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8/96 Reviews HW: Iomega Jaz

Listing of August 1996 Reviews

No-Jive Jaz Drive Swings

By David W. Methvin

There are a lot of good reasons to love Iomega's new Jaz drive, but I can tell you my favorite in one word-backup. Backing up data is like brushing your teeth after every meal: Many more people say they do it than actually do it. It's no wonder. Slow and cantankerous tape drives often make the backup process more like pulling teeth. In short, tape isn't convenient, which makes it all the more likely you'll put off doing backups.

The Jaz drive, however, will give you a reason to smile. Jaz is a removable-cartridge unit based on Winchester hard disk technology. Its cartridges are only about the size of three 3.5-inch floppy disks stacked on top of each other, and not much heavier. The drive I tested was the internal SCSI version; an external version should be available soon. To install the drive, you'll need a SCSI controller; I tested the drive using both an Adaptec 2940 and NCR 810 controller and had equally satisfying results.

As for performance, the Jaz specs are impressive: 5400 rpm, 12-millisecond random access time and a 256KB internal data buffer. When I copied large files using a 166MHz Pentium system, the Jaz drive had a data-transfer rate of about 2MB per second; for comparison, the system's hard disk handled about 3MB per second.

Jaz's performance is good enough that you could use it as a primary drive, but for most people it would work better as a second drive. Windows 95 treats it as removable media, so you can use the Jaz drive much like an overgrown floppy disk. On the 1GB disk that's bundled with the drive, Iomega includes a set of utilities that simplifies working with the drive and formatting new cartridges.

If there's a downside to Jaz, it's noise. When the drive is not being accessed, its background hum seems a bit louder than that of a standard hard drive. But you'll really get an earful when you access Jaz; there's quite a bit of knocking and rattling. There's no reason for alarm-other removable drives I've used in the past have been noisier-but the racket may fray your nerves if you access the drive frequently.

Another sticking point is price: Jaz and its cartridges might seem a little steep. Certainly, the drive itself is a bit more expensive than a low-end tape drive, but remember that it comes with a 1GB cartridge. If you use DriveSpace or other compression on the cartridge, you can fit up to 2GB of data, which improves economy significantly. And don't forget the value of your data and the importance of being able to access it quickly. If Jaz encourages you to back up your data more often, you'll make up the cost difference the first time you retrieve that irreplaceable file.

-- Info File --
Iomega Jaz
Internal drive with 1GB cartridge, $499; 1GB cartridge, $99; 540MB cartridge, $69
Pros: Convenience
Cons: Noisy
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Iomega Corp.
800-MY-STUFF, 801-778-1000
WinMag Box Score 4.0
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