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IBM

IBM 1GB Microdrive Review 195

A reader writes "MP3 Newswire has run a very good review on the 1GB version of IBM's Microdrive. One major improvement the higher-capacity Microdrive has over the older 340MB drive is that it consumes less power (the older drives sucked up the juice). The article covers the normal ins and outs of the product, but also touches on the future. Because flash cards and other competing storage media this small havent reached the 1GB plateau (yet) these drives are good enough to steal a large slice of the MP3 player/PDA/Digital Camera pie by simply slashing prices to allow, say, a tiny 1GB MP3 portable for under $250. "
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IBM 1GB Microdrive Review

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  • by jawad ( 15611 )
    Is it just me, or haven't these 1GB drives been out for a *while* now? It's not like this is a review of something that *just* came out...
    • Re:Hrm... (Score:3, Informative)

      by joebp ( 528430 )
      Indeed, here's a IBM press release [ibm.com] dated June 20, 2000.
      • Re:Hrm... (Score:3, Informative)

        by stripes ( 3681 )
        Indeed, here's a IBM press release [ibm.com] dated June 20, 2000.

        Yeah, on the other hand I remember them being really costly when they came out, like about $1000. Now they are about $300, or free with the right camera [dpreview.com]. Well the right $2200 camera at least :-)

        Predictable, but still important.

        However I still haven't seen the promised type I 500M clones. Ah well.

  • Hmm... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by 11thangel ( 103409 )
    Now if they only got CHEAPER at the same time...

    ($369 for a 1Gig drive is not exactly what I call a new MP3 jukebox in the making)
  • Hmm... (Score:1, Interesting)

    Do you think that 1GB of storage space in something that small could be applied to PDAs or MP3 players? This has other ramifications too, beyond simply being a superfloppy.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Oily Tuna ( 542581 )
      When searching through song files we noticed no discernible lag that might be caused by the slower RPMs of the 1GB Microdrive that runs at 3600 RPM, down from the 4500 RPM of the original 340MB drive.

      It looks like they might be trying to optimise these fpecifically for MP3 players.
      A small cache for the directory so browsing is quick but a low transfer rate for data because playing an MP3 doesn't need fast speeds but does need long battery life.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by motherhead ( 344331 )
      the HP Journada 568 i just picked specifically mentions that the CF slot was designed with IBM microdrives in mind. My Olympus E-10 camera as well. sooo... ya.
      • This technology is still at the "neat trick" stage, at least from my point of view. Hundreds of dollars for 1gb? Riight. I'll stick with more traditional media for now, and hope that in a couple years from now IBM will be making microdrives that I can actually store a decent number of mp3s on.
    • Woks GREAT with my CASIO E-125
    • Yeh, I think Compaq actually sells the microdrive on their iPAQ webpages. :)
  • by Marx_Mrvelous ( 532372 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:11PM (#2794291) Homepage
    Hmmm. With 1GB storage getting so cheap, I wonder if we'll see non DVD portable viseo players coming soon. Why not? VCD movies are supported by DVD players, and it wouldn't be expensive to add a hard drive to store other mpeg/avi movies.

    I'd buy one.
    • Certainly possible, and as I recall Slashdot ran a story on Archos releasing a product much like this...with a smallish LCD screen built into the unit for viewing MPEGs. The big problem is battery life since the displays end up sucking power - also, unlike an MP3 player it would be hard to buffer video files to solid-state memory enough to reduce drive access due to the high bitrates.
    • This is already possible with iPAQ but the battery won't last long I guess...
      In fact, there're already people that put a DVD in the iPAQ RAM with 20MB, see: http://pocketmatrix.com/howto/newdvd/ [pocketmatrix.com]
  • It doesn't have the advantage of no moving parts. Drop a mp3 player with a hard drive in it and you get a dead hard drive.
  • These things are probably pretty expensive to be so small...

    Boss: Tech, Where's that report you promised me?
    Tech: It's right here on this microdrive.... What? Where is it? Yaarrghh!

    Small expensive things are always bad. Not only that, but the high capacity of this drive means that you could potentially lose a LOT of data on one of these things. Looks Dangerous.
  • I'm still waiting for Bacteriorhodopsin Memory [google.com] to hit the market... Sci-Am did an article _years_ ago, and apparently there's been some successful 'wet-bench' runs since then...

    Wonder if you have to feed the things or flush out the waste on a regular basis...

    Ken
  • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:14PM (#2794299) Homepage Journal

    Why is there such an emphasis placed on RPMs? i.e. 7200 versus 5400 versus 3600, etc: RPM is used as the metric regarding the performance of a hard drive. Yet, correct me if I'm wrong (as if I need to even say that :-]), is it not true that one RPM on one drive can represent a vastly different amount of data than one RPM on a different drive?

    • That's probably why IBM sees no problem in decreasing RPMs on the microdrive. Probably doesn't effect performance much.
    • RPMS ARE EVIL, APT GET OWNS J00!!!

      Oh, wait, my bad, this is a REAL discussion, with a POINT to it...

