Monday, February 23, 2009

Review: Portable Battery Powered Hard Drives

Image storage while traveling is an ongoing challenge for the digital photographer. There are a number of options, each with pluses and minus.

Storage options while traveling include:
  • Multiple Memory cards
  • Portable stand alone hard drive which can directly download memory card images
  • Laptop computer with a large internal hard drive
  • Independent cd/dvd writer
  • Photo kiosks to make cds or dvds while you travel
  • Cloud computing to upload your photos on online server storage
  • VPN connection to upload your photos to your computer at your home or office
In this article, I'll be reviewing portable battery powered, stand alone hard drive options. What makes these hard drives stand alone for photography is their ability to directly plug in memory cards to them, and download your photos to the hard drive. With these hard drives you don't need to be plugged into a computer to upload your photos to them.

I've reviewed what I consider the three leading stand alone portable battery powered hard drives for your consideration: Epson Multimedia Photo Viewer, Sanho HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA, and Wolverine ESP Portable Multimedia Storage and Player.

To be considered for this review, each of the portable stand alone battery powered hard drives had to have the following features:
  • A capacity of at least 80GB, the minimum capacity I recommend to photographers.
  • A minimum 3.2" TFT color screen to display photos directly on the drive.
  • A removable battery so that spares can be readily available for extended life on long trips without access to an electric source for recharging.
  • Built-in card slots for both CF and SD memory cards.
  • Support for JPEG and RAW formatted photographs, with RAW capability for at least most of both Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras.
  • USB 2.0 interface for connection to computer.
Epson P-7000The Epson Multimedia Photo Viewer comes in 80 GB (P-6000) and 160 GB (P-7000) models. Both have 4.0" LCD 16.7 million colors displays running on Epson's Photo Fine Premia LCD technology. (There is a smaller 40GB Epson P-3000 Multimedia Storage Viewer which is not part of this review.) This is the largest screen of the three drives in this review. The display supports the Adobe RGB color space for consistent color. The screen has zoom capability to make it easy to view the details of each photo. The Epsons have built-in card slots which support CompactFlash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) memory cards. The units measure 3.5" x 5.9" x 1.3" and weight 16.0 oz. They support video out capability. It can upload somewhat more than 20 GB's of photos on a single battery charge. The Epsons come with a Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery, AC adapter/charger, USB cable, hand strap, travel case, dual battery charger, viewing stand, and car adapter.

Sanho Colorspace HyperDriveThe Sanho HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA's come in 120 GB, 160 GB, 250 GB, 320 GB, and 500 GB capacities. They have 3.2" color QVGA 320 x 240 pixel TFT LCD screens, the smallest but more than capable and large enough screens of the three drives. The HyperDrives have zoom capability. They have 2 slots directly supporting 14 memory card formats including CF and SD memory cards. The units measure 5.25" x 2.95" x 1" and weigh 10.5 oz. The HyperDrives do not support video out. They are the fastest of the three downloading files from memory cards and uploading to a computer. The HyperDrives can upload about 250GB on a single battery charge. They come with a rechargable 18650 Lithium Ion battery, a universal (100-240V) voltage AC adapter, USB cable, travel case, and a 12V car charger.

The Wolverine ESP Portable Multimedia Storage and Players come in 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, and 250GB capacities. They have 3.6" Wide Angle TFT LCD screens, slight larger than the HyperDrive screens. The Wolverines have zoom capability. They have 2 slots directly supporting 8 memory card formats including CF and SD memory cards. The units measure 5.3 x 2.8 x 0.9" and weigh 10.2 oz. The Wolverines support video out. The Wolverines can upload about 20GB on a single charge. They come with a rechargable battery, an AC charger, USB cable, and travel case.

The Interface of the Epson is excellent, though some have complained about deletion. The HyperDrive interface is the best of the three, in my opinion, with the Wolverine interface capable, but the least of the three. If you have a DSLR and store your files in RAW format, please check to make sure the drives will display your camera's photos. All three generally display DSLR RAW files from Canon and Nikon cameras.

My interest in these hard drives is primarily for the RAW and JPEG capability. The minimum size hard drive which I need is 160GB's due to my basic RAW file size of about 15+ MB's per photo. The HyperDrive's storage capability of 250 GB's of photos on one battery charge is a big factor for me, and for anyone who might be traveling without access to electricity for recharging for a prolonged time, such as when white-water rafting on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

At this time the street price of the Epson 160GB P-700 is $800. The Hyperdrive 160GB model is $315. The Wolverine 160GB model runs $380.

My first choice is the Sanho HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA for its speed, feature set and price. Actually, for me the Sanho HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA 500 GB unit at $520 is the best bet, having a capacity which will more than meet my needs at a price even below the 80 GB Epson P-6000 which has a street price of $600. For me the Wolverine units are a distant third. Their feature set is inferior to the Sanho and Epson products, and their screen is inferior as well, even though it is marginally larger than the Sanho units. It's major plus, compared to the Epson is price, but the superior Sanho is actually less expensive. The one drawback of the Sanho unit is it has no video out, however, that feature is of little consequence to me.


Anonymous said...

Great review! Much appreciated.

Daniel said...

Very helpfull reviex. Tahnks a lot.
I hope you don't mind me asking for your opinion on the realiability of these hard drives. I've had problems with my (cheap) Conceptronic hard drives for photos.
Can I trust these?

Ned S. Levi said...

Happy to give you my opinion.

I have used Sanho products for about 4 years now, starting with their original external hard drive for photographers, the "Compact Drive." Quite a few people had problems with the original Hyperdrive, and I wasn't thrilled with the Hyperdrive Colorspace O. The menu was a pain, and its performance left a lot to be desired. The Sanho HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA, in my opinion, is excellent with a much better interface than past designs. The only negatives I've seen about this product are that some think the case could be more ergonomic and others wish the screen had the resolution of an iPhone 3GS.

The Epson P-6000 is an excellent product. It's problem is price. It's way too expensive for what you get, in my opinion.

The Wolverine models have been reviewed by many, and they just aren't in the class of quality as the other two, as far as I'm concerned.

George said...

The Epson P7000/6000 can also remotely tirgger the shutter of many Nikon dSLRs.

Ned S. Levi said...

George, thanks for that update.

According to Epson, a firmware update for the two Epson units has added tethering. Some Nikon and Canon DSLRs can connect their Epson photo viewer via USB, and in real time shots will be simultaneously captured to the camera's memory card and the viewer's hard drive. Moreover, the update includes a remote shutter release function for added convenience.

When I checked the Tethering Manual on Epson's website I found that Epson reports the update will work with the NIKON D700, D90, D3X, D3, D300, and D300S plus the CANON EOS 1Ds Mark III, 1D Mark III, 5D Mark II, 50D, 40D, Digital Rebel T1i.

I should add, that in the manual no mention of using the unit as a remote shutter release can be found. I will continue to try to find more information about this topic.

I would add, that while these new features have definite value, the focus of the product must be as a backup device. Frankly, for the money, you're not getting enough backup device for me to recommend the product.

battery said...

thanks for sharing really useful blog..

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