Update: The Seagate Pocket Drive will be availabe in an 8GB version from July 2006. Local pricing is as yet unknown, however, it currently sells in the US for US$149.
There's something about the Seagate Pocket Hard drive that brings to mind the infamous circular mouse that Apple offered on its very first iMacs. The unit is circular in shape, with an inner rotating wheel that houses the unit's small USB cable. That's actually a neat bit of design; it means that you never have to worry about taking along a cable or dock with the unit -- anything with a USB connector will be able to read from and write to the Seagate Pocket Drive. Small rubber tracks on the base of the drive keep it stable on most desk environments, and a single blue light on the top of the drive indicates any kind of data activity. In its silver and black hues, the Pocket Drive looks like it would be more at home on an enterprise user's desk than in a home setting, although we've certainly seen less appealing portable drives.
The Pocket drive features USB 2.0 connectivity, although like all USB devices if you've got an older USB1.1 connection, you can use the drive, albeit at greatly reduced speeds. The drive within is a 3600ROM 5GB model -- fine for the consumer sector, whether you're talking photos or music, and even small video files. Seagate's spin on the drive is that it offers a huge improvement on existing portable flash devices (such as Sony's Micro Vaults or Trek's Thumbdrives) at a similar cost, but the first thing that was heard around the CNET.com.au offices was a cry of "Why would you buy that when you could have an iPod Mini?". Yes, it's true -- the whole world has indeed gone iPod mad.
Actually, there are reasons why you might opt for the Pocket Drive over an iPod Mini. For a start, with its self-contained USB cable, as a pure data device, the Pocket Drive is a more portable storage solution, simply because it will plug into just about any computer out there. It may also be a tad easier to convince whoever controls your purse strings (be they a significant other, financial controller or so on) to buy a serious PC storage device rather than a fun music player. After all, that doesn't affect what you do end up storing on it, does it?
If you're using either a Mac or reasonably modern Windows PC, you can just plug in the Pocket Hard drive and start shifting data, although Seagate does provide a few Windows-centric utilities if you've got particularly sensitive data to hand. They allow you to set up secure partitions, bootable partitions (if your PC supports bootable partitions) and easily eject the drive without accidentally interrupting a crucial read/write cycle.
We tested the 5GB Pocket Drive by running some test file transfers to and from the device. Copying 3.45 GB of data, comprised of thousands of smaller photo files (such as you might do if you were using it for portable photo backup), the Pocket drive took 1 hour and 25 seconds to complete the task. Smaller file transfers were naturally much nippier. Copying a single 10MB file, for example, took a little over 3 seconds.
If you're pondering your portable flash drive options, it's well worth considering the Seagate Pocket Drive as a worthy alternative. Sure, you won't get the total robustness of a flash solution -- but you do get an awful lot more storage for your money.