Memorex Ultra TravelDrive

Imagine if all your pictures, videos, documents, e-mail and contacts vanished overnight. Your entire archive of information and memories from since you first boot up your computer is instantly gone. It’s a scary thought yet so many of us have either not thought about or never get around to backing up any of our data.

There are plenty of ways to back up the contents of your computer in both hardware and software terms. This review covers the hardware aspect, in particular the Memorex TravelDrive.

Portable hard drive capacities have shot up over the last few months and prices have dropped massively. It’s now possible to get a 320GB portable hard drive that draws its power straight from your USB port. It wasn’t that long ago I was running a full size external drive of that capacity, which was big, noisy and needed a separate power supply.

Memorex are offering the Ultra TravelDrive in 80GB, 120GB or 160GB capacities using 2.5-inch hard drives. With such a small hard drive form factor, the enclosure becomes extremely small in comparison to the larger 3.5-inch designs. Whilst the TravelDrive isn’t really small enough to carry in your pocket everywhere you go, it’s small and light enough to slip in to your bag. The rubberised design means it can take a few bumps along the way so you don’t have to worry about damaging your data whilst in transit.

The palm sized drive won’t win any awards for sexy design appeal but it does come complete with a set of six faceplates that allow you to customise both sides of the unit in three different colours. You can mix and match the colours on either side or keep the same. It’s an interesting design feature and I think it’s a first but it’s more of a gimmick than a useful feature, however I found putting the white and grey covers on created a cool look.

Inside the package, you get a USB lead, a USB power lead and back up software. I found it rather odd that the drive had a port for power but didn’t actually see a mains adapter included. After reading the instructions, I discovered that the drive won’t work on most machines unless you have both sets of USB leads plugged in. For many laptops, this can be an issue if they only have two USB ports.

From a convenience standpoint, requiring two USB cables is a major flaw in the design of this drive. I can’t for the life of me understand why it needs to draw power from two USB ports when so many other drives are able to do the same using just the one. This can bring up many problems, especially when you’re on the road and you either didn’t bring or have lost the power cable. The instructions do state that ‘some’ machines will require the secondary USB cable.

I’m not sure what machines these are because I have tested it on four laptops and a desktop PC and all of them need the extra USB. When you don’t use the second USB cable, if you put your ear close enough to the drive you will hear this weak clicking sound that reminds me of a time when a hard drive failed on me – not the most promising of sounds. Plugging in the secondary cable quickly solves the problem.

If you use the included back up software then the ‘Quick’ button will actually do an instant backup of your system or pre-defined folders, however I didn’t actually go down this route since I prefer to drag and drop my own files across or use Mac OS X’s new backup feature, Time Machine, to do automatic backups.

Performance wise, the TravelDrive performs admirably. Fast response times when transferring a large number of small files as well as good consistent throughput when transferring a single large file. Perhaps this justifies the requirement of the secondary USB connection.

Results from my tests show that the TravelDrive was able to throw out some decent performance numbers when compared with my RAID FireWire 400 external drive.

For a 700MB file it took 34.7 seconds in comparison to the 27.8 seconds from the RAID drive.

My secondary test was transferring 1000 JPEG files totalling 2GB.

The Memorex was able to finish this test in 1 minute 59.3 seconds.

The RAID drive was able to finish the same test in 1 minute 33.3 seconds

The Memorex Ultra TravelDrive needs to get the power issue ironed out, because personally it’s not an issue I’m prepared to live with whether I’m at home, in the office or on the road. However it does represent good value for money backed by a solid design. The 80GB model is available for around £40, 120GB for £50 and the larger 160GB at around £60. It’s no slug at transferring either, with nippy performance and quick response times you won’t be left disappointed – just make sure you bring that extra cable with you!

2007-12-06 Onwah Tsang

1 comment - why not add yours

  • Che Ho says:

    Hi –

    I am a MacBook Pro user and I used the Memorex Ultratravel as my Time Machine as well. But now I’m tricked – I tried deleting some older auto-backup folders and now it is recognised as ‘hard drive not formatted’ and all my file lost!!!
    Any way to retrieve the files??

    Thanks a million.

    Che Ho

    Posted on 27th April 2010

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