      *walks away in shame*
    • RPM affects the seek times and transfer rates of a hard drive. The faster the disk spins the quicker that the data will get under the head and give lower seek times. Also the faster the data moves under the head, the faster it can be transfered off of the disk
      • by ergo98 ( 9391 )

        For seek times I can see that RPMs would matter (though the majority of the time for seeking is physically moving the head radially on the disk), however my point is that sure, changing the RPMs for a given density and head count matters, but that comparing RPMs across different densities is comparing based upon partial info. For the sake of example, imagine that on one drive one revolution contains 100KB of data, whereas on another drive it contains 50KB of data, but drive one runs at a slow 5400 RPM versus the "speedy" 7200 RPM of drive two.

    • > Why is there such an emphasis placed on RPMs?

      Because the rotational speed greatly contributes to the latency of the drive. i.e., if the data you need has just passed the head, on a 3600rpm drive you'll have to wait 16ms for it to come around again. On a 7200rpm, it's 8ms, on 10,000rpm it's 6ms. This probably doesn't matter much for listnening to mp3s, but if you're trying to retrieve data from a highly fragmented drive, or seeking different data all over the drive, it can slow things down.
      • That does make sense. I'm always shocked when I actually convert to rotations per second to discover how slow it really is (i.e. 120 rotations per second on a 7200 RPM drive).

        Having said that this has me curious: Are there drives with mutiple heads at different locations on the drive (i.e. One immediate design I could imagine is opposite heads on the same mechanism [assuring accuracy]), basically so with two heads at opposite points the rotational seek time is halved and the throughput could be doubled with some creative buffering and concatenation.

        • I seem to remember in the old days, on large (dinner plate sized) drives used on mainframes, that kind of thing was indeed done. But IDE drives for the consumer market are now a commodity, with ruthless pricing. Cutting the cost down to the obsolute minimum is essential, and I doubt any time soon that additional heads (and the accompaning drive mechanism) will be added solely to cut down access time.

    • Rotations Per Minute only affects seek times as far as I know (which isn't much). That's why A: drives suck so much (that and they don't carry a Gig of data).

      I suppose if you had a really defragmented drive it could slow down reading speeds.
      This little buffer of 128K (a little over half is used for microcode) should keep things reading soothly though.
    • The difference between 5400 and 7200 is primarily a matter of marketting and market stratification than technical capacities.

      People pay more for a 7200 consumer drive than a 5400 one. For the extra cost they expect it to potentially have a larger cache and faster seek time than a slower one. As an example, maxtor makes a 100 gig 5400 drive with 2 megs of cache and a 100 gig 7200 drive with 8 megs of cache.

      The price to the company isn't that much greater outside of R&D cost. But being able to sell into multiple markets with the like drive mechanizmes makes sense.

      Witness the old MFM / RLL days. When a Seagate ST-225 and ST-238R were the exact same drive . One was a 20 meg and the other was a 32 meg. Just different quality control & marketing.

      Satsuke
    • While that's true, its not a bad ballpark figure. I can feel the difference between a 5400RPM drive and a 7200RPM drive just sitting at a computer and using it. In general, drives with faster RPM tend to have higher-bit densities anyway (they're newer), so it gives a rough indicator that's easy to understand.
  • by Dragon218 ( 139996 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:17PM (#2794316) Homepage
    Thinkgeek [thinkgeek.com] has a nice MP3 player for only $330. That player stores 20 Gigs worth of MP3s. Strange that there would be hype about a $250 1gig drive.

    Maybe they got it wrong and forgot a decimal point. That must be it! These HDs are just like RAM. $2.50 for 1 gig. It's funny, RAM is cheaper than these dirves.

    • The difference is that the Archos Jukebox that Thinkgeek sells has a normal 2.5 inches laptop hard disk in it. Microdrives are much smaller, as small as any other compact flash card. Fitting a hard drive with 1GB in such as small space just seems absolutely amazing to me.
    • Yeah, but have you see the size and weight of those MP3 players using laptop harddrives? You're almost better off to buy a small form factor Thinkpad with 20GB disk drive and play that way.
    • Thinkgeek has a nice MP3 player for only $330. That player stores 20 Gigs worth of MP3s.

      Ya, a nice 20 GB that needs to be transferred over USB. Microdrives operate on a faster bus... and are much smaller if you hadn't noticed.

  • dumb errors (Score:2, Informative)

    by ArcSecond ( 534786 )
    Only the Microdrive presently offers 1GB of storage, which is why it stands out from the crowd. That won't last long, though. SanDisk and Toshiba are already promising 1MB and 2MB flash cards by late next summer.

    Why is it so impossible for supposed "technology writers" to get simple things like GB and MB straight? I mean, it's obvious what was meant, but c'mon! How can that slip past both the writer AND the editor? It's almost as bad as Slashdot, for chrissakes...

    • Unfortunately, this kind of stupidity isn't confined to the tech world. In online news, even from reputable sources, I see financial people writing "million" where they mean "billion" or "trillion" so often, I've realized, that I've started subconsiously figuring out how many dollars they _must_ have meant, and ignoring the start of words ending with "illion." Ugh, ugh, ugh.

