Tools Of The Trade: The PikaOne Firewire hard drive

On a desktop PC, it is possible to upgrade storage by replacing the hard disk or adding a second drive, but this means opening up the box. On a laptop, replacing the hard drive is possible, but it is expensive and fiddly.

Companies usually back up their network computers regularly but the technology costs too much for use at home or by a small business.

Far simpler than any of the above is to invest in an external hard disk. These are now relatively cheap, quite fast and some offer huge capacities. They also have the advantage of portability and security - they can be locked away when not in use.

Most storage companies offer external hard drives with a USB 2 interface. While this is fast enough for most laptop users, to gain the best performance, a Firewire 800 drive is a more attractive option. Some computers, such as Apple's higher-end Macintosh machines, now have Firewire 800 fitted as standard. It is also a relatively cheap addition to a desktop PC.

French company PikaOne - distributed in the UK by Channel Dynamics - has gone a step further and launched a range of external hard disks supporting both Firewire 800 and 400, as well as RAID 0.

The RAID system works by putting multiple disk drives in the box. For the highest performance, a RAID 0 system writes data to each physical disk in succession, making it far faster than a regular hard disk.

The combination of RAID 0 and Firewire 800 does make for impressive performance. The 500GB PikaOne Flycase Pro drive tested here managed to copy a 30GB folder of digital video in around 12 minutes, using an Apple G5 workstation as the host computer. Copying smaller files, such as a 900MB email database, took 20 seconds.

The unit itself is stored in a tough metal and plastic housing with its own cooling fan. Out of the box, the drive is supplied with a Firewire 800 cable, although not a Firewire 400 lead for slower systems. The Flycase Pro is not quite a portable unit, but it is certainly compact enough to be moved around the office or shared between computers.

The best aspect of the Flycase Pro, though, is the price: it delivers the sort of performance that digital media professionals need, but at a cost that is affordable for the home computer user who also wants a back-up.

There are larger and faster disk systems on the market than the Flycase Pro, but for anyone wanting half a terabyte of high-speed storage in a compact casing, it is a device well worth considering.


PikaOne Flycase Pro drive

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: capacity, speed, good looks.

Cons: needs Firewire 800 to really perform.

Price: from £179 plus VAT; 500GB model - £239.05 plus VAT.