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-- by James E. Powell
SyQuest and Iomega have been playing leapfrog in the removable-storage game ever since the latter introduced the 100MB Zip drive in 1995. SyQuest's latest entry, the SyJet 1.5GB drive, takes a giant leap forward. For the same price as the 1GB Iomega Jaz drive, you get 50 percent more storage, with comparable or better performance. We tested an internal SCSI preproduction model, which can be mounted horizontally or vertically. A portable external SCSI model, which looks like its sleek, slim sibling, the EZFlyer 230, should be available by the time you read this; an external parallel port version and internal EIDE version are due soon.
SyJet's specifications approach those of a hard disk: an average access time of less than 12 milliseconds, a maximum sustained data-transfer rate approaching 7MB per second and a SCSI burst rate of 10MBps, thanks in part to the built-in 512KB intelligent caching buffer. In Wintune, the drives finished neck and neck, though the SyJet completed the Sequential Write Uncached test 60 percent faster than the Jaz drive.
According to SyQuest, the SyJet drive can maintain a sustained minimum read/write transfer rate of 3.7MBps. It's designed to work best with large multimedia files. Our tests bore out that claim, with the SyJet copying several large AVI files 13 percent faster than the Jaz drive. Still, the Jaz drive is no laggard: It deleted files four times faster than the SyJet.
Such benchmark results, though impressive, mask the SyJet 1.5GB's usefulness in everyday operation. For reading and writing files in business applications, we found opening and saving a word processing file, spreadsheet and large presentation little different than working with the same files on a hard disk.
If you work in a dirty environment, you'll appreciate the SyJet's attention to cleanliness. A unique mechanism keeps dust and other pollutants from entering the drive. When you press the eject button on the front of the unit, the SyJet beeps once. Nine seconds later, the disk is ejected and the unit sounds three times, indicating that the heads have been safely unloaded from the drive. The SyJet uses the same, dependable Winchester technology found in hard drives.
Under Windows 95, installation is painless. After you've hooked up the SCSI cables and set the SCSI ID, Windows recognizes the SyJet as a removable drive without the need for additional drivers. The floppy disk-based installation program adds SyJet utilities for formatting, scanning and write protecting the cartridges. The SyQuest EZBackup Utility is easy to use: Just check the files you want to back up or restore, or use wildcards to select or exclude files.
Iomega and SyQuest drives have more than price in common. For example, Iomega's Jaz drive can't read Zip disks. Likewise, the SyJet can't use cartridges from SyQuest's EZFlyer 230 or EZ135 drives. With single SyJet cartridges priced at $124.99, you're paying 8.3 cents per megabyte; in a $299.95 three-pack, the price drops to 6.6 cents per megabyte. SyJet and Jaz 3.5-inch cartridges are almost identical in shape and size, though the SyJet's, at 3.5 ounces, is half an ounce lighter.
Early last year SyQuest announced the SyJet's capacity would top out at 1.3GB, but the company delayed the drive's introduction and squeezed in an extra 200MB. It was worth the wait. For whisper-quiet, top-notch performance and large capacity, the SyJet flies past the Iomega Jaz drive to replace it on our Recommended List.