      This, _and_ I don't get to watch Maria Bartiromo when I turn off the TV?
  • Did you see that shock spec? This little thing can take 1500G of shock (non-operating). Is that because it has so little mass? Or is this really not as impressive as it sounds? Can someone with a physics background comment on this?
    • Can't be 1500G, that'd be like firing it out of a gun at a brick.

      ~15000 m/s^2

      • Can't be 1500G, that'd be like firing it out of a gun at a brick.

        Or dropping it from one meter onto a surface such as concrete that causes it to accelerate to zero m/s in .0001 seconds.

        That's why rubber/plastic is so useful for things like this - it can dramatically lengthen acceleration times, reducing G's to sane levels.

      • by darkwiz ( 114416 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @04:59PM (#2794612)
        Warning, annoying obfuscation of details of my employment due to NDA...

        As someone who may have done shock tests for a "small" company, I can tell you that is a bit misleading.

        The shock rating typically is determined by placing a drive on an apparatus that drops the drive from a height onto a platform with a controlled shock response (how much it gives, the exact spring constant to give you a certain duration of a pulse). This distance IIRC (say for 800G at 2ms pulse width), is approximately 7ft. This pulse is idealized as a sinusoid with a maximum around the target shock (in this example, 800G).

        1500G would be more, but not like firing it out of a gun at a brick. 15000m/s/s is a quick change in velocity. But a little mathematics would show that it isn't inconceivable for a quick stop from a relatively low speed.

        I'm sure someone doing some karma enterprising could find some links to companies that develop industrial packaging testing equipment.
  • by Phil Wherry ( 122138 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:19PM (#2794327) Homepage
    I've got two of these beasts (as well as one of the older 340M versions) for digital camera use.

    In general, they work pretty well. They're a little bit slower than flash memory, and they use more power--but those are really about the only practical differences under normal circumstances.

    You can hear the disk spinning (and the head actuator operating) if you listen carefully, but it's by no means loud.

    They do demand careful treatment, though. A friend of mine dropped his Microdrive from about waist height onto carpet, and it never worked again.
    • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:38PM (#2794390) Homepage Journal
      They do demand careful treatment, though. A friend of mine dropped his Microdrive from about waist height onto carpet, and it never worked again.

      On the other hand Bill Biggart (the only PJ to be killed wile covering the towers collapse) had one in his digital camera. It survived, he didn't, nor did the film in either of his film cameras (the backs burst open). So while his ~30 rolls of film taken earlier were good his last surviving pictures were on the 1G microdrive.

      There is a picture of the remains of his camera (on a stark white background) on the cover of the current American Photo magazine. It includes some pretty stunning interviews of a half dozen or so pros that were covering the event.

      It is pretty amazing to read how they were "operating on automatic", and "could barely see the viewfinder through the tears", and look at the same time at the amazingly well framed photos (like James Nachtwey's shot for Time with the building coming down in the background framed against the top of a church and it's cross on page 20).

      A geek should own it just for the machine beat to death on the cover.

      A photo geek should own it for the interviews and pictures.

      Everyone who reads news papers should own it to see how the people that get their pictures risk their lives sometimes for them.

      I can't find the Am Photo cover online, but doing a google search for "Bill Biggart American Photo" does turn up a whole bunch of relevant articles (including a surprisingly good MSNBC one).

      • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @04:15PM (#2794497) Homepage Journal

        Ah, found it [dpreview.com], as an added bonus if you read the rest of the thread you get to see me be beaten up for not knowing the difference between a PCB in the camera and one in the lens.

      • Do you photography geeks still insist that traditional film is somehow better than digital?

        (If you need to make your photo "grainy" or otherwise "shitty looking", photoshop can do that. Though there's some other lens artifacts, like bokeh(sp?), that are just best forgotten.)

        --

        • Do you photography geeks still insist that traditional film is somehow better than digital?

          The ones that hang out on dpreview sure don't. Nor do most PJs. Other shooters have other opinions.

          I'm pretty happy with the output of $2000 cameras at about 8x10, but I would not want to do a multi foot print with one if it is to be viewed close up (I have one on my wall from my DSLR, and from across the room it looks great, up close it is way soft -- it was also only $20 so it's a great deal compared to medium format processing and enlarging). Of corse for that even normal 35mm film seldom works (you can do it with techpan, but you need a ton of light to get an ISO 12 film to capture anything that is alive, and a tripod for stills), you need medium format for that.

          There are, of corse, some people who think any camera with batteries is evil, or at least any that needs batteries. They won't ever like digital. Most of them are a bunch of posers. Some of them have a real need for a camera that works well in sub zero tempatures. Other people just object to digital's cost (when a $120 Stylus Epic can produce images better then a $1000 CoolPix 995, and weights almost nothing, they do have a point -- even if it leaves out all the stuff the 995 does better).

          (If you need to make your photo "grainy" or otherwise "shitty looking", photoshop can do that.

          I don't, but I will admit sometimes it makes black and white pictures look better. It really doesn't do anything for me with color.

          Well, there are a few exceptions. The really expensive film recorders use ISO3 film that is pretty much grainless so you can scan in 35mm movie footage, process it, and spit it back out and have the grain match un processed frames. They way you can't tell which sequences have digital effects just by noticing a change int he film grain. That's a pretty good use, but only because the original film had grain.

