Iomega HDD Portable 20 GB USB 2.0 review:

Iomega HDD Portable 20 GB USB 2.0

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MSRP: $169.99
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Inexpensive; decent backup software.

The Bad A little slow; installation is a hassle; external USB port is wobbly; no manuals for bundled software.

The Bottom Line The HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive is an affordable external storage solution, but that can't make up for its funky interface module, its mediocre (if plentiful) software, and its other shortcomings.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.0 Overall

The Iomega HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive is one of a new family of USB 2.0 or FireWire-connected devices in 20GB and 30GB capacities. It's low in price, but it has some tough competition; similar products are lighter, smaller, or faster, and Iomega's interface cable is clunky. The Iomega HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive is one of a new family of USB 2.0 or FireWire-connected devices in 20GB and 30GB capacities. It's low in price, but it has some tough competition; similar products are lighter, smaller, or faster, and Iomega's interface cable is clunky.

A little clunkier
Installing the HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive is more of a hassle than it should be. You have two items to connect: the AC adapter (the 30GB FireWire version draws power directly through its port) and the included interface module, which connects the external USB port to the drive and to your computer. The modules--which Iomega will also sell separately--let you swap connection types easily, but the wobbly 1.5-inch converter seems awkward and precarious. You must also install Windows or Mac drivers. A brief setup guide illustrates the process, and an HTML-based manual does a minimal though adequate job of covering operation, troubleshooting, and other details.

A little bigger
But the HDD portable drive's bigger problem is its overall mediocrity. At $199, it's affordable, but SmartDisk's FireLite FLFW40 and WiebeTech's MicroGB offer twice the capacity for reasonably higher prices. At .69 inches high by 3.54 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep, the HDD is physically bigger than both, and at about 8 ounces (compared to the FireLite's 6 ounces and the MicroGB's 9 ounces), it's also middling in weight.

Additionally, the HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive showed unremarkable performance in our tests. The HDD's maximum write speed of 11.2MB per second and maximum read speed of 14.8MB per second in HD Tach trials were slightly behind those of the WiebeTech MicroGB (which was tested with its USB 2.0 interface), but it was faster at writing files. The HDD 20GB was also slower across the board compared to the SmartDisk FireLite, which had the poky FireWire interface.

Ho-hum software
The bundled software is another mixed blessing. The best is Iomega Backup, which is capable but skimpy compared to Dantz's Retrospect. Iomega QuikSync is a simple backup program for synchronizing files between your internal hard drive and the HDD portable, but it was a resource hog, commanding 15.5 percent of the processor under Windows XP even when we weren't using it. Finally, MusicMatch JukeBox is an ordinary MP3 player for Windows. But Mac users get the worst deal, with only QuikSync and MusicMatch bundled. Both run natively in Mac OS 9, yet the former continually crashed our OS 9 system.

Iomega's tech support is adequate. Toll-free telephone support (open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m CT weekdays) is free during the one-year warranty period and costs $15 per call afterward. The company provides e-mail tech support as well. The support section for the HDD portable drive isn't as extensive as it is for Iomega's other products.

Adequate across the board
The Iomega HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive's failure, if you can call it that, is its inability to excel in any area. Unless you need only 20GB of storage space and don't want to pay for more, this drive runs a distant second to faster, more portable alternatives.

HD Tach 2.70 tests
Measured in MB per second (longer bars indicate better performance)
Read burst speed   
Maximum read speed   
Maximum write speed   
SmartDisk FireLite (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
36.8 
24.6 
15.6 
WiebeTech MicroGB (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
18.9 
17.2 
12.1 
Iomega HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive (4,200rpm)
17.5 
14.8 
11.2 
 
Write tests
Measured in MB per second (longer bars indicate better performance)
Small files   
Large files   
SmartDisk FireLite (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
3.39 
14.84 
Iomega HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive (4,200rpm)
2.87 
13.15 
WiebeTech MicroGB (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
2.72 
11.15 
 
Read tests
Time, in minutes, to perform tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Small files   
Large files   
Iomega HDD 20GB USB 2.0 portable drive (4,200rpm)
2.33 
14.36 
WiebeTech MicroGB (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
2.59 
16.03 
SmartDisk FireLite (40GB; 4,200rpm; IEEE 1394)
3.18 
19.73 
 
The HDD portable performed about the same as the WiebeTech MicroGB (which was tested with its USB 2.0 interface), another 4,200rpm drive. But while USB 2.0 offers slightly faster throughput than FireWire, the HDD was slower than the SmartDisk FireLite FLFW40.

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