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Freecom claims its Mobile Drive XXS is the smallest 2.5in external hard drive money can buy. At first glance this might seem an odd claim. How can one 2.5in external hard drive be smaller than another? But, given most hard drives are surrounded by some kind of plastic casing, it's not as crazy as it sounds.
So how is this so? Well it's simple, really. Freecom has done away with a plastic casing, replacing it with a simple black rubber sleeve that provides protection from minor bumps and scrapes, while keeping the total footprint over and above the hard drive itself to an absolute minimum.
Despite our initial cynicism, it's a move that works rather well. Thanks to the svelte footprint the Mobile Drive XXS (that's extra extra small we assume) fits very comfortably into a front, back or coat pocket. Freecom has also been wise enough to supply the drive with a very short USB cable, so you needn't be wrapping metres of cable around your drive when packing it away. Given it's a standard mini-USB to USB cable, it's a convenient thing to have if you carry around any other mini-USB devices, and it's length makes it perfect for use with a laptop.
On the back there's a small reset button, just in case the drive stops working for whatever reason. Another unusual facet of the slip case is that you can remove the drive. At first this seems like a neat idea, since it would allow you to swap drives in and out of the case for transportation, but in practice it doesn't seem like something a great deal of people will do unless the drive fails.
The Mobile Drive XXS is available in capacities of 160GB, 250GB, 320GB and 500GB and all are priced very reasonably at £51.98, £61.98, £71.11 and £108.25 respectively - check our online shopping engine for all the details. Each one uses a 5,400rpm drive with an 8MB cache, manufactured by Samsung. These are slightly unusual in that they have the USB circuitry and port built-in; which is what makes the slip-case design possible.
Performance, meanwhile, is perfectly adequate. We used a 320GB drive for testing and it produced 29.2MB/s read and 22MB/s write speeds for a large 3.15GB single file and 26.8MB/s read and 16MB/s write for 610MB of image files. In general operation, the drive remained very quiet and, despite the rubber sleeve, very cool as well
Though there's nothing particularly revolutionary about the Freecom Mobile Drive XXS, if you're after a highly portable hard drive for little outlay then it'll do the job just fine.