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Author Topic: Seeking the smallest, most reliable, most high-capacity portable hard drive!  (Read 7178 times)
SWriverstone
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« on: September 23, 2012, 08:47:08 AM »
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Hello! I'm a "highly mobile" photographer (as I'm sure many others here are), and possibly unlike some, I really don't have a "home base." That is, I use my MacBook Pro 100% of the time, take it everywhere, and I find that I never seem to transfer/edit/manage my digital library in the same place. One day I might be at the local Starbucks...another day I might be at work...another day in the car on a long drive...another day at the dining room table at home.

Because of this mobile lifestyle, I'm finding media management to be a bit of a hassle. I obviously have limited space on my MacBook Pro...and while I do own a 2TB external G-Drive (Firewire 800), it's large and bulky, and the reality is I don't ever take it anywhere with me.

I do understand that many photographers adopt and maintain a workflow that involves saving images to the laptop's hard drive, then taking them back to a home setup and offloading them to other storage devices. But remember---I have no "home base."

SO: I'm seeking what is currently the best portable (read: small) hard drive on the market. Small physical size is critical, because if it's not small, it'll probably end up sitting on a shelf like my G-Drive. I'm also hoping to find one that is at least 2TB, and is extremely reliable.

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I realize that these days, the smallest portable drives are generally USB-powered drives. I've read that USB drives are not as reliable as larger external drives...but I've personally never had a USB drive fail. (Which doesn't mean they don't fail, I've just never had it happen to me---knock on wood.) I also assume that USB drives will be slower than larger external drives, though I don't know if there are USB drives out there faster than 7200rpm?

Anyway, if anyone has any recommendations for a bombproof, small-physical-size, reliable hard drive, I'd love to hear them! (And in the meantime, I'll be scouring the web looking for one myself.)

Thanks much,
Scott
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SWriverstone
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« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2012, 09:53:19 AM »
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Contributing to my own thread: here's one G-Tech drive that gets high praise on B&H Photo's site:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/848448-REG/G_Technology_0G02221_G_Drive_Mobile_USB_Portable.html
Anyone here have one of these? 5400rpm...but the only possible drawback I see is USB 2 interface only.

Here's another one by G-Tech:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/746518-REG/G_Technology_0G01961_750GB_G_DRIVE_mobile_Hard.html
Also 5400rpm and has USB+Firewire 800 interface. Only downside is that it's "only" 750GB. (But I might get 2-3 of these.)

This "ToughDrive" from Freecom looks nice (1TB and can withstand drops from 2 meters)...
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/766849-REG/Freecom_97711_ToughDrive_3_0_Mobile_Hard.html
...but I find it suspicious that the specs don't mention drive speed (in RPM's)...so I'm guessing it's 7200rpms or slower.

Finally, there is this LaCie drive:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/800155-REG/LaCie_301984_1TB_Rugged_Triple_Interface.html
Looks nice, only downside is that it's pricey at $187.

Any thoughts on these drives? Any other good ones I missed?

Thanks,
Scott

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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2012, 07:21:12 PM »
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Bombproof (well sorta): LaCie Rugged (FWIW both Jeff Schewe & I use them)

Quite a bit small(er) & more stylish: GTech (don't drop it)

Both use commodity 2.5" drives but I like the LaCie since I have had good luck with them (and basically discard them after 3-5 years use)
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Christopher Sanderson
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« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2012, 09:52:18 PM »
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Because of this mobile lifestyle, I'm finding media management to be a bit of a hassle. I obviously have limited space on my MacBook Pro...and while I do own a 2TB external G-Drive (Firewire 800), it's large and bulky, and the reality is I don't ever take it anywhere with me.

I do understand that many photographers adopt and maintain a workflow that involves saving images to the laptop's hard drive, then taking them back to a home setup and offloading them to other storage devices. But remember---I have no "home base."


I realize that these days, the smallest portable drives are generally USB-powered drives. I've read that USB drives are not as reliable as larger external drives...but I've personally never had a USB drive fail. (Which doesn't mean they don't fail, I've just never had it happen to me---knock on wood.) I also assume that USB drives will be slower than larger external drives, though I don't know if there are USB drives out there faster than 7200rpm?



1.  I'm not totally understanding this "no home base" situation.  Are you saying you need to carry with you at all times more than your current work?  Your entire archives?  I'm as mobile as the next guy and more so considering until recently I was on the road 50% of the time.. but no home base?  Ever?  This doesn't seem practical.

2.  USB hard drives  are not any more/less reliable than any other type of hard drive.  What becomes an issue is low cost interfaces (of any type) which come with questionable power supplies which DO fail more often then a quality interface.  Because USB powered drives by their nature use unknown USB ports as their main source of power it becomes even more important to use quality components.

3.  Looking at your choices I'm underwhelmed, with the Lacie being the best choice.. and I'll admit to having been burned by Lacie's poor engineering (USB powoered interfaces specifically) and even work customer service.. so I wouldn't choose your solution or you choice of drives.

 ....

If you truly do not wish to maintain a home station of some type, then I really don''t see how you can avoid  a quality cloud provider as a solution.  I use several of Amazon cloud solutions depending if I'm backing up my website, running my sites galleries from their cloud, backing up while on the road, etc, etc.. They offer price and performance targeted solutions which are quickly becoming the standard.   A cloud solution requires a quality connection for initial uploading,  but once uploaded you can get to the "work" level reasonably well with a lesser connection providing you have patience. 