          Though there's some other lens artifacts, like bokeh(sp?), that are just best forgotten.)

          That shows a pretty serious lack of understanding of the term. Bokeh (no, I'm not sure if it is spelled right) is the quality of the out of focus highlights (bright points). There can be bad bokeh, like Canon's otherwise fine 50mm f/1.8 lens produces, in that case what should be points of light or small circles show up as hexagons (look at the far eye) [photo.net]. There is also good bokeh, which I fail to really be able to tell from "Ok bokeh" which is just plain old round out of focus high lights.

          It is a good idea to make sure you don't have bad bokeh, otherwise you have to be extremely careful to avoid highlights when you try to use selective focus. This is a problem for both digital and film cameras (the example I showed was from my digital camera), it comes from the lens, not the imager. It is not much of a problem for all of the current digital point and shoots because their imagers are so physically small that you can't selective focus except when doing macro (extreme close ups) shots. Which is a shame because selective focus is great for isolating the interesting part of your picture and turning a bunch of random bad looking crap int he background into a blue of pleasing color, or at least no longer distracting color, unless it is full of hexagons of light or little donuts of light.

          Other then macro shots the only way to do selective focus like effects is to carefully select the non subject parts of your image and blur them. It is a giant pain because it takes quite some time to select everything (maybe 5 to 10 min with a good tablet, an hour with a mouse/trackpad) and do a half decent blur (and it still looks wrong since the amount of blur doesn't change with distance, unless you spend way way too much time on it -- most people won't notice this though, so it only screws things up if you try to submit the photo to a competition or a stock agent). That is a lot longer then it takes to click the f-stop a little to the right or a little to the left (way way way under a second). On the plus side it lets you fiddle until you have it "just so" even for real-life events which is something you normally only get to do with still life style photography. You can also get away with less light since you can use f/2 or larger openings on things that my require f/5.6 or f/8 in 35mm to get enough depth of field.

      • His film cameras must have been the stupid ones that roll the film out as they take pictures.

        I'd prefer those cameras that roll the film out first, then roll them back in as you take pictures. This means that shots with pictures in them will be safe in the canister.

        Why isn't this more common tho?
        • I'd prefer those cameras that roll the film out first, then roll them back in as you take pictures. This means that shots with pictures in them will be safe in the canister.

          Lots of entry level cameras (Rebel 2000 for example) are doing that now. No pro cameras do.

          Why isn't this more common tho?

          They make mid-roll change outs take much longer then they should (cost of a part wind plus a full wind vs. just a part wind), that happens a lot when a Pro sees a shot that may show up better on another type of film (normally a different speed, sometimes a switch from slide to print because the lighting is too uneven, sometimes just a change for color effect, but that is rare).

          It also slows down how long it really takes to change a roll of film. Sure you still get one full rewind, or prewind, but it really does take longer. With a "normal" camera you hit the end of the roll, the rewind starts. You grab the next roll out of your belt pocket (if you are a real photo geek), or you shirt/pants pocket, pop open the tube, pull out the film can, make sure it is the right kind of film, and not a roll that you already shot on, as you get done with all that the camera should be about done rewinding you swap the two film cans and are ready to shoot. With a "prewind" camera you hit the end of the roll and the film is ready to come out, you have to get the next roll of film make sure it is the right one and so on, then swap the two cans and wait for the prewind. No overlaping work between you and the camera.

          That's important because the best shots always happen when you are fiddling with the film :-) Even for a pro with two (or more) cameras this is a problem because they tend to keep diffrent lenses on the cameras, and sometimes diffrent film. So if they were taking a few telephotos of football players close to them with a 70-200mm zoom the other camera is likely to have a 300mm+ lens on it for the other end of the field, or a wide angle for crowd shots.

          So the pro cameras are designed to work well for normal use where a Pro won't forget to rewind a roll, or open the back too soon (some open it just as the film leaves the take up spool, many wait until it lands in the can). They are not designed for ones that have a building fall on them at the expense of the ones that "Just shoot Football and concerts".

          Even with my digital camera the best shots are the ones just after I take 300 on my Compact Flash, and I assume once my Microdrive shows up (from the D30 rebate) they will wait for me to take 1000 or so shots...

    • From waist high; saw it hit on a corner and take a terrific bunch of bounces. On *tile*. That was a year ago and it's still working great.
  • Yes it will run freebsd... and any other operating system you can put on a 100 mhz computer. (Tiqit [tiqit.com]) Our local balloon group [space.edu] has flown this thing (the tiqit) on several missions up to 100k+ feet. The best part about the hard drive is the Compact Flash Type II form factor, just toss it into a regular pcmcia adapter and you can use it on a PC.

    One note about this hard drive, or any other hard drive for that matter. They might be tough and made for a laptop, but they will not work about 20,000-30,000 feet, confirmed by IBM engineers. We never got a chance to actually flight test one for fear of distruction, but the consensus was it wouldn't make it back anyway.

