FireWire Peerless

When we reviewed Iomega’s USB-based Peerless removable-disk drive in the August issue of Macworld, our main complaint was its dreadfully slow data-transfer rate. We recommended people buy a slim, inexpensive FireWire hard drive instead – or wait for the FireWire version of Peerless. Iomega has now started shipping its FireWire Peerless drive, and Macworld tests point to an impressive 10-fold speed increase. This makes it a much more suitable option for digital-video and other large-capacity applications. Indeed, Peerless disks can support multiple simultaneous video streams. USB is fine for mice, keyboards and even low-level inkjets – but FireWire is mandatory for giant storage and CD-RW drives. Iomega plans a faster USB 2.0 Peerless in the coming months. The sleek-looking Peerless incorporates IBM’s rugged Travelstar hard-disk technology – which is also found in many micro FireWire hard drives. The disks are further protected by a SealSafe design that protects the read/write heads in the sealed disk. Iomega claims that media prices are kept low because the electronics reside in the drive, not the disk. The drive is made up of a Base Station and an interface module. However, the price remains high compared to stand-alone portable FireWire hard-drives. Peerless (USB or FireWire) costs £269 for the base unit, £159 for a 10GB disk, and £199 for 20GB. (You can get a base unit bundled with a 20GB disk for £399.) And don’t forget that if you want it for, say, home and the office, you have to buy two of the things. You get far-better value from LaCie’s 20GB PocketDrive, which costs about £210, and doesn’t require a base station – all you have to carry around with you is a FireWire cable. Similarly, Mac & More’s 20GB FireLight costs just £199. Peerless would be a better deal if you could buy the connection interface module separately, as that would mean you’d have to buy only one base station for multiple locations. This inflexibility is made doubly maddening because you can buy the units separately in the US (where, by the way, the 20GB bundle costs $399… rip-off Britain again?). Apparently, this is to do with “the sales channel” – so bugger the customer, then… Separating the electronics from the media doesn’t save the customer money, but it does keep the disk weight down. A Peerless disk (160g) is less than half the weight of a PocketDrive (355g), which could keep costs down if you need to post disks around the world. However, the PocketDrive is a fully workable hard drive – via both USB and FireWire – whereas a Peerless disk requires a Peerless Base Station at the other end of the line.


The FireWire Peerless is a fast removable-disk format that looks and performs superbly. Unfortunately, it is priced out of contention by less expensive stand-alone portable FireWire hard drives – which don’t require the purchase of at least one base station. And, these days, there’s no excuse for charging pound-for-dollar prices.

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