Electronic Design

Disk System Sports Plug-In 5-, 10-, And 20-Gbyte Drives

Multimedia and streaming media have voracious ap-petites for storage and for high-speed data transfer. These de-mands are overwhelming the capabilities of CDs and DVDs. But a new drive system delivers up to 10 times the performance and massively greater storage capacity than CD-RW, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW alternatives—all optical drives with storage capacities ranging from 0.7 to 4.7 Gbytes.

Built by Iomega, the Peerless system is a modular drive platform for PC and Mac applications. It incorporates magnetic, plug-in, hard drives in 5-, 10-, and 20-Gbyte capacities. Its storage capabilities are far higher, and its transfer rates are an order of magnitude faster. With a FireWire interface, the sustained transfer rate is 15 Mbytes/s. This is about eight times faster than CDs and their brethren, which at best offer a writing speed of approximately 1.8 Mbytes/s. About the size and shape of a PDA, this drive is expected to enable data-intensive tasks that cannot be performed with DVD-class optical drives, such as handling multiple video streams.

Users insert the disk into the companion basestation, which is only slightly larger than the disk itself. This basestation is a slim, vertical enclosure measuring approximately 4 in. across and 5 in. tall. The system is fully sealed and has removable disks, eliminating the risk of dust contamination.

According to Iomega, the architecture effectively separates the electronics from the mechanics. Other than the electronics associated with the read/write heads in the cartridge, the major electronics and the expensive components comprising the controller electronics are confined to the basestation. This makes the disks a better value proposition, with less expensive cartridges, enabling users to interchange 5-, 10-, and 20-Gbyte disks at will. Users don't have to repurchase duplicate electronics every time they buy a different drive.

The Peerless drive is expected to begin shipping mid-year to major U.S. retailers. Shipments to Europe and the Asia/Pacific region will follow in the third quarter. The drive with interface module will retail for $249. Peerless disks will be priced at $129 (5 Gbytes), $159 (10 Gbytes), and $199 (20 Gbytes). Both Fire-Wire and USB 1.1 interface modules will be available in the second quarter. USB 2.0 and SCSI interface modules should be available later.

Iomega Corp., 1821 West Iomega Way, Roy, UT 84067; (801) 332-3700; fax (801) 332-5290; www.iomega.com.

See associated figure.

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