  • I could just see myself buying one of these, and, forgetting that it was in my back pocket, sitting on it and breaking it with my fat ass.
  • The Casio QV4000 4.13 Mega-Pixel Digital Camera [casio.com] is shipped with IBM microdrives for storage.
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:26PM (#2794354) Journal
    good enough to steal a large slice of the MP3 player/PDA/Digital Camera pie by simply slashing prices to allow, say, a tiny 1GB MP3 portable for under $250

    You did see the headline off of ibm's microdrive site, didn't you? The MP3 player [edigital-store.com] they show has 3 versions:
    player + 340 MB Microdrive sells for $299
    player + 512 MB Microdrive sells for $349
    player + 1000 MB Microdrive sells for $399, the same price as the Apple ipod with a 5000 MB drive.
    Still aways away from $250, but getting close.

    The biggest surprise is the formfactor of this player. This thing based on the microdrive is BIGGER than the ipod, which is based on a pcmcia-sized form factor 5GB drive! What's the point of a small drive if you stick it in a big case?

    edigital: 4.3" x 2.5" x 0.87", 4.9 ounces
    ipod: 4.02" x 2.43" x 0.78", 6.5 ounces

    The ipod is about an ounce and a half heavier, but holds 5x the data, and has firewire instead of USB. The edigital features voice recognition, but also wastes space with the traditional screen and buttons. Battery life is comparable - 10 hours for the ipod, 12 for the edigital.
    • but the burning question is... what file format is used on that microdrive/cf card in these mp3 players. If I can pop the drive/card in my card reader/writer and upload mp3's to it and then drop it in the player and go.... I'll buy it right now. Everything else I have tried that uses CF cards REQUIRE their software to encrypt or demolish the music to "assure content protection"

      AS soon as I can find a mp3 player that works with a standard filesystem and regular mp3 files... I'll buy it, and I'll buy it now.
      • I can highly recommend the NEX II from Frontierlabs. It is a tiny compact flash based player that can act also as a USB storage device. Just format the CF as a regular DOS/VFAT filesystem and copy unencrypted MP3 files on it and off you go. Highly recommended, right now CompUSA (bah) is carrying it with a 32 MB CF for $99, I've also seen it quite a few times on Ebay.

        Frontier's website is at http://www.frontierlabs.com

        The one slight gotcha for me is that when I copy files from Linux 2.4.17 via USB onto the CF in the player it hangs at the end. Not a big problem though, as a I have a notebook and can just stick the CF in the PCMCIA slot.

        regards,

        Heiko
      • The NexII seems to be what you are looking for. http://www.frontierlabs.com [frontierlabs.com]. $100 with no storage, and takes any CF or microdrive. super kickass - mine's on order.
    • Ahh, but the iPod requires the purchase of a Macintosh computer, which costs at least $799. That brings the total cost to $1198, not including tax or shipping.


      Cryptnotic

  • One of the best little pieces of technology I own.I bought one almost a year ago for my Canon Powershot G1 camera. Floppies? What are they? I just upload everything i need to take with me onto my camera. :)
  • The Frontier Labs Nex II Mp3/WMA player has been out for more than a year and supports IBM Microdrive and CompactFlash. When you plug it in to your computer, it shows up as an external hard drive and you can copy all filetypes onto it, making it useful as a portable hard drive as well. www.frontierlabs.com
    -max
  • What, no 1G Flash? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:34PM (#2794375) Homepage Journal
    Because flash cards and other competing storage media this small havent reached the 1GB plateau (yet)

    I beg to differ [sandisk.com] and again. [pendrive.com] I've posted these before, and Pendrive even has Linux drivers, just FYI.

  • Digital Camera usage (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rosewood ( 99925 )
    My roomate has one of these for his Canon EOS Digital Camera. Every picture he takes is over 1 meg and yet he still gets a few hundred pictures on it. Its friggen amazing. He did a 2 hour timelaps shot with it and had a 100+ meg picture and it was no big deal. His only current bitch is he hasn't found a firewire adapter for his PC for this because USB is just a bitch for transfering that many files of that size.
  • by martyb ( 196687 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:38PM (#2794393)

    Because flash cards and other competing storage media this small havent reached the 1GB plateau (yet...)


    I stumbled upon an article yesterday which announced a 1GB Flash Memory CF card, but can't find it now. But, a quick
    search [google.com] on google [google.com] offered me SanDisk announce 1 GB CF Type I [dpreview.com] that was dated November 5, 2001 and predicted retail availability in Q1 2002 at under $800. Granted, that's a higher price than the IBM MicroDrive, but it also has a much lower power consumption, so battery life would be greatly improved. In addition, the SanDisk offering has no moving parts, so it also has greater shock resistance.

  • I love my 1GB card. I had a 64mb CF card prior that (and thought it was huge) but now I can store just about anything I want on my PocketPC and not have to worry about running out of room anytime soon.

    Nothing like carrying around SimCity 2k, a bunch of MP3s and all the courses to Ziogolf. And those Palm users think that their 8mb machines are the shit. Ha! :)

    My 64mb card is getting good use in my digital camera. It hold like 100+ pictures but it is nothing like having that HD in there.

    The only thing that I find as a drawback is the fact that there is no "lip" on the card to pull it out of the slot in the back of the PocketPC. Other than that small drawback it is great.

