Iomega Mac Companion 2TB hard drive
Monday, 10 October 2011
When Apple Inc shrank, Iomega diversified to the extent where there was little visible support for Apple products – not in looks, and not even in the connections and drivers, and often the drives weren’t even formatted for Macs out of the box, so you had to reformat them.
But things changed over the last few years, with Iomega once again embracing the Apple sphere (which had started to expand, after all) and now Iomega is making these attractive Mac Companion hard drives (which are Mac formatted out of the box; reformat them if you want swish, Apple-ish looks alongside your PC) and the Companion looks lovely next to any Mac.
In looks, it’s wider across the front than at the back, so it’s not an equal square of rectangle. Of course, this makes it fit perfectly on the iMac pedestal-foot, between that and the bottom of the screen.
The sides are brushed aluminium and the top is shiny black plastic. There’s even and iMac-like slit across the back-top of the unit – I presume, like the iMac, it’s for venting heat, but I noticed the whole black top became faintly warm after an hour or so. The unit is very quiet, but had a very subtle vibration through the metal when I put my thumb on it. The 2-port USB hub is on the back, additional to the connector for the USB2 connection to your Mac, and the two FW800 ports and the power connector are on the back, too, while the iPad charging port is on the right hand side, next to the standard, Mac-style security slot.
Note that the charger port will not charge the first generation of iPad, but will an iPhone and iPod touch – the iPad 2 has a lower power requirement so should work fine. Note also that plugging in an iDevice will not open and sync in iTunes like it will if you plug directly into your Mac or a powered USB hub – but you can charge devices even if your Mac is not plugged into the drive, as long as your Mac Companion is plugged into the power.
Iomega provides software (you download it when you register online) to enable scheduled file-level backups, although most Mac users will stick with Time Machine. But Iomega also provides a free 2 GB online backup through MozyHome for extra assurance.
With dual FireWire 800 and USB2 connectors, the 7200rpm external hard drive also has an iPad charging port. But hey, no Thunderbolt!
There are four-LED capacity indicators on the front, central and in a vertical sequence. This is a little unconventional, and needs explaining, as when the drive is empty, all four LEDs glow white, whereas you might expect the wouldn’t light, and would progressively come on as a quarter, then half, then three quarters of your drive was full. But no:
4 LEDs lit white means that less than 20% capacity is in use
3 LEDs white: 20-40% capacity in use
2 LEDs white: 40-60% capacity in use
1 LED white: 60-80% capacity in use
1 LED red: more than 80% capacity in use.
It’s certainly more attractive and more ‘Apple-looking’ than the Iomega 2TB eGo Desktop Hard Drive, Mac Edition which retails here for $439. (Th eGo has two FW ports and 1xUSB.)
The FW800 connection is rated at 800MbBits per second (my tests got very close to this theoretical top speed), the USB2 port at 480Mbits per second, and it’s Mac OS X compatible (10.5x-10.7x) out of the box, and if you’re an iDevice using PC owner who appreciates clean and elegant lines, don’t worry – it’s Windows Vista and Windows 7 compatible too, if you reformat it accordingly.
As a ‘companion’, it’s a hub, with four USB2 ports in total (one is more powerful, for charging iPads, and one is for connecting the device to your Mac, with a different port-shape on the body of the drive, so two spares) and it also has two FireWire 800 ports.
If you’re a user of an older Mac, the Mac Companion handily includes a Firewire 800-to-400 convertor cable (USB2 has the same connector and is backwards compatible with USB1; FW400 has a different connector to FW800).
There’s even a lock security slot for a Kensington or other brand lockable security cable, the same as on Macs – a good thing both for a more expensive drive and for your precious data.
