Digital Wallet Portable Storage
**As of 7/1/2004 we have found out that this company is no longer in business.**
Minds@Work now has the Digital Wallet and the MindStor, which is an updated portable storage device.
At the "heart" of the Digital Wallet is a spacious 6-gigabyte hard disk drive with the capacity to store thousands of pictures, songs, or data files. The "brain" is a high-speed Motorola ColdFire microprocessor that lets the unit operate standalone, no computer is required.
Data stored on the Digital Wallet's hard drive can be uploaded to other flash memory cards via the PCMCIA slot or downloaded to a computer via the USB port. The Digital Wallet is plug-n-play with Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows 98 SE, Windows ME, Mac OS 9 or higher (8.6 will work after downloading the appropriate drivers), and Linux OS.
Thanks to its PCMCIA Type II card slot virtually any flash memory card (CompactFlash Type I or II, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Multimedia Card, PC Card) or the IBM Microdrive can be copied from. All that is required is the appropriate PCMCIA adapter, one is included for CompactFlash Type I cards.
It can also be used to transport data between computers. When connected to a PC it appears as another drive resource (Removable Disk E:). Files may be transfered in or out of the Digital Wallet using standard file management utilities.
Windows Explorer showing the contents of the Digital Wallet's hard drive:
The original files remain on the card after the copy process and must be deleted using the camera's card format or 'erase all' function before reusing the card.
The Digital Wallet is shown here with its removeable Carry Dock. The USB cable is plugged into the Carry Dock and the host computer. The AC adapter/battery charger also connects via the Carry Dock.
This is the translucent blue colored Digital Wallet.
Portable power is supplied by a rechargeable NiMH battery pack (6 type AAA cells). When connected to the included AC adapter and charger the unit can run indefinitely. With a fully charged battery pack Minds@Work claims a 120-140 minute runtime. To extend battery life the unit automatically shuts itself off after 30 seconds of inactivity.
The unit may be operated from the AC adapter while charging. The charge time is three hours for a fully depleted battery. The charger automatically shuts off when the battery pack is fully charged.
User controls are few and simple. The top button is the power switch, the second and forth buttons act as "up" and "down" navigation buttons for the menus and the third button is the "enter" button to make your selections.
The LCD displaying the "primary" menu screen. The battery remaining indicator lets you know how much runtime is left.
To download your digital camera's memory card, insert it into the PCMCIA adapter and then into the Digital Wallet's card slot. Turn the unit on, select the "Download content" option shown above, select "Start download" from the next menu screen. That's it!
All files and folders from the memory card will be copied to Digital Wallet's internal hard drive. Verify the success of the download using the "Check last download" option from the second menu screen.
Put the card back in the camera, erase it and use it again and again.
What comes in the box? The Digital Wallet, the Carry Dock, AC power adapter and battery charger, rechargeable battery pack, CompactFlash PCMCIA adapter, USB cable, user manuals and software drivers on CD-ROM.
Also on the CD is the suite of photo-related software from ArcSoft for the Mac and Windows PCs. The Arcsoft suite includes PhotoFantasy 2000, PhotoMontage 2000, PhotoBase and PhotoPrinter 2000. Another program called SmartBack jr is a Windows backup utility.
Steve's ConclusionI've lost count of the email requests I have gotten for a portable storage alternative, especially during the summer months. Most digicam users are satisfied with having just one memory card until it's time to go on vacation or take an extended trip. Now it comes down to buying more cards or taking an expensive laptop computer with you. The laptop is a great storage device but it's also a ripe target for thieves as it often remains in the hotel room or car. That leaves buying more memory cards which is difficult to justify as there isn't much use for them once the vacation is over.
Flash memory cards, although cheaper now than in the past, are still expensive at about $2/MB. The Digital Wallet offers a highly portable 6 gigabytes of storage for about $0.08/MB. Consider the small size (about that of a fat paperback book) and the ability to use it for other things; a backup device, computer to computer data transfers, picture archives and it looks a lot better than a pile of memory cards that just sit there and doing nothing.
Using the Digital Wallet is easier than installing the battery. Take it out of the box, install the battery (the 6-cell NiMH battery pack must be plugged into a pigtail power lead and then inserted into the end of the unit. This required a lot of pushing and cramming to get it into the unit. God help those that buy a second battery and try to change it in the field!), plug in the charger. Once the unit was charged I stuck in a card full of pictures, turned it on, selected 'download' on the first screen, selected 'start download' on the next screen and away it went. After a few seconds of watching the icon blink it was done and all of my pictures were copied to the Digital Wallet's hard drive. After confirming the download I then erased the card in the camera and was ready to take more pictures.
Downloading the pictures to my Win98 SE PC was equally simple. I just plugged it into the USB port, loaded the driver from the CD and voilla! The Digital Wallet now appeared as Removable Disk E: and I used Explorer to copy the image files to a folder on my hard drive. Six gigabytes is a lot of storage space. The average 2-megapixel camera's high quality JPEG images are about 900KB so you can store over 6,000 of them on the Digital Wallet!
Overall performance was impressive. A full 64MB SanDisk CompactFlash card downloaded into the Digital Wallet in about a minute. Transfering that same amount of data from the Wallet to my PC took about two minutes. The IBM 340MB Microdrive was just slightly faster transfering the same amount of picture data. A Sony 64MB Memory Stick with 61MB of data was copied in a minute and a half. It was faster to read data from the Digital Wallet via the USB port than it was to write data to it by a factor of about 2:1.
Being a PC-only person I had no way of testing the Digital Wallet with a Macintosh but Dave Etchells over at the Imaging-Resource used it with both PCs and Macs. Dave has posted a review including data transfer timings between various flash cards as well as via the USB port between computer and Digital Wallet. See the links below for the URL to Dave's review and another extensive review by Phil Askey at DP Review.
I have read both Dave and Phil's Digital Wallet reviews and I must agree with them that the overall construction of the Wallet could use some "beefing up." The doors covering the battery compartment and the card slot are not all that sturdy. I would also like the ability to go into the folders created and be able to selectively delete sub-folders as well as just the main folder.
The Bottom LineThe Digital Wallet when used with digital camera memory cards works fine. If you're buying it for use as an MP3 song storage unit be aware of the long filename truncation problem when downloading from cards. It's a very cost-effective way of storing digicam files for those going on vacation or anytime you need to store more than 2 or 3 card's worth of files. It can be used for many other things like transporting large amounts of data between a desktop and laptop.