    I suggest that anyone who uses a CF card makes the investment.
    • I love my 1GB card. I had a 64mb CF card prior that (and thought it was huge) but now I can store just about anything I want on my PocketPC and not have to worry about running out of room anytime soon.

      Or, you can rock out with the PCMCIA sleeve and this [expansys.com] little 5GB gem from Toshiba, and walk around with all of the above, some MP3's, and a couple of Divx movies.

      Little more weight, five times the storage, and the last time I looked, the price difference was about $40 or so.

      Cheers,
      LV
      • all the PCMCIA sleeves I have seen for the Cassiopeia were w/an external powersupply only (I was looking to use my wireless PCMCIA cards w/it)

        External PS's just won't work.
  • "...simply slashing prices to allow, say, a tiny 1GB MP3 portable for under $250."

    Or spend ~$150 more and get 4 more gigs and sex in a small package [apple.com]. ^_^ But the only downside to that is if you're a Win* user, you'll have to wait for these guys [mediafour.com] to finish their product, and hopefully they do soon.

    Of course, I'm having trouble myself justifying a $400+ MP3 player when I got my new system (P3/1Ghz, 512mb ram, 40gig hdd, GeForce2, etc) for just $100 more. Hmm..
  • I've got one.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tigris ( 192178 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @03:44PM (#2794415)
    and it's mighty fine. Pop it into my Casio QV-4000 and get over a 1000 shots {:-D} at 1600x1200 with the "Fine" setting on. Then I can immediately eject the card and pop it into my iPAQ using the packaged PC Card adapter and hand the shots around for other people to enjoy.

    Power consumption doesn't seem so bad - a little more than the normal CF cards.

    Amazingly I dropped my iPAQ with the Microdrive inserted about 4 feet onto a hard floor - the PC card adapter with the drive inside ejected and skidded across the floor. I nearly died but everything is still working fine (knock on wood).

    Prices are pretty good if you use pricegrabber or other similar things - picked mine up for less than US $300 at buy.com (long may it live).

    A definite recommend if you need a lot of capacity in a small package and don't normally travel with a laptop

    Tig
    • Re:I've got one.... (Score:3, Informative)

      by sporty ( 27564 )
      Just a bit of logic to add to your ipod story, mind you, it parks the heads when not in use. The iPod has a cache to support 20 minutes of music (at 128kbps I believe).
  • Who cares about 6GB when 1MB Compact Flash cards are due out soon?

    I mean...aside from the fact you'd need 6000 of em...

  • 512 meg ddr ram costs 186.99 shipped from crucial..

    This stuff also has REALLY high demand, much higher than microdrives. Moore's Law. "Every 18 months the performance will double and the size will half." A gig of this is already here at $950 from kingston. Its only a brief matter of time before this technology is better and faster than the microdrive.

    Rob
    • Re:Moores Law (Score:2, Informative)

      by rtaylor ( 70602 )
      It truely is amazing how many people quote what they think is Moores Law only to be radically off.

      It has to do with TRANSISTERS doubling every 18months. Nothing at all to do with performance, other than as a side effect -- and thats usually a side effect. Sometimes there is no performance boost at all if the transisters are used for compatibility or configurability. Like say Microcode modifications and X86 compatibility layers.


      "The observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months, and this is the current definition of Moore's Law, which Moore himself has blessed. Most experts, including Moore himself, expect Moore's Law to hold for at least another two decades."
  • I'm waiting for the day when we look back and marvel at the thought that storage devices actually had moving parts in them at one time. How primitive!
  • Unfortunately, this drive (by necessity of design) incorporates moving parts, an inelegancy thought to be overcome with the advent of MP3 players...

    Does anyone have data concerning its vibration resilience? (namely, does it skip while the person holding the player it is integrated in is running?)

  • I'm glad to see the improvements that IBM has made to their microdrive. I hope that the advances they make there will trickle down into their much more musically relavant line of laptop hard drives. Archos and Sonic Blue (rio) both use Laptop Hard Drives in their players to very good extent. A laptop drive is already low-powered and slim (though not as slim as the microdrive), but has the added bonuses of being low-cost and sturdy enough for a portable. Laptop hard-drives are more power efficient than the Microdrive, and are about 20 times larger for the same cost (a 20 gig jukebox can be found for roughly the same cost as just the microdrive).

    People have proven their willingness to buy CD-based MP3 portables, showing that size isn't everything. The ones that still buy the flash-memory sized drives do so for athletic reasons where durability is a must. The Microdrive fills neither of these niches.

    I'm sure the microdrive will find a home in the shirt-pockets of photographers everywhere. However, as a storage medium for mass market music goes, it is overpriced and underperforming.
  • I have a 1 gig microdrive, it came with my camera. Let me tell you, the amount of space is fantastic. I haven't had to delete anything in months. It's almost too much for a digicam.

    There is one thing I don't like about it, though; it's much slower than flash memory. I've found it tends to restrain me from shooting quickly. Sometime soon I'll probably get a 256M flash card and move the microdrive into a compatible MP3 player.
  • Alternatives (Score:3, Informative)

    by sarcast ( 515179 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @04:53PM (#2794593)
    Since most of these drives come with a PCMCIA interface, I decided to check them out a while ago for my new Compaq iPAQ 3835 [compaq.com].

