Pocket drives to tickle the style gurus

Merlin John runs the rule over Iomega's latest Zip and Peerless drives and ponders whether they can mix it with the big guys

While many schools have still not moved on from floppy discs, the rest of the world has - some time ago. Graphics and music departments led the way with the heavy (they didn't seem it then) Syquest cartridges and then the whole world seemed to standardise on the 100Mb Iomega Zip disc, the new floppy disc for the rest of us (its removable disc about the same size but thicker). Since then Iomega has branched out with higher capacity Jaz drives (2Gb), but there is still plenty of mileage in the humble Zip. A 250Mb big brother is also available.

And the latest version, the Zip 100 USB Powered New Generation, does not even need a power source as it draws juice from its connecting USB cable. Once you have loaded the software you just connect the drive - a simple, tough black plastic sleeve - to your PC or Mac and off you go. It is a real boon for users who often need to move data between machines. Just unplug, plug and go.

As with most suppliers of storage drives Iomega also "bundles" extra software with its drives to help you store your pictures (MGI PhotoSuite) or music (MusicMatch Jukebox). and there's a facility (Quik Floppy Copy) to help you develop Zip collections of your floppy disc material ready for the day when you phase them out if you haven't already. Iomega's Active Disk technology lets you run programs just from your Zip disc. And there are also free, downloadable programs, including utilities and games, that exploit it on the Iomega website Iomega is now competing with the big players for high-capacity removable drives. Its Peerless drive (10Gb or 20Gb) is probably the coolest looking one on the market but unfortunately it is also comparatively expensive (external hard drives from firms like LaCie can offer better value if you don't need a removable disc). Again, ease of use is exemplary and you can use them on PCs or Macs with two versions available depending on the connection you need - USB or the superfast FireWire (standard on all Macs and moving that way on PCs). The 20Gb Peerless Online used was a USB model, and this proved invaluable. It copied a 650-Mb file, roughly a CD-Rom's worth, in around 15 minutes. If you need more speed, however, go for the FireWire option as long as your computer supports it.

As with the Zip, you can just take out your Peerless disc and take it to any other machine that has a Peerless drive. The disc has its own rugged pouch. Interestingly, the software allows you to back up your computer on to the Peerless disc, a facility that could easily prove its worth when disaster strikes.

For those who do not need file transfer exceeding 100Mb, the Zip 100 USB Powered New Generation is an incredibly useful device now that it no longer needs external power. The Peerless, on the other hand, is not such an easy choice. Brand loyalty should be quite strong for Iomega customers but hard cash has a way of undermining loyalty and the Peerless is now looking rather expensive except for those who insist on quality and style.

Zip 100 USB Powered New GenerationPrice: pound;69.99Peerless 20Gb Firewire bundle FirewireUSBPrice: pound;399 (street price about pound;340) Available from education suppliers and high street shopswww.iomega.com

IOMEGA ZIP

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IOMEGA PEERLESS

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