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Iomega Predator
Iomega almost gets it right with their external CD-RW drive
Predator
Iomega
Windows, Macintosh
Sometimes it's funny when someone without preconceptions comments on high-tech gadgetry. Case in point: my father saw the ultra-cool, semi-translucent purple and aluminum Iomega Predator sitting on my desk and asked what it was. When I told him it was a portable CD-RW drive, he looked at it again and said, "You call that portable?"

In a sense, I suppose he's right. Put the words "portable" and "CD" together and you think of the battery-powered Discman that's only slightly larger than a CD and maybe half an inch thick. In comparison, the Predator's approximate 6"x9"x1" (15 cm x 23 cm x 2.5 cm) frame seems monstrous, especially including the power supply.

Objectively, however, this is definitely a portable drive--the kind you can unplug and pick up without a moment's hesitation, moving from computer to computer without a second thought. And it's easily the least bulky of the current crop of external CD drives.

As with most of Iomega's previous products, it's easy to get up and running with the Predator: install the software, reboot if necessary, then connect the drive. Packaged with Mac and PC software, the Predator comes in both USB and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) flavors, so it's hot-swappable. The benefit is obvious to anyone who has multiple computers and only one CD-RW drive; suddenly it's easier to make backups from each machine, regardless of whether they're connected by a LAN or not. If you think that sounds like Iomega's earlier Zip and Jaz drives, you're right--but in this case, you don't have to cart the drive around with you if you want to use the discs elsewhere.

For PC users, there is an additional consideration of convenience versus speed. The USB and FireWire Predators are identical, except for an adapter that plugs into the back. The drive itself is 8x4x32, but with a USB connection, the limited bandwidth reduces achievable speeds to 4x4x6 (Iomega promises full speed using USB 2.0). Macintosh users can spend the extra $75 and grab the FireWire version without blinking, but PC users have to decide if they're willing to suffer through reduced throughput while waiting for USB 2.0, or shell out the extra bucks for the drive and a FireWire card.

It would have been nice if Iomega had harked back to their one-drive-fits-all ZipPlus, which would make people with both USB and FireWire-enabled computers very happy. Would it have been so hard to provide a Predator package that includes both adapters, or at least provide the option to purchase adapters separately? Considering the Predator's nearest competitor, the Hewlett-Packard 8230e, is $100 cheaper, that flexibility could have been the factor that tipped a potential buyer in the Predator's favor. Iomega's entry into the portable CD-RW arena may be the sleekest and the coolest, but it's just one packaging decision away from being the best.

Originally printed in The Computer Paper (July 2001)
All prices quoted in Canadian dollars.