iStoragePro Pocket II

When I was at NAB 2010, in April, walking around the floor, and I stopped by the iStorage booth. They had a few hard drive solutions and I am always looking out for options to recommend to people. I asked about a few models, as on more than one occasion I have needed to edit on-location with my laptop, or I need to edit while travelling (say on a plane), and I don’t like lugging around big drives. They asked if I’d like to try out the iStoragePro Pocket II and see how it handled. I took them up on the offer

This drive connects via USB, FW800 (two ports) and eSATA. Nice to have options with connections.

They shipped the iStoragePro Pocket II set up as RAID-1. They wanted me to first test it as a protected RAID solution, and then later test out the RAID-0 option. They know that more and more, people want protected RAID…a backup in case a drive fails. The RAID-1 configuration means that the data on one drive is mirrored on the other, so if one drive failed, you’d still be safe. Often RAID-1 solutions are slow, so they wanted me to see that their drive could be RAID-1, and fast. For the test I put a family video that I shot with my Canon T2i, converted to ProRes 422 1080p24. This drive was 640GB, but as RAID-1 I had half that, 320GB, to work with, and I filled it with 210GB of footage (a lot of family video…a trip to Seattle, and I tend to shoot a lot).

First, the numbers.

With the iStoragePro Pocket II connected via FW800, I got 60MB/s Write, and 82MB/s Read. That was with the drive over 60% full. And editing was trouble free. I mainly did straight cuts and in one spot, I used two video layers. I got the GREEN render bar and didn’t drop one frame. I was comforted by the fact that I was editing RAID-1, because this is family video (yes, I had the masters backed up) and I wanted to get a cut done quickly. If a drive died, it’d take a while to reimport. The only issue is that your available space is reduced. From 640GB to 320GB. That was fine, I only needed that small amount. And that piece of mind made it worth it.

At one point I wanted to see if I connected the drive via eSATA, how much faster it would be, because the ceiling for FW800 is about 85MB/s. Still RAID 1, I got better numbers for the write speed, but the read speed was the same. So for RAID-1, that seems to be the ceiling as well. But that was fine for what I was doing…two streams of ProRes 422. And you can still keep this drive as bus powered when you do this. Just order the optional Firewire to power converter cable.

When the project was done, I cleared off the drive to do further testing. This time at full capacity, RAID-0. Let’s see how fast it could go. The Pocket II has dip switches on the back for configuring the RAID MODE:

Put them into the mode you want…while the drive is powered down…and then power the drive up while holding down the RAID RESET button, watch the red drive lights turn blue…boom…new raid type. Here is a PDF with the step by step process.

Now I ran the tests again. Well, after I filled the drive up again to the 60% mark.

64MB/s Write, 84MBs Read. Still falling in the same area. But I suspected this. Remember, FW800 has a ceiling of 85MB/s.

Next I tried the eSATA connection. And eSATA is faster than firewire. So let’s look at those numbers, shall we?

164MB/s Write and 164MB/s Read. Wow, twice as fast! Nice…I like this eSATA thing. And the fact that you can connect this drive to the computer via eSATA, and still be bus powered, I find very appealing.

How did it perform? Well, I had no dropped frames, no drive failures, and nothing but smooth sailing. ProRes 422 at about 60% full, set up RAID-1 connected via FW800…and via eSATA (Mainly FW, as less cords were involved, and the speeds weren’t any better). There was no hesitation in either when I pressed play or pause. No more than I get with my tower and bigger plugged-in drives. The unit stayed pretty cool, even after 5 hours of editing, and the fan, while you can hear it, wasn’t too distracting.

One think I liked about the Pocket II is that it came with this great soft case, that held both the drive, and has a spot to tuck a cable or two away.

I can say, without hesitation, that I recommend the iStoragePro Pocket II drive to anyone who wants a good portable drive that won’t break the bank. It works with ProRes, is bus powered, has a decent footprint (not too big) and has a great self-contained carrying case for easy transport.

Now, one thing I really like about RAID-1 drives (that I didn’t test this on), is that for offloading tapeless media, they are perfect.  No need to hook up TWO drives and offload the footage twice…copy it twice.  With RAID-1 bus powered drives, you offload once, and the footage is securely backed up.

(The 640GB unit retails for $395 US)

(I was offered to, and did keep the review unit. But this in no way swayed my decision.)