    They list several that are compatible with the iPAQ on their website.

    Of course there is the MicroDrive [ibm.com] Which comes in the 340MB or 1GB flavors.
    The Kingston DataPak [kingston.com] Which holds 260MB [kingston.com]or 2GB/5GB [kingston.com] storage capacity.
    and the Toshiba MK2001MPL [toshiba.com] a 2GB PCMCIA HDD or the 5GB version [toshiba.com]

    Many of these are cheaper per megabyte than the MicroDrive and will give you much more storage for around the same price. They are supposed to work with any desktop Windows OS (98/ME/2K/XP) and Compaq says they will work with the iPAQ as well.

    I bought the Toshiba 5GB and hooked it up to my iPAQ so I could play DivX movies with the Pocket DivX Player from ProjectMayo. I also store a whole bunch of MP3s on it and can transfer the card between my computer and iPAQ for easy file transfers.

    These little hard drives are great for anyone who wants portable storage that is large capacity and is pretty easy to use.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What about the (too expensive for now, but perhaps ideal for later) USB Keychain Storage options?

    And can realmedia be taken on the go? I've never seen a player that supports *.ra files, but it would be very nice. Honestly, I believe companies ought to begin to create "PORTABLE DIGITAL AUDIO PLAYERS," instead of MP3 players. I'd also like to see the ogg files begin to be supported.

    And for those of you who are *one file type zealots*, I'd just like to tell you that your personal opinions are not practical for most folk who would like to use portable audio for more than just music. Websites are beginning to host speeches, sermons, short stories, books and news broadcasts all on archivable digital audio and if someone would like to listen to it on the go, they must have a versitile player. Also, it would be nice to see the audible.com standard be more widely used, because (and this is why i am holding off on buying a portable digital audio player) nobody is putting all of the necessary features into one product!

    so if someone's listening out there, i'd like an affordable, small, but large in storage, digital audio player, which will not skip when shook up, will play all of the predominant digital audio file formats (ogg, mp3, ra, wma, audible), (will pref. have modules to expand to other formats) and a easy, thorough interface to the computer which allows good customization of the content, oh yeah and also some sort of rechargable batteries. When that goes on the market, i'll buy two. one for me, and one for my dog.
    cheers!
    -guy
  • Never worked right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hyrdra ( 260687 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @05:25PM (#2794707) Homepage Journal
    Keeping with IBM's tradition of success with their DeskStar line (my 75 gig just failed the other day), I have had three microdrives before finally returning it and purchasing a 320 MB CompactFlash card for $120.

    The drive never did actually fail, it only refused to do things like spin up, or would lock up when writing to it. It always seemed to not want to work when I needed it most. And this was for use with a digital camera, handheld, and laptop with CF adapter. I can't imagine using the device for lesiure.

    The thing that got me so enraged was the drive would look like it was writing to the disk, then when I would get home from shooting pics or after I copied a huge file there would be only a few random pictures or the filesystem would be corrupt -- not even salvagable.

    I'm sure it wasn't my digital camera or any of my other hardware because I tried it in several friends cameras and sure enough it was finicky beyond use. Who knows? Maybe I just got a bad lot -- but I've heard from many others, especially on the digital photography web site that while they would love to use the drive, how can they get it to be reliable? I've never had flash media complain or give me any kind of trouble.

    I'd also like to comment on battery usage. Without the MD, I would get about 6-8 hours usage from my iPAQ, however using the drive sparinkly and under normal use that figure drops to around 2-3 hours, 4 tops. Using a CF flash card, I can't even notice a difference (although there probably is one). The microdrive is clearly very demanding of power -- it also heats up *quite* nicely till you can barely hold the device (great for this time of year during the cold though).

    Don't even ask about digital cameras. Having to deal with a power-sucking CCD is enough, and when you bring the MD into the picture you have a good *two dozen* shots before the dreaded battery warning. And this is on 1800 mAH NiMH batteries. What's the point in being able to store 700 pictures on one media when you constantly have to switch batteries (assuming you have a few pre-charged sets).

    The MD is a great technical feat -- there's no doubt about that. But I would questions its everyday use outside the tradeshow and webzine review for both professionals and lesiure use. I head some of the Delkin MDs are better, but I'm still sure there are some problems. With a 2GB version on the horizon for IBM's model, the microdrive will probably get better. But that begs to ask the real question as to if CF flash media will become cheaper $/MB as the demand is higher and the market is more competitive.
  • And I love it. I did not have any trouble with it at all; it worked from the first day, and I never experienced any failures, and I did not take special care; it usually resides in the ipaq jacket when I carry it. The only problem is the power consumption; you should use it only with the PCMCIA-Jacket which has an built in additional LI-Ion battery; I would not recommend using it with the slightly smaller CF-Jacket; it drains your batterie in less than one hour playing MP3s, while with the PCMCIA Jacket it lasts about 2-3 hours, which is acceptable in most cases.

