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Vosonic X-Drive II+ VP-2160 Portable Storage Reader/Writer Review

by Dmitriy Babichenko,


 

Up until very recently the problem of storing digital files was a non-issue to me – I did very little photography that involved being away from a computer for any significant period of time; having about 10 GB worth of memory cards pretty much had me covered for a day or two of shooting.

A couple of months ago I began to plan two trips where bringing a laptop simply wasn’t an option. The first trip involved about a week and a half worth of hiking where lugging a 7-pound laptop would be a huge nuisance. On the second trip I would be spending approximately two weeks on trains going through Ukraine and Belarus – besides being an extra weight to lug having a laptop would make me a target for thieves.

What I needed was an external storage device that would allow me to copy files from microdrives and compact flash cards. There are plenty of such devices on the market, usually ranging from $200 to $500 in price. Because I tend to shoot a lot and because I shoot raw files I usually produce a fairly high volume of digital files on daily basis. Since I wanted to be sure that I had enough storage to last me for two weeks, and I wanted to have some redundancy (in case a drive fails), I was looking into buying two storage devices that would hold about 80GB.

After spending a couple of days on comparing available models I decided that nothing fit exactly what I was looking for. Devices such as Epson P-2000 or Nikon Coolwalker are really cool; unfortunately they offer fairly limited storage (40GB and 30GB respectively). Moreover, having a preview screen significantly decreases the battery life and makes the devices more fragile. Other manufacturers, such as Wolverine, offer external drives that go up to 100GB; however they are expensive and I did not want to spend $700.00 on my storage needs.

After a significant amount of searching I finally came across a product that worked for me – a Vosonic X-Drive II+ VP-2160 Portable Storage Reader/Writer. Vosonic ( http://www.vosonic.co.uk/) is a British company that produces quite a variety of external storage devices. Most of their products can act as media card readers and as external hard drives; some also double as video and MP3 players.



The X-Drive II+ VP-2160 is a small (116 x 78 x 23 mm) off-white box with two buttons, a monochrome screen, USB port and seven media card bays. The reason that it is so inexpensive (they sell on Ebay for about $60-70) is because it comes without a hard drive. It is dead-easy to operate – you press the power button to turn it on, stick the memory card into the appropriate slot and press the copy button. Once the photographs are transferred to the X-drive you cannot preview them – the LCD on the device only shows you the battery charge and the file transfer status.

The VP2160 model (the one I bought) supports the following card types: SM, SD/MMC, MS, MS Pro and CF Type I/II, Microdrives, Mini-SD (with adapter), RS-MMC (with adapter), MS Duo (with adapter), MS Pro Duo (with adapter).

After purchasing two X-Drives on Ebay I went to CDW (www.cdw.com) and bought two Hitachi TravelStar 80GB laptop drives ($130 each). The physical installation was pretty easy – all you have to do is take out four tiny screws (the Vosonic kit comes with a little keychain screwdriver) from the back of the X-Drive, remove the plastic cover, slide the hard drive in, close the cover and screw everything back together. The whole thing takes no more than five minutes.

Before you can begin to use your X-Drive you have to plug it into your computer and format the disk. That step could present a problem for some of Microsoft Windows users. As I found out the hard way, Microsoft purposefully crippled their formatting tool for Windows NT, 2000, and XP in order to force everyone to use the NTFS file system. The hard drive in the X-Drive has to be formatted with FAT32 and the Windows formatting tool will not format any hard drive larger than 32GB as FAT32. Fortunately, there are several ways to deal with this problem. If you know someone who has an Apple or a Linux computer you can use them to format your disk. You can also try to find a Windows 98 machine – the problem with that solution is that most Windows 98 machines are unlikely to support USB 2.0 or even USB 1.1.

The easiest solution is to use the MKDOSFS utility. MKDOSFS is a Linux utility that allows you to create and format DOS/WINDOWS partitions with pretty much any file system. If you do not have access to a Linux computer you can download the MKDOSFS for Windows from the following site: http://www.mager.org/mkdosfs/ After downloading and uncompressing the .zip file, use the following steps to format your drive: 1. Copy the mkdosfs.exe (the file you unzipped) to the root of your C-drive.
2. Click on Start ? Run
3. Type cmd and click “Run” to start the command prompt
4. Type c:\mkdosfs –v –F 32 –n volumename X:
5. Hit the Enter key

When typing the command replace “volumename” with whatever you want to name your drive. Replace X: with the drive letter of your new drive (you can see it in Windows explorer).

Now your X-Drive is ready to use. I have tested it with a 2GB Hitachi Microdrive, a 1GB Sundisk Compact Flash card and a 256MB SD card. The manufacturer’s specs suggest that it takes 9 minutes to copy 1 GB. In reality it took me about 21 minutes to copy a 2GB Microdrive. I have been using the X-drive for about a month now and it works really well. Essentially I got two external storage devices for the price of one Epson P-2000.

