Here's one good reason to own a Hitch: you're a gadget-monger and your friends are gadget-mongers. Hitch measures 4.3 by 2.6 by 0.9 inches and weighs 8 ounces, and because it's so portable, you can pretty much "hitch" two gadgets at anytime. Though you can easily swap data over the Internet, Hitch offers instant hookups without the need for a "bulky" laptop. This thing is designed purely for data swapping and offloading, so it's quite good at what it does.
One could easily mistake the Hitch for an old-school MP3 player with its 2-inch monochrome screen and tactile scrollwheel. In reality, the Linux 2.0 device has no hard drive and acts as a bridge for two other USB devices of your choice. On either side of the Hitch you'll find a USB port; simply plug in your devices, and a file/folder tree will appear on the backlit and quite legible screen.
Above the screen is a handy and essential light-up diagram of which device is being displayed and which direction transfers will be made. It literally says "here" and "there." If the diagram doesn't light up, it means your device is not compatible (more later). The switch button toggles between each device. Select a file, a folder, or the entire contents of a drive; pressing the Send button immediately transfers your selection to the other device (we'd love to see a dedicated Back button, the way it stands, that's a menu option).
You can monitor progress onscreen (see the online demo). In our first test, we transferred 32MB of data from a Canon PowerShot S410 (USB 1.1 w/standard Canon CF card) to a SanDisk Cruzer (USB 2.0) drive in 4 minutes, 27 seconds; that's 18 JPEGs at almost 15 seconds per file. The folks at Hitch claim the device will transfer a 2MB photo over USB 2.0 in 3 seconds.
We then hooked up to USB 2.0 thumbdrives, which resulted in a 100MB data swap in 109 seconds (or a little less than a MB per second). Comparatively, the same transfer on a PC took 69 seconds. In our quick song-swap test, a 3.4MB track was transferred from an iPod to a USB stick in about 5 seconds. We were also able to swap music and video files stored on the iPod (as a hard drive) to a PSP without any problems. Files are automatically copied to a new folder called Hitch. You can override this and copy photos to the folder of your choice.
Hitch isn't exactly Cupid for every device. Though it's compatible with USB Mass Storage devices and the common Picture Transfer Protocol, it won't work with some MP3 players that use Microsoft's MTP, such as the Toshiba Gigabeat S or the Creative Zen Vision:M. Of course it will work with iPods, though they must be formatted as a FAT32 device, so Mac-based iPod owners need to format on a PC before they can hitch their pods.
On the topic of iPods, in a normal hookup, you'd be able to see only your iPod as a data device. Hitch has a Music mode that allows it to see the iPod's music folder. You'll also see music on other MP3 players broken down into artist, album, and song database format. Once you swap music files, you can actually listen to them on another iPod, unless, of course, they are protected with DRM. In that case, you'll have to sync your iPod with iTunes and authorize that tune. Hitch will also copy two versions of a file on your iPod so that iTunes will automatically add the tune to its library (then delete the file).
In general, we felt the whole process was simple and fast--and it perhaps created a feeling of accomplishment. Even with an ultraportable laptop, you still have to drag and drop files, and viewing an iPod's music library may not be possible without extra help or tricks. Hitch most certainly has the potential to be a timely and heroic device.
We also love the fact that the Hitch refuels your device if it can be recharged over USB. On a full battery, it can supposedly fully recharge two 5G iPods (providing up to 500mA at 5V to both ports).
Overall, the Hitch does what it's supposed to do very well. However, most gadget owners would probably prefer to lug around a laptop for mobile data swaps and offloading (particularly digital camera owners). In addition, many portable media devices include USB-On the Go, which will offload digital camera data onto that device. But if you have multiple USB gadgets and prefer to pack light, Hitch is definitely more useful than unnecessary.