by Andrey Kuznetcov
10/04/2004 | 07:46 AM
There’s a real exuberance of various devices with the Universal Serial Bus interface in the market nowadays. You may have seen fans and flashlights and other exotic products, not directly pertinent to computers. Among this heap of colorful and nice-looking stuff there sometimes emerges a piece of hardware that’s more useful for a PC owner.
One of such devices is going to be the subject of this review.
In the long row of USB flash drives from A-DATA Technology, there is one that combines the capabilities of a standard flash memory storage medium and a miniature digital camera. What is the result of such a symbiosis? Putting two devices into one case led to a certain growth of its dimensions, although the appearance of this i-Drive is elegant enough thanks to the silvery plastic material of the case.
By the way, this rather big case may sometimes prevent you from plugging the drive directly into the computer’s USB port. The integrated camera allows organizing video-conferences on the Internet and recording video clips and single stills (not of a very high quality, though, as we found out soon).
The two aspects of the i-Disk cannot be active simultaneously – you choose the operational mode with the help of a slider switch on the left side of the case. Below the red eye of the digital camera there is a LED indicator that informs the user about the device’s status when it’s working as a flash drive.
You receive the following stuff as accessories to the i-Disk: a miniature compact-disc with a software pack, a carry cord, and a short USB cable in a metallic braiding. This cable is stiff and thus can serve as a prop for the camera, since there’s no regular support among the accessories. After inserting the drive into the large connector made of black plastic, the user can then position the digital camera in space as he/she likes. The only restriction is the length of the Magic cable (43 centimeters).
The software pack includes a digitized user manual on the flash drive, digital camera and CAMagic utility, and two utilities – CAMagic itself and USB Flash Disk Utility. Of course, you also receive the Windows 98 drivers for the camera and the drive.
The standard USB Flash Disk utility allows partitioning and formatting the disk. You can also protect the data on the disk with a password or use the drive as a bootable device in one of the three modes as illustrated above.
The CAMagic utility supports the camera capacity of the i-Disk. You enable the video mode by clicking the icon in the top-right corner of the program’s window. The parameters of the video mode can be adjusted in the appropriate menus. The maximum possible resolution is 640x480 pixels; the capturing speed is 30 frames per second (in resolutions up to 320x240). The image can be recorded as a video clip or as independent stills in JPEG, BMP or TIFF format. The quality of the stills is similar to what you have with an ordinary middle-range Web camera. The utility’s options allow processing the image to improve its quality, change dimensions and so on. Well, of course the quality of the stills is determined by the technical parameters of the camera, after all – you can’t improve it better than that.
Now that I’ve introduced the device to you, here’s a piece of technical info. The storage capacity of the i-Disk is 128MB and it supports the USB 2.0 interface (in the camera mode, the device is said to work in the USB 1.1 mode). Unfortunately, there’s no information about this product on the manufacturer’s website, so I took these things from the description on the product’s package.
The average retail price of this combo-device is $45.
I used the following programs to test the A-DATA i-Disk drive:
The testbed was configured as follows:
I will compare the performance of the drive to that of other USB flash drives we have tested earlier on our site (see our article called Five Flash Drives with USB 2.0 Interface, for example).
When checking the speed of reading and writing to and from the flash drive, I used three patterns that varied in the average file size (1, 10 or 100MB) and in the number of files (1, 10 and 100) they were comprised of. The only exception was the drive from Digitex which had been tested earlier in 240x1MB and 1x240MB patterns. After reaching a certain point, the number and size of the files don’t affect the read and write speeds anymore, so I include those results in the diagrams, too.
As you see, the A-DATA i-Drive is rather slow at reading the 100 files x 1MB pattern, taking the fourth place from the end. Its result is marked with yellow color here and in the rest of the diagrams.
I can’t say anything good about the speed of the A-DATA i-Disk: it produces poor results reading a hundred of 1MB files. It is the second worst device here.
Writing the 10 files x 10MB pattern, the i-Drive has moved up a couple of lines in the diagram. However, its result is still rather bad.
Reading the same pattern, the A-DATA is again at the end of the column. It’s only faster than the outsider Apacer HT202.
This diagram is about writing a single 100MB file. As you see, in spite of a certain progress in speed, the i-Drive is on the fourth place from the end. That’s below average, again.
The speed of reading one large file is again slow with the i-Disk. It is only faster than the Apacer HT202.
I used the AIDA32 program to measure the sequential read and write speeds as well as the access time of the flash drives. The results are presented in the diagrams below.
Average Access time
Linear Read Speed
Linear Write Speed
Click to enlarge
The average write speeds are presented in the first diagram. The product of A-DATA Technology is again on a below-average performance level.
The i-Disk cannot boast a high read speed, either. It is hopelessly slow compared to the two leaders: the Apacer HT203 and the Digitex Pen Drive.
The access time comes last. This parameter is normal with the 2-in-1 drive we’re interested in now. It is like with many other models, but the average access time doesn’t actually influence the performance of a flash drive much.
Combining the functions of a flash drive and a digital camera, the i-Drive USB 2.0 Disk from A-DATA Technology may find its user among people who do need such an alloy of characteristics. I guess mobile users will fit into this category – those who are always on the run and need teleconferencing opportunities for business purposes. In this case the minimization of the size and weight of the computer devices you’re carrying with you begins to matter a lot. At the same time, the speed characteristics of this i-Drive are just satisfactory and nothing more – they are even slightly lower the average characteristics of other USB drives I used for the comparison’s sake. The quality of the image the digital camera provides is not the peak of perfection, either. So, it’s up to you to decide whether the portability and mobility outweigh the rather poor technical properties of this i-Disk for you.