Speeds — I tested this from the internal (specced to 7200rpm) Hitachi 500GB SATA hard drive inside my September 2010 MacBook Pro, moving a 9.5GB file to a two-year-old Seagate 1TB hard drive and to a six-month-old Western Digital 2TB hard drive, both connected via USB2 through a powered USB2 hub. The speeds are in minutes and seconds – smaller numbers are faster.
|Seagate 1TB, USB2||Western Digital 2TB, USB2||Iomega Mac Companion USB2||IMC Via FW800|
Speeds on similar drives (ie, these all spin at 7200rpm – laptop and some Mac mini drives typically spin at 5400rpm) are affected by two things, mainly: the type of connection and the size and number of onboard data caches. I could not, however, find any data about onboard caches for any of these drives. (This used to be easy to find, so if anyone knows, please tell
However, one indication that the new Iomega has a large onboard cache is the bench-test results I did with Prosoft Engineering’s Drive Genius
The bench-test part of the drive utility lets you pick a model of Mac as a standard comparison – that’s the blue bars; the green bars are the measurements Drive Genius takes, in four categories: sustained read, sustained write, random read, random write. I used the closest MacBook Pro to mine, at 2.54GHz (mine’s 2.66GHz) and that's shown by the blue bars. In the interests of brevity, these are the sustained read times for the three drives.
The Seagate, a bargain basement 1TB model from a large retailer.
A Western Digital 2TB in a Pleiades aluminium USB2 housing
The Iomega Mac Companion connected via FireWire 800
Note that the Mac companion was measured via FireWire; also, the drive is empty, which always gives a better result. Read is the time to open a file from the drive or to copy it from the drive, while write measures performance to copy to the drive.
Interestingly, plugging the Western Digital 2GB drive I had directly into the MacBook Pro’s USB port – ie, not via the hub – made little difference (8 seconds over the under 6-minute time) to the transfer time, unlike with some older Macs where this could make a huge difference.
Via USB2, these drives are as alike as you’d expect from three premium hard drive manufacturers, even though the 1TB Seagate is one of those bargain basement types of drives in a plastic enclosure. The major difference to the Mac companion is the attractive, Mac-like housing, the hub, the indicator lights, the iDevice charger and, probably most importantly, the FireWire 800 connector – use this and you get dramatically sped-up transfer times.
iPad charging port — You may have noticed that when you plug an iPad into a Mac with a sync cable, it syncs but can’t charge the iPad unless the Mac goes into sleep.
Overseas, this is available in the online Apple Stores, but in New Zealand that was not yet the case in early October. It's listed as available from Dick Smith and Harvey Norman, too, but I also could not find it here.
Conclusion — This is a premium device designed to look good next to your iMac or MacBook Pro, or with an all-aluminium Mac Pro. As such, it comes with all the cables, too, plus four different interchangeable power plugs covering most of the world. As a hub, a charger and a big, fast hard drive all in one – plug it in with the FireWire 800 cable for extra speed and to free up your USB ports, it’s pretty impressive.
What’s great — Looks good next to a Mac, for sure, and FW800 is much faster than USB for video work, Time Machine backups and straight file transfers, plus it then not only leaves a USB port free on your Mac, it adds two additional USB ports plus a charger port, plus you can daisy-chain another FW800 device through it.
What’s not — Doesn’t charge the hungry first-gen iPad. Good port options, yet no Thunderbolt. Plugged in via FireWire 800 it charges an iPhone 4 via the side USB, but the rear USB ports don't work unless it;'s plugged in via USB2, which means your drive is almost half the speed. (I downgraded the rating when I discovered this, from 4/5.)
Needs — Someone who wants a reliable drive (3-year warranty) that looks great and does the business, with handy additional ports and all the connectors – and who intends to use it under FW800.
What — Iomega Mac Companion 2TB hard drive, RRP NZ$329 (also comes in 3TB, price TBA)
System — 7200rpm external hard drive with 3 USB2 ports, plus a 2.1 Amp USB2 port (for charging iDevices) and 2xFireWire 800 ports.
The FW800 connection is rated at 800MbBits per second, the USB2 port at 480Mbits per second. Mac OS X (10.5x-10.7x) and Windows Vista and 7 compatible; weight 1.32Kgs