September 2008


Eight years ago I was working for Hitachi Data Systems, the storage systems division of electronic giant Hitachi. Back then 64MB and 128MB memory sticks were in becoming standard corporate give-aways. Yes, I was in marketing back then. My boss, being a techie himself, asked me what it would cost to produce a high-end portable storage device with a capacity of 40GB.

Needless to say I contacted someone at Hitachi and asked for a referral to a distributor. After getting the price I wanted, I went to a nearby computer mall, shopped around for a low-cost (ok, cheap) USB 2.0 metal case for the hard drive. I also contacted a small trader specializing in corporate premiums, and presto… I started producing portable, 40GB external USB hard drives.

Today I don’t have to do what I did back then to buy myself a portable harddrive. If you’ve ever been to any of the local computer malls in Hong Kong, you will find external portable harddrives from recognizable brands like Seagate, Maxtor, Lacie, etc. If you are the adventurer, you can also opt to build one yourself – like I did. I still have 3 portable harddrives – all home assembled.

I also bought a 120GB Lacie brand for my wife since she wanted to regularly backup her office PC – after suffering from a failed harddrive earlier this year.

Anyway, I recently got a call from Andrew Peters from PacificWest PR in Singapore to try out the eSys No Touch NT2500 portable harddrive. The box arrived one day before I left for an overseas trip – which was great because I wanted to make sure I had a backup device for my 80GB HDD. The NT2500 came with 250GB so it was more than enough to backup my entire notebook and then some.

The NT2500 came formatted and ready for use. It included an IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files software (version 3.1). The NT2500 hardware itself is very quiet. It took over two hours of continually plugged to the USB port of my notebook before I felt the noticeable warmth on the bottom of the drive. Throughout that time the unit itself was dead quiet.

The often used measure to test how a backup drive performs is backup and restore times. But both metrics are dependent on several factors including the make and model of the computer, RAM and harddisk space, other applications running during backup, type of USB port from which the drive is connected, and file type and size. It took me about 12 minutes to backup 6 Outlook PST files totalling 11.5GB. This was using a drag and drop approach. It would be great if it were faster than that but I can’t complain. It was just slightly faster than the fastest homemade portable drive I have – using Sarotech from Korea.

What I like about the NT2500:
Quiet
Simple and sleek design
Works 100% out of the box – really plug and play

What I don’t like about the NT2500:
Glossy surface is fingerprint magnet
Dimension-wise the packaging is longer than most other portable drives making it less portable than it should
IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files version 3.1 is not very intuitive (call me dumb but I haven’t figured out how how to backup my notebook’s data to the NT2500).
It can get very warm when it is performing backup or restore

In reality its very hard to see anything unique about portable USB harddrives. You see one, you’ve seen them all. You just need to make sure: (1) there’s enough capacity to store what you need (I can tell you there is never enough GB); (2) is it really portable – can I stow it in my hip pocket?; and (3) does it need special software to work? Cool factor should only come in when you’ve answered these first three. All else is garnishing.

NT2500 Specifications:
Supported Operating Systems: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Linus Mac OS X 10.3.0 or later
USB Format: USB 2.0 (USBB 1.1 Backwards Compatible)
Rotational Speed: 5400rpm
Product Physical Dimensions: 150mm X 84mm X 16.5mm (2.5″)
Weight: 0.2kg
Software: IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files version 3.1

Third-party reviews of the NT2500:
Living: Digital: Touch Me Not
Hardwarezone: EZY Technologies Announces its NoTouch External Storage Devices

** Word of Warning: If you happen to buy the NT2500 or its bigger sibling, the NT3500, do not install and use the IBM Tivoli CDP for Files, it is one of the worst backup software I’d ever have the distinction of installing on my PC. It is slow, difficult to use, and not very flexible. You’d be better off using WIndows Explorer to manually copy files to the drive. If I find a good software, I’ll write another blog on that.

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A friend asked me to test out the newly launched Samsung Omnia SGH-i900. But rather than do the usual indepth product review I thought I’d look at it from the angle of the common user – my wife. If you still want to read one of those in-depth product reviews, click on the links below:

TrustedReviews: Samsung Omnia i900
CNETAsia: Samsung Omnia SGH-i900 (8GB)
Wassup: Samsung Omnia – New 3G iPhone Killer?
Pocketnow: Review – Samsung Omnia i900

So what do I like about the Omnia? It comes in a beautiful box that reminds me of those expensive luxury watches from Switzerland. Thanks to the Samsung heritage of great LCD panels, the Omnia boasts the best LCD screen I’ve ever come across barring those beautiful Samsung LCD computer monitors. Beats the iphone and every portable wannabee when it comes to crisp, clear display.

I only have a couple of gripes about the Omnia: (1) it takes close to 1 minute to power up. If I were to come across someone having a heart attack and I needed to make a call and unfortunately my Omnia was powered off, the guy will be close to death’s door before I can reach someone on the emergency hotline; (2) the back panel gets warm when the display is on – not toasty hot – but warm. Which is great for winter when you need something to warm your hands but very lousy during hot summer days in Hong Kong. 

One more thing: I am not a geek but certainly after 22 years of being in the IT industry, I am no newbie either. But I can tell you that you can get really frustrated trying to connect to your WiFi with this phone. I’ve been trying to do it for two days now and I still haven’t found the magic sequence to connect to my WiFi at home. My iPod Touch took about a minute to find and connect to my WiFi. My favorite BlackBerry Pearl managed to get connected in under a minute as well. So why can’t I get the Omnia connected? Beats the hell out of me. Fortunately I am not alone. Lots more folks shouting for help out on the WWW (just type – I can’t connect to WiFi on Omnia).

So we go back to the topic of this article: Do you buy a phone for its features or ease-of-use? Apple has shown that if you can make a phone easy-to-use while still being cool, people will buy it. Manufacturers like to think that if you stick a supercomputer on a handheld device, people will buy it. Yes, I am sure a few geeks would love to get their hands on such a device. But time and again, consumer statistics and common sense tell us that people like to use things that are simple to use, and oh yes, it does as advertise (OSX vs Windows).

I’m not taking a swipe at Windows. I am writing this blog on a Windows XP PC (I have a Mac too). But when it comes right down to it, the more elegant and simple a device is, the more people are drawn to it. Wll you buy a sleek, sexy, curvey jacquar or a tank? Both can bring you from point A to B. But you only need to know how to steer, where the gas and break peddals are to drive a Jag.

So you tell me!