Smoking -- it's a terrible habit. Sure, you don't normally read CNET.com.au for the health advice, but we figured it was pertinent to this particular product, as the small and shiny Iomega Micro Mini Hard Drive's external casing gives it the distinct look and feel of a slightly large zippo-style lighter. Those with data backup needs and a desire to quit smoking could double up and carry it around as something of a comfort pillow. At 69.9 x 51.0 x 14.2 mm it's remarkably small, and with a carrying weight of just 50gm it's a remarkably easy way to carry around either 4GB or 8GB of storage with you.
If the concept of carrying around a faux cigarette lighter around with you appals you, you're still covered, as Iomega provides a natty faux leather carrying case for the already tiny Micro Mini hard drive in the packaging. This has the effect of then turning it into something that looks very much like a tiny mobile phone, albeit a mobile phone with a USB adaptor sliding out of one end. The USB adaptor fits snugly into the top rounded end of the drive, rotating out a full 180 degrees for connectivity purposes. The practical effect of this is that it should be pluggable into anything that you can fit a normal USB flash drive into, as the connector's effectively the same length. The only thing that seems missing is a USB extension cable.
The drive within the Micro Mini is a 4200RPM hard disk drive of either 4GB (AU$199) or 8GB (AU$299) capacity with a 2MB cache and a claimed interface transfer rate of 60MB/s, working via a USB 2.0 connector. Naturally, those with older PCs can hook it up to any USB 1.1 socket, although with 4 or 8 GB of data transfer possibilities, you'd want a very deep cup of coffee to fill before you were done at those speeds. On the software side, Iomega provides its Automatic Backup Pro software, as well as copies of MusicMatch Jukebox and Photoshop Album 2.0. Those are all PC applications, although the drive itself is compatible at a basic data level with any Mac running OS X. Given its generic driver status, we wouldn't be too surprised to see it running on a Linux system as well, although that's not something we explicitly tested for.
One physical factor that did strike us during testing is that the USB connector that folds out from the top of the drive felt just a touch loose. It's only a minor consideration, and depending on how you're likely to sit the drive that may not be much of an issue, but we encountered a few USB connector scenarios during our testing where it more or less flopped into place in a rather ungainly fashion.
We tested the 4GB Micro Mini transferring files to and from the drive with three different file sizes; a small 16MB video file, a much larger 384MB video file and a grouped folder of around 1,000 files totalling 235MB. Video files were specifically chosen as they're normally as compressed as possible and thus a good test of the drive's quick and sustained transfer speeds, while the folder of files tests how well the drive can handle a continuous stream of smaller files of all types. With small files the Micro Mini averaged around 6.5MB/s write speed and only slightly slower 6.1MB/s read speed with the same file. The larger file revealed a writing rate of just over 9MB/s and a reading rate of 9.5MB/s. Predictably, the large folder of files proved the most taxing, dropping write rates to around 2.1MB/s, although read rates were better at an average of 5MB/s. Comparing those figures to the same tests run on a 5GB Seagate Pocket Hard Drive, the Micro Mini blasted past the Seagate, especially on the folder transfer test.
There's a significant quantity of choice when it comes to portable storage, and while the Micro Mini does shine in terms of quick data transfer and just looking plain funky, it's hardly your only choice, or even arguably the most price-conscious. Flash drives are expanding in capacity all the time, with plenty of 2GB models on the market today, and even 4GB models if you've got the cash. The aforementioned Seagate 5GB drive now retails for AU$169, and while it's slower than the Micro Mini on most tests, it's also AU$30 cheaper with 1GB more storage. If you need very quick data transfer in a suitably small package, though, it's hard to overlook the Micro Mini.