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Running out of Hard Drive Space
External drives are easy to use and increasingly affordable
By Daniel Canale-Parola
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Once upon a time if you ran out of hard drive space you had to pry open your PC and hook up a new hard drive - or maybe even consider buying a new computer.

Nowadays the problem is much easier to solve; with a FireWire or USB 2.0 enabled external hard drive you simply connect the unit to your PC and fire it up. The drive is instantly recognized and presto - you have instant added drive space.

External hard drives are hot sellers; large image, video and audio files are now everywhere leaving many of us scrambling for added space. Most computers now support either FireWire or USB 2.0 (often both) and prices have never been lower.

LaCie Hard Drives
There are a lot of big players in the external hard drive market but none make snazzier looking products than LaCie. One of their coolest looking external drives is the colorful Brick. Designed by "world-famous" Ora-Ïto (yes, he has umlauts over the "I" in his name, he's that cool), the drive comes in two versions: "Desktop" which has a power cord, and the pricier "Portable" style which takes its power from your PC.

LaCie Brick External Hard Drives

Not only do we love the idea of designing serious computer equipment to look like toys, the lego-like construction allows you to neatly stack these bad boys up on your desktop as your storage needs grow. How cool is that?

Storage sizes range from 160GB to 500GB for the USB 2.0-only desktop versions, and 40GB to 120GB for the portable units. The portable drives come in two styles: one with USB 2.0 and another that supports both USB 2.0 and FireWire.

Function over form
If you're more concerned about storage size than chic design, you might take a look at LaCie's appropriately named Big Disk 1TB External Hard Drive. Yes, that's an entire terabyte of storage in that little box with FireWire 400/800 and USB 2.0 support. Not big enough? LaCie also makes a 2 terabyte desktop external drive called the "Bigger Disk Extreme".

LaCie's Big Disk

Another interesting product from LaCie is the impossibly small, improbably named Skwarim portable drive - designed by "world-renowned" Karim Rashid (is it better to be "world-famous" or "world-renowned"?)

Despite the highly questionable choice of name, we like this product. It fits in the palm of your hand, it's only 1/2 inch thick, light and the 60 gig model holds around 15,000 songs, 30,000 photos or 10-12 full DVDs worth of home video. Not too shabby for a Skwarim. If you only need 30 gigs of Skwarim in your life, we hope you like hot pink.

30 and 60 gig portable Skwarim Drives

The Apple has landed
What looks like an unassuming stand for your Mini Mac PC is actually an add-on hard drive which LaCie accurately describes as the "Perfect Mini Mac companion". Storage size for these units range from 80 to 500 gigabytes.
The LaCie mini
Wolverine MVP 9000
Leaving LaCie behind we move into the realm of portable drives that also play what they store. It's not just the Ferrari red color and the big W on the case that make the new MVP 9000 truly remarkable; try 100GB storage capacity (a 60 gig version is also available), its ability to read from, or write to, 7 different types of memory cards, and the insane number of different video, photo and audio formats it supports as a player.
The Wolverine MVP 9000

We tend to shy away from presenting lots of tech specs, but in this case they are the heart of the story:

Supported Memory Cards:

Compact Flash (CF) , MicroDrive (MD), Secure Digital (SD), Multimedia Card (MMC),
Memory Stick (MS), MS Pro, Smart Media (SM), XD using SM memory card slot

Supported Video:
AVI, MOV, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, DivX-5.x
Supported Audio:
MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, CDA (CD-Audio)
Supported Photo Formats:
JPEG, TIFF, BMP, RAW files (Supported camera makes include Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Kodak, Pentax, Minolta/Konica-Minolta)

Still not impressed? Alright, how about a built-in voice recorder and line-in input? The MVP also has a rechargeable battery, weighs only 10 ounces, features a USB 2.0 jack and works with both Windows and Mac PCs. Oh yeah, if the 2.5" LTPS TFT high resolution LCD display doesn't cut it, you can use the unit's composite video out to display your photos and videos on a TV or projector (PAL or NTSC).

The digital photographer's best friend
For a portable hard drive device primarily targeted towards photographers, check out Epson's highly popular Multimedia Storage Viewers.

The Epson's main benefits over other similar players is its bright, 3.8-inch, 640 x 480 resolution LCD display and its ability to display a limited number of popular RAW files. Images look fantastic - sharp and vibrant even in moderate sunlight. The unit plays AAC and MP3 audio files but it's no iPod - audio quality is merely adequate, browsing is by folders only and there is an 8 character file name limit.
Epson P-4000

The player supports also supports MPEG-4 and motion JPG video as well, but carry some spare batteries if you plan to use this as a primary video display.

Clearly this unit's strength is as a photo viewer and storage device for photographers and for that application it's a great little gadget. Choose between the 40GB P-2000 and the 80GB P-4000. Epson just announced a new iteration for the Japanese market, the P-4500, with increased RAW and video format support and an even brighter display but it appears that this one may not be offered in the North American or European markets.

View our full line of portable and desktop drives on the B&H website.

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to emailfeedback@bhphotovideo.com.