The more digital content that we create (music, photos, movies, etc.) and the more we want to share it with others, the more likely it is we'll need some place to store it. You might be looking at digital cameras or music players on your holiday list, but just as important is storage that helps you keep the content stored or created with those gadgets safe and sound. Here are some storage products and concepts we liked:
Hitachi SimpleTough 500 GB Portable External Hard Drive (Product Web site)
Cool Yule rating: 5 stars
The Hitachi SimpleTough portable hard drive is everything it promises to be. This 500GB hard drive can store large quantities of data and can take a beating. I found the hard drive to accept data pretty quickly, it took approximately 12 minutes to move 4GB of data onto the device, and only a few seconds to move a few megabytes of data. It's also really easy to hook up to your computer and start using immediately out of the package. If you often use the SimpleTough with the same computer, you can set it to automatically update certain files that may have changed like music, photos, or word documents saved to certain folders.
The best part of this device is its portability and toughness. First, it's small enough to fit in a small purse, about the size of an average paperback book. Plus, it's a self-contained unit, coming with its own tough USB cord tucked into the body. The unit is very easy to take from one location to another and instantly start using it; perfect for when you want to share large amounts of information with two computers that aren't networked. If you're a little paranoid about keeping personal data, you could even hide this unit in a sock drawer.
Second, the Hitachi SimpleTough can really take a beating. I dropped the device a few times, and it kept working. I had the device sit next to a glass of cold water. The condensation on the outside of the glass and the side of the SimpleTough, plus the SimpleTough ended up in a small puddle of water, it kept working. I also tested to see if its positioning would affect it at all. I tried using the device both on a flat surface as well as in a bunch of different haphazard positions, falling off my lap or the couch as I used it with a laptop, and it kept working regardless of its position.
Concerned that the USB cord might get damaged? It turns out that under the cord is a hole for another connecting wire. If the cord broke, I would probably have to take the device down to my local Best Buy or Radio Shack, because the port isn't a common port like a USB or mini USB, but I'm sure they could help me find the right connection and I'd still be able to access the external hard drive.
Buffalo MiniStation Metro Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive (HD-PXU2), by Buffalo Technology (Product Web site)
Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: About $US90
A portable hard drive with capacities ranging from 250GB (version tested) up to 750GB, the Metro version includes Buffalo's BumperBody shock absorbers - rubberized protectors on the outside of the body to protect the drive from drops and other hazards. Yes, it's easy to drop and it will still work for you (just don't throw it at your TV or wall).
Another cool feature - the drive's flexible USB cable is attached to the unit and wraps around the casing for easy travel (an extension cable is also included). Other features include hardware disk encryption, backup software from Memeo, Picasa photo software and TurboUSB utility that aims to speed up transfer rates. It's a basic portable hard drive with lots of memory for storage, some extra protection and a nice wraparound cable so you don't have to worry about digging around for the right USB cable.
Tuff-'N'-Tiny USB Drive (8GB tested) (Product Web site)
Cool Yule Rating: 4.5 stars
Just when you thought things couldn't get smaller, along comes the Tuff-N-Tiny USB drive from Verbatim, a USB storage device that's smaller than most people's thumbs. Capacities include 2G-, 4G- and 8GB sizes, allowing for thousands of photos, music files or even movies to be stored and saved.
The tiny portion is just that – it's thinner than a standard USB port, yet it still fits in all USB ports. The "Tuff" portion is its rugged features that let you spill water on it, get it dusty, or drop something on it.
The drive comes with a bonus lanyard, which you'll probably want to connect because it's so tiny. In all likelihood, most people will lose this if it isn't connected to something more solid (like a lanyard and a keychain).
Still, it's kind of a fun little device and for 8GB to be stored on something that small, it blows my mind.
Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: $AU699.96 (1TB)
This is a network-attached storage device that is aimed at keeping your home entertainment files (music, videos, photos) centralized in one location so you can share and access them from multiple computers within the home. The system also supports remote access and even has an FTP server, but the main gist is to centralize the multimedia files.
The box comes with either 500GB or 1TB of storage, two USB ports and an extra SATA bya slot for adding additional external storage, and a media card reader that lets you import photos directly to the drive from a memory card. The unit connects to a home router, and software installs for each PC in which you'd like to access the media hub.
After installation, you can run the Media Importer tool, which scans your PC and copies over all of the music, photos and videos stored on the system. This took a LONG time (about 7 hours) with my first computer, which allegedly had 20GB of multimedia files on it. The initial process of finding and importing could take a while if you choose the "import all" check box. If you want to cut down on time, weed out any photos, music or videos that you might not want to have imported to the Media Hub. Another complaint: the system's browser software to view photos and play the music and videos needs some improvements. A lot of albums that I transferred over (especially show music or compilations with various artists) showed up as separate albums, not as one complete item.
The system also comes with NTI Shadow software that can automatically back up your system if you want, a good choice if you have the extra space on the unit. An LCD screen on the Media Hub unit can give information on its status, IP address, and its name (good for accessing it via the Web browser).
If you're looking to centralize your content, this is a good way to import your multimedia files into one central area. This is also a key ingredient in a home entertainment system if you're looking to use some of the Cisco entertainment devices for playing music (the company's Wireless Home Audio products).