The VP2060 is the second generation X's Drive from Vosonic (see our review of its older sibling, the VP2030 - click here). Compared to the original X's Drive, this portable, battery-powered hard drive with multiple format memory card slots, has a revised control panel and faster USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connectivity. It's also one of the first devices to sport Memory Stick Pro compatibility.
What is it?
An X’s Drive is a portable repository into which you can dump photos from your camera’s memory cards for later retrieval via a USB cable connection to a host computer. Why would you want one? Rather than buy lots of memory cards you can empty your cards into the X’s Drive as you go. The X’s Drive family is based around a battery-powered portable hard drive unit. The hard drive itself is the same specification as that used by most notebook computers: a 9.5mm high 2.5 inch drive. In fact, you can buy an X’s Drive unit without a hard drive and fit your own, if you wish.
The X’s Drive design also doubles as a memory card reader compatible with most memory card types used in digital cameras. The one exception is the new xD format being championed by Fujifilm and Olympus, but you can use an xD to compact flash adapter instead. The Mk.II X’s Drive also claims to be compatible with the latest Sony Memory Stick Pro cards, though at the time of our review we were unable to verify this. We’re expecting one of these cards soon and will update this review as soon as we have tested it on an X’s Drive II.
Outwardly similar in appearance to the earlier VP2030 X’s Drive (click here), when you look closely, you will find that with the new VP2060 X’s Drive II, the old arrangement of status LED lights has been replaced by an LCD status panel. This is certainly clearer than before, but not what I’d call a critical improvement.
What hasn’t changed?
One aspect of the X’s Drive design we expected to change was the on/off button, which is vulnerable to being switched accidentally. We thought it was the same as before, but the manufacturer has told us that the button is slightly more recessed. Intrepid X’s Drive Mk.I owners have devised home-made stick on-protection for the on/off button and this would be equally applicable here.
Much more important is the implementation of USB 2.0 Hi-Speed.
When we spoke to professional photographers, their main concern about the original X’s Drive was that fact that if you’d shot a few gigabytes worth of files – not difficult to do in a day or two – you’d have to wait ages while the drive emptied itself into the main computer at just 1MB per second. At this rate a gigabyte would taken nearly 20 minutes to transfer.
On our X’s Drive II example there were no logos to confirm its Hi-Speed capability, but file transfer tests clearly confirmed it. When the X’s Drive II is connected to a USB 2.0 port at the computer end, cards mounted into the unit behave as you would expect them to when connected to a fast dedicated Firewire (IEEE1394) or USB 2.0 Hi-Speed card reader. Most of the cards we tried exceeded the theoretical USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 ‘Full-Speed’ maximum transfer rate of 12Mbits/sec (1.5Mbytes/sec) and some of our faster CF cards managed 4MB/sec. The internal 2.5 inch hard drive managed about 5MB/sec transfers, meaning a gigabyte of data takes under 5 minutes to copy across.
Less impressive is the transfer rate from cards to the X’s II internal hard drive. We only managed transfer rates in the region of 0.75-1.2MB/sec, depending on the card – only marginally faster than the same transfers over an ordinary USB 1.1 connection.
Although not necessarily a big issue for most users, it’s worth noting that the design of the X’s Drive (both I and II versions) means that a maximum of two cards can be mounted at one time. This is because all cards, apart from compact flash ones, fit in the same aperture to the left when viewed from the front. This is only really an issue if you need to copy between several different types of cards.
One problem we did find was the tight fit of the SmartMedia slot. One card we tried had a foil warranty sticker on it and this was almost ripped off after the card became stuck. Paper stickers that aren’t unusual on SmartMedia cards are also vulnerable. There are no spring-loaded or easy release aids for memory cards, but apart from the SmartMedia isuue, we found no difficulty in removing or inserting cards.
Separate Apple Mac and Windows installation mini-CDs are supplied. The X’s Drive II will automatically plug and play without additional drivers when connected to Mac OS 10 and Windows ME or XP computers. Otherwise, installation is straightforward as long as you follow the instructions and only connect the USB cable to the computer at the right point in the installation sequence.
Like the earlier VP2030 model, there is an internal rechargeable lithium ion battery that should be good for in excess of an hour and half of continuous operation. The unit has power time-out to conserve the battery when it’s idle and there is a battery remaining indicator in the LCD panel. A power supply/charging unit is included and this is compatible with any AC mains voltage between 100-240V and AC frequencies of 50-60Hz. A 12V cigarette lighter adapter is available.
At 300g, including a fitted 9.5mm high 2.5 inch hard drive, the X’s Drive II is reasonably light and, overall, it’s quite compact. You get a handy padded carry case which also has pockets for your memory cards and enough room for the USB cable, though not the power supply unit.
Increases in transfer speed between host computer and mounted memory cards and the main hard drive unit itself are very welcome. This is mainly what you pay extra for over the Mk.I unit. The LCD screen is good, but the original LED arrangement wasn’t particularly difficult to use. It’s disappointing that copying from memory card to X’s Drive itself hasn’t been speeded up. Overall, the X’s Drive is undeniably good value if you are likely to shoot very large quantities of photos and you don’t like waiting around, but don’t forget you need a USB 2.0 port on your computer to take advantage of the extra speed. Of course, it’s backwards compatible with older USB 1.1 ports, though only at reduced data transfer rate. If speed isn’t critical, save yourself a few pounds and go for the standard X’s Drive, which continues to be available alongside the X’s Drive II.
Without hard drive: £134.90 inc.VAT
20GB hard drive fitted: £229 inc.VAT
30GB hard drive fitted: £259 inc.VAT
40GB hard drive fitted: £279 inc.VAT
The good things:
Good transfer speed between computer and X’s Drive unit via USB 2.0
Good transfer speed between computer and memory cards via USB 2.0
Memory Stick Pro support (though not yet tested by us)
Good carry case included
The not so good things:
Transfer speeds from memory cards to X’s Drive hard drive relatively slow
On/off button remains prone to accidental switching on
Aperture accommodating all cards apart from CF types can only accept one card at a time.