    But the best was from the beginning that you simply insert it into your laptop and just drag all your music directly from your terabyte-server onto the disk, or play the stuff on your laptop when the ipaq ran out of power.

    The real write rate I measured is between random 1124 and sequential 1260 kbytes/sec; read was beteen random 960 kbyte and sequential 1260 kybtes/sec, access time about 20 ms; It is much faster than anything I have seen with any USB device; the speed has never felt like a problem.

    Other unexpected uses were out-of-the-box file transfer between an PowerBook and Wintel-Notebooks, and you can also store enough pr0n on such a disk without taking away much music capacity. You can also carry around a huge library of e-books without caring much about space.

    So far I did not regret the investment, and I haven't seen anyone who wasn't impressed when you handed him the smallest one gigabyte harddisk in the world: it feels heavy and expensive in your hand, and my fingers still slightly sweat when they touch it.

    p.

    P.S.: It still always surprises me how small it is, and the PCMCIA-Adapter is very IBMish: it hides the connector when you remove the drive, and locks the cover to prevent unintended exposure of the contacts. It also comes with watertight two watertight small boxes with rubber polstered corners to safely stow away the PCMCIA-Adpater and the drive.

  • The drives fail after about a year on average. We are not using udrives in our product because of this. Its great as disposable media, and a great display of technology, but they're not quite ready for prime time.
  • by foxtrot ( 14140 ) on Sunday January 06, 2002 @09:36PM (#2795484)
    Not all digital cameras that claim to take type-II compactflash can handle microdrives. A microdrive generates more heat than does a CF card, and also sucks more power when it spins up. Caveat emptor when doing this-- my Canon G1, for example, handles a microdrive just fine (though Canon says they don't officially support it), but a friend of mine's G1 doesn't; his is a little older than mine.

    If you can do PCMCIA, you can get more space for cheaper than the Compact-flash Microdrive. Toshiba makes 5GB type II PCMCIA hard disks now. So if the idea was to turn your iPaq into an iPod, you'd be better off getting the bigger disk.

    To the people talking about 20 GB units and such: Take a look some day at the difference in size between the laptop hard disk in a 20GB mp3 player and a Microdrive, or even the iPod's 5GB PCMCIA disk. The size difference is mind boggling.Sure, it's not for all solutions, but it's pretty darned cool for the solutions it is for.

    -JDF
    • A good warning - the microdrives seem to be a bit flakey.

      I also have a G1. My microdrive (I've had the 320MB one for 14 months or so - and the 1GB version was available then as well! What is with this "news" story showing up now??) has given me lots of problems. It works very well sometimes, but often it just produces tons of CF card errors.

      An important thing to be aware of is that IBM changed the microdrive around November of 2000. They lowered the RPMs but increased the density. Despite lowering the drive's speed, because of the increased density the actual transfer speed was increased slightly, and the drive consumed a bit less power, ran cooler, and seems to have become less prone to errors. My microdrive is the older version and is likely why I've had problems with it.

      When the newer version came out, those lucky enough to receive one (around November 2000, you didn't know which one you would get when you bought it - they carried the same part numbers, same boxes; only the physical appearance and markings on the drive itself differed slightly to the outward eye) reported having no problems. I'd bet your friend has an older microdrive like I do, and you have the newer (still more than a year old) kind.

      -JF
  • I don't know what you mean by tiny, but my Archos Jukebox isn't small but fits into any coat pocket, is under $250, and has 6 gigs of space.

    A few peope think its "heavy," but relative to what? If you can't handle something a few ounces heavier than your CD case you should probably realize that you've entered the whining geek demographic.
  • I've got a pretty good camera (Cannon G1), and since it has a monster battery the power usage of a microdrive isn't a real problem. What I love is how I can squeeze 660+ Full-size max-quality JPEGs (2048 x 1536) on there before I have to do anything about it. I was in London almost 2 weeks, and I thought I took a lot of pictures but I never even came close to filling up the drive. It frees me up from wondering should I keep a shot or not so that I can just shoot everything I see and throw out the crap when I get home. I think it's great.
  • A 20G usb hot-swap/PNP drag-n-drop LINUX compatible MP3 player!?!?
    look here!
    This little puppy has been at http://www.thinkgeek.com for a long time.
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/stuff/electronics/5784.sh tml [thinkgeek.com]

    I do admit that I've never used it, but I'm sure if it didn't work, TG would've trashed it long ago. :)
    ~BS
  • Increased capacity is always a good thing in my opinion (160gb on my home box and I still want more). The problem with IBM Microdrives is that they eat batteries faster than your 15-year-old 1st-gen discman. The typical handheld might last a whole day on its charge when using flash memory, but throw in a Microdrive and it will be dead within 2-3 hours.
  • Altitude (Score:2, Informative)

    by shaka999 ( 335100 )
    I was about to buy one of these beasts until I found they have altitude limitations. Can't remember the exact number but I do recall that many of the hikes I go on here in Colorado were above the limit.

    I believe the issue is that a disk head floats on an air cushion. If the air gets to thin it will touch the platter.

"Mr. Spock succumbs to a powerful mating urge and nearly kills Captain Kirk." -- TV Guide, describing the Star Trek episode _Amok_Time_

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