Wiebetech ComboGB Portable Hard Drive Review

Product Requirements:
Device:
Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Mac OS 9.1, 9.2 or OS X, Linux

I’ve been looking for a data backup device for my PC (and now my PowerBook) for what seems like forever. Having reviewed what I believe was the first Firewire keychain drive on the market 2yrs ago, I was already aware of Wiebetech’s reputation for quality storage solutions, when I went googling for my own solution. Of their various offerings, the ComboGB looked like it would be perfect for me, so I wrote asking if they might like a review. Lucky for me, they said yes!

The ComboGB is a light weight pocket-sized drive with a brushed aluminum enclosure that matches my PowerBook almost perfectly. The sides are a darker gray material with a rubberized feel to it that gives you a secure grip when you have to pick the drive up.

Hardware Specs

Hard drive: ATA-5 and ATA-6 2.5 inch notebook drives, formatted using FAT32
Dimensions: 5.4" x 3.2" x 0.8" (135mm x 81 mm x 20mm)
Weight: 8 ounces
Power: Bus or an optional 5V AC adapter

Available in 40GB, 60GB and 80GB capacities and with 4200 – 7200 RPM speeds, I was sent the 40GB 5400RPM model to review.

The front of the unit has 2 LEDs. One for power, which glows green, and the other for drive activity, which flashes red when a file transfer is in progress.

The back of the drive has 4 connectors. In addition to power, there is a Firewire 800 connector, Firewire 400 and a USB 1.1/2.0 connector. With all these connectors, this little drive can pretty much hook up to any computer out there! And, as long as you’re using a newer OS, the drive is totally Plug and Play. As soon as you connect the drive to a computer, the ComboGB is mounted and available just like any other hard drive in your computer. Out of the box, my 40GB ComboGB had 37.23GB available.

During my testing, I used this drive with my 15" 1.25Ghz G4 PowerBook running Mac OS X 10.3.4, my home built 2.8Ghz Athlon PC running XP Home, and a Dell 850Mhz Pentinum III Inspiron 8000 notebook running XP Home. The PowerBook has Firewire 400, 800 and USB 2.0 ports, the Athlon has Firewire 400 and USB 2.0 ports, and the Dell has USB 1.1 ports.

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Right out of the box, I didn’t have any problems getting the drive to work using Firewire 400 or 800 on my PowerBook. The ComboGB ships with connectors for both port types. It even comes with a full-size Firewire 400 to mini-size Firewire 400 connector adapter, although I never used this adapter during my testing.


Cables anyone?

The first problem that I encountered was when I tried to connect the drive to the USB 2.0 ports on my PowerBook. The ComboGB comes with a standard USB cable and also a funky two headed USB cable with a pass-through connector and a power plug. This special cable allows you to power the ComboGB by pulling power from 2 USB ports. For those of you with PowerBooks, you won’t really care that much when you learn that the ComboGB won’t work with the included cables. First of all, the cable isn’t long enough to allow you to plug into both USB ports on your PowerBook. This is due to the fact that the ports on are on the opposite sides of the notebook. I even borrowed an USB extension cable so that I could plug both connectors in, but it still didn’t power the drive. In this case, the optional AC adapter would need to be purchased…

This isn’t a problem exclusive to the Apple PowerBook, I had the same problem when I tested this drive with an HP notebook. But I was surprised when I my older Dell notebook had no trouble whatsoever powering up the ComboGB using the special split cable. However, the Dell did give me an error saying that I had attached a Hi Speed device to a non-Hi Speed port. That said, it worked fine.

Ok, on with the speed tests.

The test consisted of timing the transfer of data to and from the ComboGB drive using a stopwatch. The test data that I used for the transfers was a 30mb uncompressed folder containing 1500 individual .jpg files, and a 26mb ZIP file.

