Holding it in your hand the curved, soft-touch black edges make for a secure and comfortable grip and the opposing curves of the face plates create a simple yet effective aesthetic. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the height of fashion but there’s rugged practical appeal to its looks.
On the top is the obligatory status light which glows a dull blue when powered on and dims as the drive is accessed. While blue lights still seem to be the favoured choice for most electronics products at the moment, and generally for good reason, having a drive that can change colour at the drop of a hat could lead to some less than appealing colour combinations – orange and blue anyone? – so perhaps a white light would’ve been more sensible.
While we’re back on the subject of the faceplates, it’s worth pointing out the process of changing them is really quite simple. To remove the existing ones you simply run a fingernail or suchlike down the seam along the front edge and gently prize off each side. To fit a new set you just reverse the process, starting from the back edge and ensuring the tabs are all aligned and inserted properly before pushing the front edge back into place. It’s literally a 60 second operation. However, that’s not even the best bit, my favourite aspects of the Ultra TravelDrive are actually all even more mundane and practical.
First up is something I’ve not seen before, except on larger desktop external hard drives, which is a button that when pressed activates the included backup software. The really cool bit, though, is that the button recognition software enables you to assign any program to the button. I can’t personally think of what I’d use that ability for but I do like the fact you can do it.
Second on my favourite features hitlist is an additional LED that lights up green if the drive is connected over USB 2.0 and red if connected by USB 1.1. Given the huge difference in speed between the two standards, being able to see at a glance which standard is being used means you’ll know whether you’re likely to be waiting two minutes or two hours for that file transfer to complete. It’s such a simple feature that is unlikely to be used often but every now and again it will prove invaluable.
Finally, along with the standard mini USB connection that is used to provide power and data to the drive, a 2.5mm coaxial power connector is also included. Used in conjunction with the included USB to coaxial cable, this can be used to bolster the power being sent to the drive, which is useful because some USB sockets don’t provide sufficient juice to power a hard drive. Of course, the Seagate drive we looked at uses an arguably simpler solution that just combines two USB connections into one mini USB connector but at least this way gives you as many options as possible.
Further adding to the Ultra TravelDrive’s plus points, it ships with a copy of Arcsoft’s TotalMedia Backup, which is very simple yet sufficiently powerful. It allows you to backup files and folders, and backups can be scheduled to run at a specific time on a daily or weekly basis. The only thing it doesn’t do is take images of whole hard disks and recover them but I wouldn’t expect that from a free piece of software.
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So, even given my early misgivings about the point of a product like the Ultra TravelDrive, it’s got a lot going for it. The only thing that could really upset the balance now would be the price but thankfully its list price is well within expected levels and, shopping around the 80GB drive can be had for a respectable £50 and right now the 160GB is available for just £72.34. These aren’t the cheapest prices for the capacities but no other drive offers this kind of feature set.
The interchangeable faceplates may be a bit of a gimmick and it’s certainly not the most stylish portable hard drive around, but the Memorex Ultra TravelDrive has a class leading feature set that easily earns it a Recommended award.