Iomega's External Hard Drive FireWire 800/FireWire 400/USB impressed us with its large capacity, speedy FireWire 400/800 performance, and nice array of backup software. The unit is great for gigabyte-hungry Mac or PC owners with FireWire, but the drive's sluggish USB 2.0 reading and writing of large files will disappoint many users. The Maxtor OneTouch II offers better USB 2.0 performance.
The Iomega HDD (the shortened name is lettered on the drive's front panel) looks like the Darth Vader of hard drives. The drive's dark-charcoal top sets off a raised silver Iomega logo, and its sides and face are shiny black. A blue power light is situated about three-quarters down the length of the top-right edge, just above and in front of the drive's cooling fan. The back is home to the power button, an AC jack, a USB 2.0 port, a FireWire 400 port, and two FireWire 800 ports. A Kensington lock port accentuates the left side.
The Iomega HDD is about average size for an external 5.25-inch desktop enclosure: 198mm by 41mm by 122mm (WDH). It makes for an imposing brick at 1.2 kg (we looked at a 400GB model), though the weight is a reflection of the drive's large capacity and the enclosure's sturdy construction. Smaller capacities -- 160GB and 250GB -- are also available.
The Iomega HDD draws too many watts to run off of bus power, so Iomega provides an AC adapter, along with USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 cables; oddly, the package lacks a FireWire 400 cable. To take advantage of the FireWire 800 capability, you'll also need either a new high-end Mac or a FireWire 800 adapter card, such as the Adaptec FireConnect 8300 or the Belkin FireWire 800 PCI (we used the Belkin for testing). The FireWire 800 capability is great for stacking drives in an external RAID setup where FireWire 800's superior bandwidth can really make a difference. You'll need RAID software or a RAID card that supports external drives to do this.
But you might want to hold off on that expenditure for a while if you intend to run the Iomega HDD alone. In our informal hard drive tests, the Iomega drive performed in an identically spectacular fashion on both FireWire 400 and 800, taking only 3 minutes, 11 seconds to complete our informal 400MB folder and 1.9GB file read and write tests -- 10 to 21 seconds faster than the LaCie Triple Interface with FireWire 800 and 400.
If we seem a bit FireWire-centric so far, it's because the Iomega's USB 2.0 performance was extremely disappointing. It took the drive a whopping 4 minutes, 47 seconds to finish reading and writing a single large file -- far slower than the LaCie and one of the slowest USB 2.0 performances we've seen to date. The problem is particular to reading and writing large files, though; the drive was actually one of the fastest we've seen at copying our 400MB folder of mixed files.
We like the bundle of backup software that the Iomega HDD ships with; it includes Retrospect Express 6.5 for the Mac, Norton Ghost 2003 imaging software for the PC, and Iomega's own slick Automatic Backup software. Automatic Backup works in the background to perform file-level backup prompted by changes to said files or at intervals you specify.
Iomega's hard-copy install guide and other documentation is sufficient to get you going, though we're not in love with the way it's folded or its tiny type sizes. The manual on CD was much better, as was online support. Iomega stands behind this drive with a standard one-year warranty. The company's Web site hosts an array of FAQs, software and driver downloads, and manuals and guides.