We test the latest X's Drive portable storage solution for photographers
| Price: Guide price: 20GB version UK£139, |
various capacities available up to 80GB (UK£199), without hard drive: UK£95.
Also available in black.
| Check UK prices and size options for the VP2160 on PriceGrabber|
Check the price of the Vosonic VP2160 at Picstop (UK)
On the face of it, the Vosonic VP2160 X's Drive II couldn't be much simpler. It's not an MP3 player, it doesn't have a colour screen for previewing your photos and there are only two buttons to confuse you and one of those is the power switch. Nope, this is a photographer's tool and not a lot more. The VP2160 makes a copy of all the files on a loaded memory card to its internal 2.5 inch hard drive so that you can connect and download then to a computer later. Connected via its USB 2.0 Hi-Speed cable, the VP2160 also doubles as a portable external hard drive, but that's the only bonus outside its tightly focussed design functionality.
The VP2160 is a third generation product, preceded by the original X's Drive
and the X's Drive II
. The X's Drive II+ is a substantially redesigned product that is smaller, lighter and has a more sophisticated look. Gone is the simplistic status LCD screen, replaced by a larger and more informative one, though it's still not illuminated. Instead of two card slots on one side, the compact flash slot has been moved to one end of the case. xD PictureCards are now accommodated for in addition to Sony Memory Stick (including Pro cards), Compact Flash I and II, including Microdrives, SD, MMC and SmartMedia.
It's possible to change the internal lithium ion battery should this be required, but that would entail unscrewing the case. The battery is rated at between three and six hours of continuous use, depending on the hard drive installed, which we found to be about right. A universal 100-240V 50/60Hz mains electricity charger is provided.
A rather unusual USB cable is supplied with the VP2160 it has two plugs for the hub/host computer end. One is the standard USB 2.0 data connector, but a second is provided to draw extra current. We did encounter a problem with a cheap generic powered USB 2.0 hub, which was disabled the moment we connected and powered up our VP2160 using just one of the two USB connector. It also generated a Windows XP warning about USB hub power surges.
If you use a cheap, low-spec USB hub, you might see this error message
However, when connected using both connectors, all was well. Connection with just a single connector was reliable if the VP2160 was being powered from its mains adapter. We tried a Belkin powered USB 2.0 hub and this showed no problems at all, regardless of the combination of cables or power modes, even with its own power disconnected, so the finger points at the cheap generic hub, though there are probably a fair few of these circulating, so be warned.
USB devices, like the VP2160, can draw 5V from a USB port, but at a relatively low current. The VP2160 can recharge its battery via the USB port connection, though only when switched off. The VP2160's dual-headed USB cable enables it to draw power from two USB ports. It would seem that Vosonic has pre-empted the problem we experienced with low-spec USB hubs by providing the special cable, though it has to be said that we haven't experienced power surge errors with our cheap hub with other USB devices.
The VP2160 must be one of the simplest devices around. All you need to do is insert a memory card, wait a second for the card to be identified and you are then prompted to press the copy button. All files on the card are then copied into a new sequentially numbered folder on the VP2160's hard drive. The card is not wiped, so the VP2160 can be used as a security back up device or you can simply format the card in the camera and re-use straight away.
When connecting to a computer via a USB port, if using Windows XP or ME or Mac OS 10, the VP2160 is a recognised plug and play device that doesn't require a separate driver. For older operating systems, drivers are provided. When connected, the VP2160 shows up as an external hard drive and the card slots are also accessible, so the unit doubles as tethered USB 2.0 card reader.
Cards inserted via the multi-standard side slot are well-recessed
SD, MMC, SmartMedia, xD (which is not indicated anywhere) and Memory Stick cards are all recessed well when inserted. However, the end-positioned Compact Flash slot was stiff, most of the card remains proud of the slot and it wasn't obvious when the card was correctly inserted.
We managed JPEG image file transfer rates from memory cards to the VP2160's internal hard drive of between 1.5MB/sec and 1.7MB/sec. This is better than earlier versions of the X's Drive, but most of this is probably down to the improved speed of the cards used. At 1.7MB/sec, it would take about ten minutes to copy a full 1GB card. Compared to some other Vosonic devices we have tested, like the Vosonic VP6300 MMV
, the VP2160 is measurably, if not dramatically, slower. When copying from the VP2160 to our PC via USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, we reached a transfer rate of 6.8MB/sec, which is OK, but, again, not as fast as some other similar devices we have tried, with the Epson P-2000
reaching 9.5MB/sec, for example.
Performance is likely to vary according the hard drive fitted. As the VP2160 is available without a hard drive installed, you could, in theory, fit a very fast 7200RPM drive, though this would generate more heat and shorten battery life.
Adequate, but we expected a bit more speed.
It's got practically everything a photographer really needs in a product like this, but nothing more.
Ease of use
In general, it couldn't be easier. Only the shenanigans with the USB power issue caused us some head-scratching.
The VP2160 has a more refined look and finish, but the older version felt more hard-wearing.
Value for money
The VP2160 does a very specific task and there are deals out there that offer a lot of storage for the money.
The VP2160 comes with a hard wearing protective case
At DPNow we don't much rate stars and percentages because they mean one thing to one reviewer and something else to another, but as the industry demands such devices, we reluctantly provide them, based on our concept of the product's target market, the competition and how we got on while testing it:
3.5 stars (out of 5)
Things we liked about the Vosonic VP2160 X's Drive II+:
Battery is replaceable
Battery can be charged via USB port
Things we didn't like:
Less rugged than its predecessor
Compact Flash slot stiff and card sticks out
LCD screen not illuminated
USB port power issue with some hubs
Would we use a VP2160? yes
Could we recommend one? yes, with certain provisos covered.
If you don't need the extras of a colour screen for viewing images or a music player function, or controls to manage stored files, the VP2160 X's Drive II+ certainly works. But we'd have liked it to have worked a bit faster and the unusual USB power load issue is something that Vosonic need to sort out as soon as possible.
Check UK prices and size options for the VP2160 on PriceGrabber
Check the price of the Vosonic VP2160 at Picstop (UK)