As far as large capacity portable solutions.. I'd go with Western Digital.    Their Passport series is hard to beat.  And if these go bad, or any USB interface powered solution.. you can usually pull the drive from the enclosure and access the drive via any number in inexpensive (<$20) SATA adapters.   I have several Case Logic padded neoprene cases which easily holds two of these drives plus cables.. so adding more storage capacity is about merely adding more  drives and cases.

But.. when using a cloud as my main storage medium I wouldn't use large capacity drives as part of the solution.  Recently much more durable SSD's (used via an inexpensive USB2/3.0 cable adapter, or whatever adapter is in vogue at the time), much more fast,  at very reasonable price points become realistic options.

This brings the question.. how much capacity should we employ as professionals while on the road?  Your goal of having no home station makes a cloud mandatory imo and also solves the backup portion of the equation.  So I'd say enough capacity to get you between upload quality connections.. maybe a 256g SSD would be ideal?

So I'd pick some combination of quality cloud, quality SSD, and possibly quality large capacity mechanical drives such as those from WD.

This is a tough subject.  To do this right requires significant financial commitment.  Almost any solution requires carrying more 'stuff' than most enjoy carrying.  But thanks to new technology we have a number of very good solutions to choose from.

btw -  because I do maintain a home station I also maintain my own cloud solution which for  geographic reasons is often a more speedy and reliable player when I travel.   It's nice to have options.

Good luck with this.
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SWriverstone
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« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2012, 08:28:27 AM »
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Thanks for the good info Chris and Steve.

Steve, your cloud suggestion makes a lot of sense, and could work for me since 90% of the time I'm online via wifi. I see your point about not having a home base not making much sense. I probably should have clarified in my initial post that my photography is really a hobby, though I do shoot a fair amount that's related to my job. I'm a creative director at a major university, so I work 50-hour weeks (and though I have an office at work with a very fast Internet connection, I'm rarely in my office). I also have a newborn and a toddler at home...and also have several other hobbies (when I find time to do them) like road & mountain biking, motorcycling, flyfishing, etc.

On top of all this, I'm somewhat severely ADD---though I've learned to use this to my advantage over the course of my life. This is partly why I deliberately seek different environments to work in (the coffeehouse, a bookstore, multiple locations in my home, etc.)

This is the context for the "highly mobile" lifestyle I described above. I've tried in the past to set up a desktop working area as a home base...but I find that after a couple weeks, it just starts collecting dust.  Smiley

I'll start looking into cloud options (I already have a Dropbox account)...as well as those Passport drivers.

Scott
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2012, 09:41:46 AM »
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Well explained.  Thanks.

If the cost of cloud services make you frown.. and even as a secondary choice.. consider something like one of the Synology NAS devices which provides built in cloud services.   They come in many different models with varying transfer speeds, capacities, etc.. but what's nice is their OS remains mostly the same along the entire line.
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SWriverstone
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2012, 10:13:43 AM »
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It's ironic that cloud storage is not only getting cheaper, but (for me anyway) the number of possible cloud options already at my disposal is increasing. In addition to my Dropbox account, I also have Google Drive storage, iCloud, and (most recently) Adobe Cloud storage (which came with my subscription to the Creative Cloud). Granted, no one of these options is much in terms of space, but seems like every month someone is adding cloud storage to their offerings.

I do think about drive capacity as well. Though in my initial post I mentioned wanting the largest drive possible, that was probably a kneejerk reaction to the seemingly ever-larger file sizes we deal with. (And don't even talk about video.) I often think it does makes sense to stick with multiple lower-capacity drives---not so much for redundancy and keeping your collections safe...but simply for time (copying several TB of data can take time.)

Though I'm not a professional photographer, I still try to be cognizant of the fact that time is money, and I'm constantly seeking more time on my life---so want things to be FAST. :-)

Scott
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chrismurphy
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« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2012, 10:35:35 AM »
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This is a new product from Toshiba, I haven't used it. But it's definitely small, and it's USB 3.0 so it'll be a bit faster than USB 2.0 or FW 800.

Canvio Slim, 500GB, 9mm thick

There is a 0.65" thick (not Slim) 1.5TB Canvio also.
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andyptak
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« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2012, 06:56:38 PM »
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I've been burned by LaCie's a number of times and find the "Rugged" to be a joke - rubber around the rim doesn't protect the top and bottom of this rather flimsy shell.

I've been a long time Seagate user - their Black Armor line is expensive, but worth it. Fast and durable.

Now I'm finding myself going to WD more often. Their Passport Studio line has a hard metal case that's very strong. I just bought a couple of 2TB Passports (not the Studio line) for less than $140 ea. Good value and the smallest drives I've seen.
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K.C.
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2012, 03:40:50 AM »
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I've been burned by LaCie's a number of times and find the "Rugged" to be a joke - rubber around the rim doesn't protect the top and bottom of this rather flimsy shell.

In my 28 years of tech /  IT support I wouldn't buy anything made by LaCie. They're the BOSE of computer gear. They put everything insto appearance and marketing with the cheapest components they can contract inside.

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andyptak
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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2012, 07:52:06 AM »
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I'm not an IT guy, I'm just a user who has had every LaCie they've owned fail prematurely, from portables to NAS boxes. Every manufacturer has a bad batch every now and then, but LaCie have consistantly let me down.

I wouldn't take one if you gave it to me.

I love Hitachi desktops, but I'm not sure about their portables. Stick to Seagate and WD and keep multiples of everything.
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tcphoto1
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« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2012, 06:11:36 PM »
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I have two GTech mini drives that have performed flawlessly for over five years. I would also recommend a backup plan like a second drive dedicated to Time Machine and large flash drives simply because they are small and inexpensive.
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