Review: Apricorn 160GB Aegis Mini hard drive -- small but pricey

Apricorn's new minidrive may not be faster than the competition, but it's one of the most portable

How much would you pay for a portable hard drive that lets you tote around 160GB in a shirt pocket -- with no need for a power brick? Apricorn is betting you'll be willing to spring for upward of $260 for its 160GB Aegis Mini. However, it remains to be seen how many are willing to pay that price for portability.

As with other drives in the Aegis Mini line, the new model carries a 1.8-in. drive inside its 0.67-by-2.7-by-3.4-in. shell and weighs in at 3.7 ounces. Two 160GB models are available at USB or FireWire. The FireWire version runs about $10 more than its USB 2.0 counterpart.

Neither capacity nor connections are really the important factors here. There are tons of 160GB external drives that can be connected via USB or FireWire. Convenience is the selling point: The competition is bigger and heavier than the Aegis Mini and they require separate power supplies or dual USB connections to work.

The Mini is a 1.8-in. inside a 0.67-by-2.7-by-3.4-in. shell and weighs in at 3.7 ounces. Two 160GB models are available with USB or Firewire connectivity. The FireWire version runs about $10 more than its USB 2.0 counterpart
Apricon's Aegis Mini

A 160GB Western Digital My Book Essential , for example, is practically gargantuan in comparison at 7.3 by 5.4 by 2.1 inches and 2.5 pounds. Even Iomega's 160GB Mini Drive measures a larger .75 by 3.5 by 5.25 inches at almost a half-pound. And Western Digital also sticks you with a power brick for its drive, based on its 3.5-in. disk -- and although the power supply is optional for Iomega's 2.5-in. drive package, you get a USB cable with two connectors to accommodate the drive's power requirements. Both of the latter drives cost under $100.

Performance problems

Performance is a double-edged sword for the Aegis Mini. Compared to its closest competitor in physical size, the Iomega Mini drive, Apricorn's 4200-rpm Samsung HS160JB hard disk is just about equal when tested with HD Tach using the default FAT32 file system. Actual file transfers to and from the drives showed the Aegis Mini to be slightly slower than the Iomega Mini.

Reformat the drives to NTFS and a different picture emerges: Although still nothing to write home about, HD Tach reports a performance improvement of about one-third in burst speed and average reads for the Aegis Mini. However, real file transfer times decreased by more than two minutes. That is encouraging to PC users. As a FAT32 device, it can be shared between a Mac and PC, but Macs can only read data stored in NTSF format, not write to it natively.

HD Tach Throughtput Tests Using FAT32

  Price Spindle Speed Burst Speed Average Read Random Access
Apricorn Aegis Mini $250 4,200 17MB/sec. 16.2MB/sec. 20.7ms
Iomega Mini USB Drive $99 5,400 17MB/sec. 16.2MB/sec. 18.3ms

HD Tach Throughtput Tests Using NTFS

  Burst Speed Average Read Random Access
Apricorn Aegis Mini 21.MB/sec. 21.4MB/sec. 20.0ms
Iomega Mini USB Drive 17MB/sec. 16.6MB/sec. 18.3ms

Apricorn includes a reasonable suite of software. For Windows, it comes with EZ Gig II backup and disaster recovery software; Microsoft Sync Toy to keep folders and files synchronizes among the computers to which you attach the Aegis Mini; and Apricorn Smart-Er -- S.M.A.R.T. error reporting software to keep track of the physical "health" of all of your drives.

On the Macintosh side, there's ShirtPocket SuperDuper -- with a somewhat less intuitive user interface (at least for those of us who lean more toward Windows); clone of EZ Gig II; Qdea Synchronize X for data synchronization; and Apricorn Encrypter for data security.

The bottom line here would seem to depend on how much you value convenience. You can walk into a Radio Shack and pick up a 160GB Iomega Mini for $99, stuff it in your briefcase or purse and have portable storage. Or you can plunk down $250 (or so) for the 160GB Aegis Mini and stuff a smaller drive in your pocket. (Its short USB connector folds into the drive's case, but there's an extension cable provided as well.) Feeling lazy?

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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