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The enclosure is basically a sturdy, light, extruded aluminum tube with two plastic end caps that are each held by two screws. The aluminum is strong enough that fairly hard with my thumbs to make it flex inward a bit.
To install the drive requires undoing two screws, the ones that hold the end with the USB port. The screws are tiny and feel easy to strip. I'd suggest care with these. Enermax could have chosen larger bolts or provided a metal insert in the plastic that the screw threads into.
I chose a Samsung MP0402H 40GB drive, SPCR's low noise reference; it's about the quietest drive we've used or tested. This particular sample had already been formatted and loaded with Windows XP Pro for another system.
Undo two screws to access the enclosure; this is actually the wrong end.
This is the socket the drive plugs into. There is only one way it will fit.
Like this: A Samsung 2.5"
40GB drive plugged in. It won't take SATA.
The process of installing the HDD took less than five minutes. With the drive in, the entire unit weighed about 140 grams, which means the EB205U weighs less than 40 grams. I used the supplied USB 2.0 cable (another 10 grams) to connect the device to a desktop PC. Windows XP duly recognized it as a USB 2.0 storage device and it became available for use in about 30 seconds. The Samsung drive is amazingly quiet, so I could barely hear it working at all, even sitting atop the desk next to the keyboard. Yet, I had an additional 40 GB of storage available, just by plugging in one cable and waiting 30 seconds. With a different model of notebook drive, it could have been 120GB.
What was the cost? The MSRP for the EB205U is $22; SPCR's Shopping Engine found the Samsung MP0402H 40GB hard drive for as little as $61. So the total was $83, nearly $20 less than a 2 GB USB flash drive. That's pretty compelling for 20X the capacity, even if this portable external drive is many times bigger than a USB flash drive; it's still eminently portable.
How handy is this thing? Very. Here's a graphic illustration of just how handy.
Perhaps a bit big for your shirt pocket, but an inside jacket pocket is perfectly OK. So is most any handbag.
Over the last couple of years, I've acquired a number of USB flash drives, ranging from a low 64 MB unit to more useful 256MB and 512 MB devices. They are undeniably useful, and they've made CD writing almost a thing of the past, except for archival or disk duplication purposes.
This external notebook drive is a different breed altogether. Capacity is the obvious difference. Compared to the 512 MB limit of my highest capacity USB flash drive, it makes a whole new range of things possible. A few of the possibilities that occurred to me:
- Clone the drive in my laptop and take the external drive as an emergency backup on trips. If anything happened to the main drive, I could simply set the laptop BIOS to boot from the USB 2.0 drive and be back up in a jiffy. It could also be a handy emergency backup disc for a desktop PC, assuming high enough capacity notebook drive for the contents of the OS drive.
- Tote the equivalent of maybe a hundred or more CDs in high quality MP3 format. You can probably get many thousands of run of the mill quality MP3 songs on to 40GB. Lots of high resolution videos, too.
- Use it to offload high res photos in extended photoshoots away from home, to avoid cluttering the drive in the laptop.
- For destinations where other PCs are available for my use, just take all my data along with whatever programs I need in the EB205U. Load the programs to the machines I have access to and leave the data on the external drive. (In fact, the entire SPCR web site, the entire contents of the server, even, could fit on this little device. All 280+ articles, hundreds of sound files and thousands of images, and the entirety of the forums. That plus all the software applications, email records and software, etc., to keep running the site... even from a beach in... Tahati? Whew, it's a heady thought!)
- In a corporate setting where the dozens of work stations are identical (or close to identical) PC configurations, a generic OS installation in this external drive would make for a handy guest or emergency use device to boot off any computer without bypassing Windows security settings on the machine.
Getting back to the unit itself, the supplied pouch seemed a bit silly at first. It's made of stretchy poly-something-or-other fabric, very light and a bit padded. The EB205U slides in easily through the open end, but it is snug and secure in the pouch due to the fabric's stretchiness. Then I realized that the pouch vastly improves the shock resistance of the drive, much like the soft, light yet impact-resistant packing materials used for shipping delicate things like drives. Hmmm, maybe not so silly after all. In fact, the pouch may be the best part of this product. The aluminum casing gives the drive a tough skin to protect against deformation of its thin outer casing; the pouch acts as a shock absorber, reducing G-forces from drops and knocks.
With the device in the pouch, I tried a flat drop to the thinly carpeted floor from desktop height, keeping my fingers crossed. The drive was not hooked up. When plugged back in, it started up without fuss... and has shown no signs of damage.
The pouch provides very practical, clever, cost-effective shock-protection.
The pouch also reduces the possibility of hard drive vibrations from causing any noise when placed atop a table, desk, etc., even during seek or write. There probably isn't much direct acoustic attenuation, but most notebook drives are pretty quiet anyway.
Did the pouch trap the heat from the drive at all? Probably, but in the 20~21°C ambient of my room, it never felt more than mildly warm, in or out of the pouch. I would not expect any thermal issues except maybe in really hot weather, like over 35°C.
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