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SmartDisk FireLite review:

SmartDisk FireLite

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The Good Small and light; satisfactory performance; carrying case.

The Bad Limited tech-support hours; no USB connectivity; no Windows backup software.

The Bottom Line The FireLite FLFW40 gives you fast 40GB storage capacity in a pocket-sized drive, but it'd be more versatile if it had a USB as well as a FireWire connection.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

If there's a tinier external hard drive than SmartDisk's stylish, 40GB FireLite FLFW40, we haven't seen it. The FireLite fits easily in the palm of your hand, delivers excellent performance for an external 4,200rpm mechanism, and can be used with any FireWire-enabled notebook or desktop. We just wish it had a USB connection, which would have made the drive versatile and portable. If there's a tinier external hard drive than SmartDisk's stylish, 40GB FireLite FLFW40, we haven't seen it. The FireLite fits easily in the palm of your hand, delivers excellent performance for an external 4,200rpm mechanism, and can be used with any FireWire-enabled notebook or desktop. We just wish it had a USB connection, which would have made the drive versatile and portable.

Installation by FireLite
At $359, the FireLite is a little pricey, but you're paying for portability. The 5-by-3.25-by-.5-inch, handsome, silver and black FireLite weighs a mere 6 ounces and works well as either a travel drive or a shared resource for sneakernetting. And because the FireLite is a FireWire (IEEE 1394) drive, installation basically means running a cable from the drive to a FireWire port, though Mac users may need to install some driver software. You don't even need an AC adapter because the drive will run off the power supplied by the FireWire bus--a good thing, considering SmartDisk doesn't include said adapter. However, it does include a 6-pin FireWire cable, a protective carrying case, and an adapter for stacking multiple drives. SmartDisk also bundles Mac drive utilities and Connectix CopyAgent automated-backup software for the Mac. Alas, no Windows-based backup software is included.

Starlight, star bright
With its snazzy, top-mounted, blue light shining brightly, the FireLite turned in some stellar results in CNET Labs' tests, especially for a 2.5-inch, 4,200rpm drive. HD Tach rated the drive's burst-transfer rate at 36.8MB per second, its maximum read speed at 24.6MB per second, and its maximum write speed at 15.6MB per second--a hair slower than competitor WiebeTech's MicroGB. However, the FireLite excelled in our real-life transfer tests, writing large files at 14.8MB per second, small files at 3.4MB per second, and reading them back at 19.7MB per second and 3.2MB per second, respectively. Except for the large file write, that's 5 to 15 percent faster than the WiebeTech MicroGB's scores. The FireLite is extremely quiet and gets only slightly warm to the touch after use, so you won't feel like you just dropped a hot potato in your pocket when you need to transport it.

SmartDisk backs the FireLite with a one-year warranty. Telephone support is limited; you can dial in Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET, but you're on your own during the weekends. The company's online support includes Web registration, hardware and software installation FAQs, and software downloads.

The little drive that could
If you don't mind the FireLite's lack of USB connectivity, this "little drive that could" offers excellent performance for its class and a nice Mac backup utility. But if you're looking for versatility, check out the USB 2.0- and FireWire-compatible WiebeTech MicroGB.

HD Tach 2.70 tests
Measured in MB per second (longer bars indicate better performance)
Maximum write speed   
Maximum read speed   
Read-burst speed   
EZQuest Cobra+ (120GB; 7,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
20.8 
31.6 
37.0 
WiebeTech MicroGB (4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
16.0 
24.7 
37.3 
SmartDisk FireLite (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
15.6 
24.6 
36.8 
 
Write tests
Measured in MB per second (longer bars indicate better performance)
Small files   
Large files   
EZQuest Cobra+ (120GB; 7,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
3.96 
18.42 
SmartDisk FireLite (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
3.39 
14.84 
WiebeTech MicroGB (4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
3.2 
15.05 
 
Read tests
Measured in MB per second (longer bars indicate better performance)
Small files   
Large files   
EZQuest Cobra+ (120GB; 7,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
2.93 
20.3 
SmartDisk FireLite (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
3.18 
19.73 
WiebeTech MicroGB (4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
2.71 
17.68 
 
CNET Labs' tests evaluate the range of performance you may expect from a hard drive. The HD Tach test measure a drive's maximum sustained write and read speeds. In addition, it measures read-burst speed, which evaluates the performance of the drive's read-ahead memory and the drive controller.

HD Tach rated the FireLite FLFW40 slightly slower than WiebeTech's MicroGB, but in three of our real-life transfer tests, the FireLite scored 5 to 15 percent faster than its competitor.


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