Copy Direction
Time
File
Method
PowerBook to ComboGB
10 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
Firewire 800
ComboGB to PowerBook
37 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
Firewire 800
PowerBook to ComboGB
2 sec
26MB file
Firewire 800
ComboGB to PowerBook
2 sec
26MB file
Firewire 800
PowerBook to ComboGB
36 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
Firewire 400
ComboGB to PowerBook
41 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
Firewire 400
Athlon to ComboGB
14 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
Firewire 400
ComboGB to Athlon
21 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
Firewire 400
PowerBook to ComboGB
2 sec
26MB file
Firewire 400
ComboGB to PowerBook
2 sec
26MB file
Firewire 400
Athlon to ComboGB
2 sec
26MB file
Firewire 400
ComboGB to Athlon
2 sec
26MB file
Firewire 400
Athlon to ComboGB
20 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
USB 2.0
ComboGB to Athlon
24 sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
USB 2.0
Athlon to ComboGB
2 sec
26MB file
USB 2.0
ComboGB to Athlon
2 sec
26MB file
USB 2.0
Dell to ComboGB
2min 22sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
USB 1.1
ComboGB to Dell
1min 15sec
30MB folder of 1500 .jpgs
USB 1.1
Dell to ComboGB
27 sec
26MB file
USB 1.1
ComboGB to Dell
27 sec
26MB file
USB 1.1

As far as speed, I am super happy with Firewire 800! I like that a separate power brick or pass-through cable is not required in order to use it. I’m also very happy with how quiet the drive is during transfers and while idle.

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Heat might be an issue that people consider when they are looking for a portable storage solution. During my testing the ComboGB was warm but far from hot to the touch.

The ComboGB is a great storage solution for those of you that want a variety of connection choices and a small compact size. The only thing to consider is that the fact that not all computers may be able to power the drive via USB without the aid of an AC adapter.

 

Price: $289.95 as reviewed ($119.95 – $399.95 depending on configuration)

Pros:

Connect via 4 methods
Small size
Fast transfer speed

Cons:

Connecting via USB may require an optional power adapter

 

Product Information

Price:
Manufacturer:WiebeTECH
8 comments… add one
  • Julie July 7, 2004, 4:31 am

    Post your comments here on the Wiebetech ComboGB Portable Hard Drive review.

    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/wiebetech-combogb-review.html

    Just click the POST REPLY button on this page.

  • JohnKes July 7, 2004, 4:17 pm

    Do they say how many mA it needs? One USB 1.1 port can put out 500mA. Note that if you use an unpowered USB hub, 500mA is shared among the ports, so using 2 plugs will not get you more than 500mA. I’ll have to ask my buddy about USB 2.0 – he works in that industry.

  • Julie July 7, 2004, 4:40 pm

    I believe (I’m not at home to look…) that the AC adapter that it needs is a 5V 1 amp.

  • trophyofgrace July 7, 2004, 4:54 pm

    Glad to hear it works with FW 800, and I am glad to notice my powerbook comes with a FW800 port. :love: I am definitely buying this thing. No chance it will be in the next Gadgeteer Garage Sale, Julie?:o

  • Julie July 7, 2004, 4:59 pm

    Ha! Wishful thinking Tyler 😉 My PowerBook is a little sick at the moment though. I’ll be sending it to Apple soon to fix a faulty memory card slot. Is it insane to be considering buying a 2nd PowerBook so I won’t be without one while it’s being repaired?

  • trophyofgrace July 7, 2004, 6:47 pm

    Yes, Julie that is a little over the top, I’m afraid. How long is your Powerbook going to be in for repairs? If it’s not going to be too long, you could save money and buy a 12″ ibook :p

  • Julie July 7, 2004, 6:54 pm

    I don’t know, I haven’t called them yet. I have several products that are PowerBook related that I need to review first…

  • Meredyth July 7, 2004, 9:54 pm

    Originally posted by trophyofgrace
    Glad to hear it works with FW 800, and I am glad to notice my powerbook comes with a FW800 port. :love: I am definitely buying this thing. No chance it will be in the next Gadgeteer Garage Sale, Julie?:o

    I have that problem too. I really need to send my Powerbook in for some work, but I just can’t bear to be without it that long. I just sent my iPod and I’m constantly (2-3 times today) checking the repair site for “Item Shipped”.

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