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-- by Jim Forbes
As notebooks become increasingly powerful, more people rely on them as their primary computer. As their ranks swell, so do the number of peripherals that address their needs. For example, the ability to move large files and perform backups is critical. The Avatar Peripherals Shark 250 is a solution to those two problems, and it's a good one.
With its 2.5-inch removable cartridge, the Shark is a small drive with big performance. It requires no external power supply, and its total travel weight with connector cables and a single 250MB cartridge is a mere 11 ounces. In comparison, SyQuest's EZFlyer 230 (see WinLab Reviews, September) hits the scale at 2.7 pounds and Iomega's Zip drive weighs nearly 2.5 pounds. At 250MB, the Shark also has a higher storage capacity than both the SyQuest (230MB) and Zip (100MB) drives.
The Shark is small, measuring 1 by 3.5 by 5.5 inches. It's ruggedly constructed, and it comes with a one-year warranty.
Connecting the Shark 250 is simple. Two installation disks (one for Windows 95 and the other for Windows 3.x) come with the hardware. Setup doesn't require that the drive be attached during installation, which is a convenience. We had no difficulty installing the software drivers on the 3.5-inch disk or the utilities that come on the removable media. You also get WebScan, content management and other applications.
Avatar Peripherals supplies you with one cartridge (measuring 0.23 by 2.7 by 3.2 inches) in a shock-resistant jacket. Purchased individually, the cartridges cost $39 each (16 cents per MB); in three packs, they're $99 (13 cents per MB). Bonus applications are included with the single removable disk that is supplied with this peripheral.
The Shark draws its power from your computer's external keyboard port or mouse port and attaches to its parallel port. The keyboard connector and parallel connector supplied with this drive provide pass-through connectors. To conserve your notebook's battery power, you're better off using the Shark when your system is plugged in.
The Avatar Shark 250 has solid technology behind it. The 2.5-inch drive spins at 3,800rpm, and it boasts average seek times of about 11 milliseconds to 13ms-on a par with or better than similar peripherals. We tested this drive on several notebooks and had throughputs ranging from 300KB per second to more than 600KBps, which means the efficiency of your computer's parallel port governs the Shark's throughput.
One of our test files for this program was a 31.4MB noncompressed file. The Shark 250 took 1.9 minutes to move the file from an Acer/TI Extensa 900 to the removable cartridge, and 1.92 minutes to verify it. The same procedure using a Toshiba notebook took 1 minute each for copy and verification.
The Avatar Shark 250's construction and light weight make it a safe buy. Although the media is more expensive than that used by competing devices, its cost per megabyte is about the same.
The Shark 250's extreme portability earns it a spot on our WinList, replacing SyQuest's EZFlyer 230.