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Iomega 340MB Microdrive 9/10

The Iomega Microdrive is in fact made by IBM. As you can see it is only slightly bigger than my thumb. At around £200 this 340MB is considerably cheaper (per MB) than most other CompactFlash/Smartmedia/Memory Stick solutions. It is compatible with the CompactFlash II format, which is slightly thicker than CompactFlash I - but still nevertheless small enough to slip into your wallet. Iomega recommend you put it in devices with an eject button. I did not know this and put it in a Compaq iPAQ PocketPCs CF expansion jacket. I had considerable trouble removing the card, by clawing it out! Eventually I put a piece of sticky tape (careful not to block a breathing hole), on the Microdrive, so I could remove it from my iPAQ when necessary. However, this violated another rule, that of not putting labels on the Microdrive. There did not seem to be any problems with doing this, but I would not recommend this just in case there are any long term problems. Alternatively you can slip the Microdrive into a PCMICA adapter and put that into your PocketPC. Unfortunately this would not be an option for CompactFlash I only digital cameras, which generally don't have PCMICA slots. It is worth noting that higher end Microdrive compatible cameras are emerging now. When the Microdrive was first released very few digital cameras supported it. Few cheap digital cameras or MP3 players (not Palmtops) support it. If you want to use it for MP3s, you will probably have to buy a PocketPC or similar device.

Being a hard drive, you can just about hear the Microdrive ticking, as the 4500 rpm drive spins. It is slightly quieter than my Minidisc's spin mechanism. It is also reasonably fast, but not as fast as an average hard disk. Placed in an included PCMICA adapter I put it in a Sony X9 notebook and I transfered a 60 MB MP3 album in just under 40 seconds. Filling up the 340 MB takes up several minutes. The 1 GB is supposed to be faster than this drive, so it would be interesting to compare them and to see whether the IBM branded drives offer a better software bundle. As it is the software bundle consists of a backup/sync programme which also works with other hard disks, not just the Iomega. However, I generally found it easier to copy over data to the Microdrive using Windows Explorer. For people who use databases, this sync programme might prove more useful.

In spite of being a hard disk it seems remarkably robust. I dropped it by mistake, but my data was not destroyed and the Microdrive still functioned perfectly. In any case, Iomega recommends that you carry the Microdrive in the included plastic case. One of the advantages of memory cards, compared to the Microdrive was said to be the fact that a memory card has no moving parts and therefore playback does not get interupted when the flash card is shaken. However, the Microdrive also did not skip when playing back MP3s, whilst I shook it. One of the disadvantages though of having moving parts, is that the Microdrive uses up more battery power. If you plan to use your iPAQ (or similar PocketPC) mainly for playing MP3s on the Microdrive, I would recommend buying a spare battery, since both using the Microdrive and using the internal soundcard are both power hungry operations.

This Microdrive is a good solution to your data worries in compatible portable devices, it is also an easy way to transfer data, since it works on any laptop with a PCMICA slot. You might want to hold out though and buy the 1 GB version, which has recently been released.