Vosonic products are available from a number of vendors in the US as well as on auction sites. The best way to find one if you can't find one at one of the photo.net affiliates (see below) is simply to do a Google search

Photo.net Affiliates

Purchasing from these vendors via these links helps support photo.net


© 2005 Dmitriy Babichenko

Readers' Comments


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Nelson Ricciardi , December 25, 2005; 12:10 A.M.

Please go to Vosonic's web site and download their format utility for Windows. Haven't you seen it?

ci p , December 25, 2005; 06:00 A.M.

I've got one of these. The biggest problem with them is that 60secs after a copy operation has finished, the device switches off and you cant tell if the copy was ok or it ran out of power. The next niggle is that it is a hassle to change the Fuji NP-60 style battery - so it is not really practical to have several charged batteries and switch. The last niggle is that the transfer speed is distinctly unspectacular compared to some devices out there.

On the positive side, it is small, well made, simple and cheap.

And I don't think it is a UK company. www.vosonic.com says it is heaquartered in Taiwan.

Jan Keirse , December 25, 2005; 03:25 P.M.

I also have one of these. I bought it with a 40 GB drive installed and preformated. I mainly use it to empty my CF cards on concerts (where I shoot upto 5 GB of photographs, and this drive was far cheaper than 5 GB of CF cards). My only issue with it is that the CF card sticks out of the device, so you can't put it back in to the belt pouch while copying.

Appart from this issue I am extremely happy with the device. I would buy it again.

Michael A. Shapiro , December 25, 2005; 04:20 P.M.

I like mine pretty well. I bought it altogether fro mymemorylabs. I've had a few problems with it not turning on correctly, but usually it gets worked out. For the money, they're pretty good.

Michael

Chris Jones , December 25, 2005; 09:39 P.M.

I bought the Compactdrive PD70X, and have found it to work excellently, with very quick transfer times, and very good battery life, and the added bonus of them being AA batteries, so you can always find somewhere to get batteries if the rechargables run out.

Jean-Marc Liotier , January 04, 2006; 01:47 P.M.

I have a Vosonic X'S-Drive VP2030. It is quite old now but still works perfectly fine despite travelling quite a bit in my bag. Battery life is enough for a handful of 1 GB CF dumps - that means that one can't get too far from an energy source when travelling.

As another poster mentioned it is very unnerving to have no way to control wether or not copy from CF to hard disk was performed successfuly. I have not had a failed copy ever but the nagging risk remains in the back of my mind. That is why a review screen is no luxury and it is the primary reason why one of these day I will upgrade to something with a review screen. A review screen will also be welcome to weed out some failed shots while riding the train or the airplane to shave off some of the time spent in front of the computer...

George Feucht , February 10, 2006; 01:29 A.M.

I bought both the Vosinic X-Drive and the Compactdrive PD70X for a photo-trek to Mount Everest base camp in Nepal... No power for over 2 and a half weeks. My plan was buy two hard-drive storage systems for redundancy. The rule was: different modules; different brand hard drives. I heard reports that hard drives can fail at altitudes over 10,000 feet... so I figured if I had problems, one would die before the other... and I would cease using them until we dropped in altitude (since we would be going up to 18,300 feet.)

Observations: I used only 2 of the 3 rechargable batteries I brought for the X-drive. I had no clue what would happen if the unit would die in mid transfer, so I made sure not to find out.

-It is SO much slower than the PD70X. The PD70X is about quadruple the speed of the x-drive.

-The Vosinic is significantly smaller than the PD70X. About 2/3's the size.

-The PD70x takes AA batteries, which makes it even heavier. I used lithium for the trek... with my 1D mark 2 and all the batteries I needed for that plus a 4x5 camera system, I was shaving grams where ever I could. and with super-lightweight lithium batteries the PD70x was still much heavier than the x-drive.

Neither failed. They both did great in their parallel redundancy. If weight and size is your primary issue, get the X-Drive. If weight and size is no problem, the PD70X was by far the quickest and easiest to use. (the vosinic required removing tiny tiny screws to change batteries... this is with numb fingers in the wilderness... not fun.)

-George

carl weller , July 17, 2006; 03:24 A.M.

Is it just me, or does this not look EXACTLY the same as a Wolverine Flashpac?

Could be some interesting OEM story behind all of this...

Martin Allum , April 23, 2010; 04:21 P.M.

I have a vosonic vp 2160 , i have just tried to use it and its telling me that i need to format it, which i have done, but its telling me " Not FAT32 please format", anyone got any ideas?

 

i'm baffled


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