even longer, but to our surprise, the same backup finished in less than four minutes (with compression set to High).
Finally, we copied a few movie files to the Rev, each of which played without so much as a hiccup. It may be a hair slower than a hard drive, but the Rev is still plenty fast for everyday computing tasks. Iomega's support for the Iomega Rev is generally excellent, with everything from FAQs to drivers to a searchable knowledge base easily accessible from a single well-organized Web page. The site also includes links to user forums, e-mail support, and live online text-chat support that's available 24 hours a day. (Unfortunately, the tech person we chatted with about our Ghost problem was clueless and unable to provide a solution.) Iomega offers toll-free phone help from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET but only for the duration of the one-year warranty (Rev media carries a five-year warranty). After that, Iomega charges $15 per case (not per call), which we think is a reasonable fee.