Vosonic X’S Drive

The Vosonic X'S-Drive VP-2030 was thoroughly reviewed by Steve's Digicams not long ago. If you are interested in a full review, please check it out! I purchased the drive from the Computer Geeks, for $87 + shipping, and obtained a 20gb Toshiba 2.5" IDE drive for roughly $80 (40gb drives can be found for around $120, shipped, if you look hard enough).

I'm finding that the drive works as advertised. It's small, and it works with nearly every commonly used media type -- without PC card adapters! However, a serious design flaw risks making the drive virtually unusable without AC power. When I received the drive, I removed the packaging and turned it over to remove the screws on the bottom. When I flipped the drive back over, I noticed that it had been powered on. It turns out that neither the "power" nor "copy" buttons are recessed, so any flat surface that comes in contact with the top of the drive will effectively toggle the power on and off. Simple flipping the drive over and placing it upside-down on a table often toggles drive power.

I can imagine packing the drive in my bag and arriving at a destination only to find that the battery was dead. In practice, this probably wouldn't happen, since the drive powers itself off after 25 seconds if you don't start a copy, but it is still disconcerting to know that the hard disk could be powered on and spinning during transport.

I walked over to the neighborhood hardware store, picked up a couple of nylon washers, and used epoxy to attach them around each of the buttons:

It's not pretty, but it is now much harder to accidentally turn the drive on while handling it. Even with the washers preventing the buttons from being pushed accidentally, I found that if you apply firm pressure to the case area around the power button, the drive still turns on and off. This shouldn't be a problem when the drive is placed in the included padded case, unless you have packed other items pushing firmly against it.

Even with this design flaw, it's still a good deal for $87. :)

Formatting the hard disk while installed in the X'S Drive unit turns out to be a bit more complicated than the manual might suggest. The manual says that the drive cannot be formatted with Windows 2000, but I found that I couldn't format it through Windows XP, either. I've also received e-mail from more tha none person saying that they had problems formatting the through Windows XP. It seems that you must have a Windows 98/SE/ME machine handy for X'S Drive formatting. Otherwise, you will have to format the drive through other means (e.g. hooking it up to a notebook computer, which is what I had to do).

Eric Cheng

-- From user "woody," on Wetpixel forums:

I'm back from my Red Sea trip and had an opportunity to test the X-Drive. I use a CP995 with a 256Mb card, so I get to store some 250-300 shots taken at the highest possible JPEG quality.

The way I worked was like this. Once the card was getting full, I trasferred the images to the drive. Not being that confident that all was working OK (I had only received the drive the day before I left on the trip, and there is no way to view the images on the drive), I left the "keepers" stored on the camera's memory, and deleted the rest to make room. I did this two or three times, each time obviously having to be a bit more selective. In all I shot some 500 images, not all u/w.

Once back home, I transferred the images, but aaargh, I discovered that a few jpegs (10-15) which were stored on the drive were corrupt. Luckily I did not lose anything serious, as all the images I thought were the better ones were still on the camera.

I dug around a bit and discovered that the problem is a known one. Basically there is a bug in the drive's firmware that kicks in when images are fragmented on the camera memory. I have emailed Vosonic for the firmware fix, and I'll keep you updated with the way this progresses.

The irony is that had I formatted the memory card each time I transferred, I would not have experienced the problem! On the other hand, no harm done luckily, and now I know about the problem I can try to get it fixed.

Apart from this, the little machine worked "as advertised"!

More information:

Review at Steve's Digicams
X'S-Drive website
NEW Version 2 X'S Drive information at DPReview.com (USB 2.0)