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Think! Fire-N-Ice FireWire External Drives

August 2001 | By Phil Askey


Think! Fire-N-Ice External FireWire Drives review
Phil Askey, August 2001

Here's a product we've not looked at before, but certainly something which can offer a good solution to those ever mounting digital image archives. Hard Disk space is cheap, Think! Computer Products have used that fact to produce two external FireWire drives which offer value for money, capacity, compatibility, high speed and portability.

Left: Mobile External (30 GB), Right: Desktop External (60 GB)

These drives are aimed at both Mac and PC users and are fully compatible with either r (they are shipped preformatted to the users operating system of choice for true plug and go installation). Understandably not all PC's have Firewire (often this can be solved by a relatively inexpensive OHCI compatible Firewire PCI card; approx. US$50). Assuming your computer already has USB, why would you want to go to the expense of adding a Firewire card just for this reader? SPEED!

Clearly these devices are very generic and multi-purpose, I'm looking at them as large capacity storage for digital images, it's ideal to have such a large amount of storage in a high speed and portable external unit.

In testing these devices it was clear that they are using Oxford 911 IDE Firewire bridge and IBM hard disks, both high quality and high performance components.

These products are available from: Think Computer Products, www.thinkmemory.com, 16812 Hale Avenue Irvine, CA 92606 Toll free: (800)347-1249 / Local: (949)833-3222 / Fax: (949)833-3389.

Not to give away the conclusion too much but I was so pleased with these products we've managed to work out a special discounted price just for dpreview.com readers. If you're interested in buying any of these products you MUST MENTION THIS REVIEW when contacting Think! to get the special prices mentioned in the specs tables below.


Portable External Drive (20 / 30 / 48 GB)


Product Type External FireWire Hard Drive
Product Name Portable External FireWire Drive
Capacities 20, 30 or 48 GB
Mechanism (HD) 2.5" IBM TravelStar 4200RPM ATA-5 IDE
Connectivity IEEE 1394 (Firewire, 100/200/400 mbit/s)
Max. transfer rate 235,216 mbits/sec (~23 MBytes/s)
Interface 2 x 6-pin IEEE 1394 connectors
Operating systems Macintosh with FireWire Interface and OS 8.6 and above or PC with FireWire interface and Window 98SE, Window 2000, Window ME or other OS with FireWire Support.
Power supply Via Firewire bus: DC 8 - 30 V, 1 A
External AC adapter: 5 V, 1 A. (input 100 - 240 V AC)
Shock 800 G / 2 mS
MTBF >300,000 power-on hours
Dimensions 82 x 144 x 29 mm (3.23 x 5.67 x 1.14 in)
Weight 290 g (10.2 oz)
Price 20GB $209 4200RPM
30GB $255 4200RPM
40GB $335 4200RPM
48GB $429 5400RPM
60GB $659 5400RPM

The Mobile unit really is very small, based around an IBM 2.5" Notebook hard disk it comes in a clear trendy 'Mac like' case and uses a blue PCB, there's even a nice blue LED to indicate power and activity. The base of the unit has two rubber feet to stop the transmission of vibrations to your desk (though the unit hardly vibrates anyway and is very quiet).

The unit hardly gets hot, I've only ever managed to make it 'warm' by running a defrag on it when there was only 10% disk space. The disk spins down after a certain number of minutes of inactivity.

This drive can happily run off the power supplied by a 6-pin FireWire interface and did so quite on both my PC and Mac. If you want to use it on a Notebook with a 4-pin Firewire interface (no power supplied on these) you'll need to hook up the external PSU (shown below) which worked without any problems on my Sony Vaio Notebook running Windows 2000. My only niggle would be the length of the FireWire cable supplied with this drive, it measured just 500 mm (20 in).Think states that this is to keep the cord from getting in the way when using on a plane or other small area. They have told me that a longer cable can be shipped for a small fee and shipped in place of the shorter cable.

Because the unit has two FireWire ports you can daisy-chain it with other FireWire devices. The power switch which sits between a FireWire port and the DC-IN connector allows you to switch between 'FireWire bus power', 'Off' and 'External power'. I'll cover the 'in use' and performance details on the next page.

Back of the Drive showing FireWire ports, power switch and DC-In connector Mobile unit PSU (100 - 240 V AC input)


Desktop External Drive (40 / 60 / 75 GB)


Product Type External FireWire Hard Drive
Product Name Desktop External FireWire Drive
Capacities 40, 60 or 75 GB
Mechanism (HD) 5.25" IBM Deskstar 7200RPM ATA/100 2mb cache buffer
Connectivity IEEE 1394 (Firewire, 100/200/400 mbit/s)
Max. transfer rate 400 Mbps (~50 MB/sec)
Interface 2 x 6-pin IEEE 1394 connectors
Operating systems Macintosh with FireWire Interface and OS 8.6 and above or PC with FireWire interface and Window 98SE, Window 2000, Window ME or other OS with FireWire Support.
Power supply External AC adapter: 12 V (input 100 - 240 V AC)
Shock Non-operating: 175 G / 2 mS
Operating: 65 G / 2 mS
MTBF >300,000 power-on hours
Dimensions 38 x 229 x 140 mm (1.5 x 9 x 5.5 in)
Weight 1230 g (2.7 lb)
Price 40GB $199 IBM
60GB $219 IBM
80GB $269 WD
100GB $329 WD
120GB $359 WD

The Desktop unit is clearly larger than the Mobile unit, it uses a big 5.25" IBM Deskstar hard disk. Again, it comes in a clear case, this time top and bottom of the unit are almost identical and carry the 'Fire-N-Ice' logo (which I wish was removable, or at least a little smaller). Again, there's a neat blue LED which indicates power supply / disk activity. The four feet clip onto the side of the unit, they have rubber strips down the sides (for vertical mounting) but no rubber foot on the bottom which means vibrations ARE transmitted to your desk if the unit is placed in the horizontal position (I'm assuming this was just a pre-production mistake with my unit).

As with the Mobile unit there are two FireWire connectors allowing you to daisy chain other FireWire devices (or more Fire-N-Ice drives). This drive, because of the larger hard disk, requires an external power supply (it can't run off the FireWire bus power). Again, this unit worked flawlessly with both a desktop PC (6-pin to 6-pin cable), Notebook PC (4-pin to 6-pin cable) and Mac (6-pin to 6-pin cable).

Because the unit has two FireWire ports you can daisy-chain it with other FireWire devices. The power switch which sits between a FireWire port and the DC-IN connector allows you to switch between 'FireWire bus power', 'Off' and 'External power'. I'll cover the 'in use' and performance details on the next page.

Desktop Unit standing vertically Desktop Unit showing two FireWire connectors, power switch and DC-IN connector
 
Desktop Unit PSU (100 - 240 V AC input)  
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