The Vosonic X'S-Drive VP-2030 is a combination battery-operated portable data storage device and a 6-in-1 flash memory card reader / writer. The unit itself is small (5.5 x 3.2 x 1.1 inches) and weighs just 10.1 oz including the hard drive and battery pack. You purchase this device without a hard drive and install your own. When I first posted this review I was not aware of the manufacturer but now we know that it is Vosonic Products in Taiwan. You can see the VP-2030 product info at their UK-basedX'S-Drive website and purchase the unit in Europe. My source was the Computer Geeks $87.00 here in the U.S.
The VP-2030 can use any capacity (9.5mm height) 2.5-inch IDE laptop hard disk drive. I upgraded my Sony VAIO ten months back and had a 20GB IBM hard drive sitting in my closet doing nothing. It's now the heart of my VP-2030. For many users a 6GB or 10GB size drive will be plenty and I've seen them for as little as $50-100 on the net. So..for $200 or less you can have a completely portable image storage unit that also functions as a 6-in-1 flash card reader when your home.
The VP-2030 has three separate card reader slots; (1) CompactFlash Type I and II cards including IBM Microdrives, (2) SmartMedia cards, and (3) Secure Digital, MultiMedia cards and Memory Sticks. No other card adapters are required.
The VP-2030 is compatible with computers with USB and running Windows 98SE, Me, 2000 with drivers supplied or XP without a driver, Mac OS 8.6 - 9.0 with drivers supplied or Mac OS X or Linux kernel 2.4 or higher without a driver. The download speed is rated at up to 3.84Mb/sec which is considerably slower than the theoretical maximum of 12Mb/s for a USB 1.1 interface.
The VP-2030 includes everything you need except the hard drive. You get the fully assembled VP-2030 with the lithium batteries pre-installed, a nice padded carrying case, AC power supply / charger, USB cable, driver software and manual on CD, a printed manual and "quick hard drive installation" sheet.
It's easy to install your own hard drive. All you need is a small phillips screwdriver and about five minutes.
Remove two screws on the bottom and open the unit up.
The two Li-ion rechargeable batteries are behind that green panel.
Place your hard drive on top of the unit, plug in the cable.
Affix the hard drive with the 4 screws provided.
Replace bottom cover with two screws and you're done!
At this point you should plug in the AC power supply and charge the batteries. It is recommended that you charge them initially for eight hours. After that a full charge is accomplished in four hours or less. A fully charged battery has enough power for about 42 transfers of 128MB flash cards or 150 minutes of use. The battery pack can be recharged approximately 500 times. When running on battery the unit automatically powers off after 25 seconds if you don't start a copy function.
Before you use the VP-2030 for the first time you need to plug it into the host computer and perform a FORMAT on the hard disk. It's possible that you might not need to do this if your drive was already in use in a laptop but a new drive will require a format.
When you connect the USB cable the VP-2030 shows up as four removable devices, the three card slots and the hard drive. Shown above is the way it looks when used with Windows 98SE and the provided drivers. When viewed in My Computer you will find the removable drives labeled with icons. Under Windows XP there are no drivers required, all devices will be auto-detected but unfortunately they are not labeled.
These removable drives allow you to easily move data between the flash card(s) or internal hard drive to your host computer's hard drive. You can use any file management utility to copy or delete your data files.
The I/O connectors are on the side and consist of the DC IN jack for the AC power adapter / battery charger. In the center is the USB 1.1 connector. Next to that is a RESET button in case the unit goes "brain dead."
Unlike other portable image devices the VP-2030 does not use a LCD display to tell you what's going on. What it uses is a lot of LED indicators. Across the top are red LEDs to indicate power, error, recharge and low battery. The green LEDs on the bottom indicate activity of the card reader slots or internal hard drive. When copying from a flash card all of the LEDs blink in sequence until the transfer process is completed.
All you do is turn the unit on, insert a flash card and press the COPY button. You can have up to 999 folders on the hard drive which are created automatically and named to correspond to the card media that was used and numerically incremented (i.e. CF0001, MS0001, SM0001, SD0001 etc.).
The VP-2030 does not delete your images from the flash card after transfer, you must use your camera's delete or format option after you put the card back in the camera. The VP-2030 lacks any kind of verify function after the transfer is completed. If it encounters an error during transfer it will illuminate the error LED. This LED is also illuminated if the hard drive becomes full. We encountered no problems during download from a variety of card media or during downloads from the VP-2030 to our host computer.
NOTE: There is always the potential risk for loss of data without verification so I can't recommend this device for professional users.
Here are some "real world" transfer from tests:
|128MB Delkin CF||120MB||3:36|
|256MB SanDisk SD||136MB||4:41|
|128MB Delkin MMC||121MB||4:07|
|128MB Sony Memory Stick||121MB||5:21|
|128MB Delkin SmartMedia||113MB||3:15|
Steve's ConclusionThe X'S-Drive VP-2030 is reasonably priced at $87 and by adding a hard drive for $100 or less this gives you a complete and portable image storage unit for less than $200. When not using it out in the field it can serve as a 6-in-1 flash card reader / writer. You can also use it like any external USB hard drive and copy data back and forth between computers.
The unit is well made and should hold up reasonably well in portable use thanks to a nice padded carrying case. As with all things that use hard disk drives - most of the risk of damage is during use when the hard drive is actually running. When it's turned off the hard disk is automatically "parked" and able to withstand considerable G-force. For archival permanence it is highly suggested that you offload the data to a host PC and burn it on a CD.
The VP-2030 is ideal if you're going on vacation and don't want to buy a lot of flash memory cards or drag along an expensive laptop that might get stolen out of your rental car or hotel room. The only problem is that I don't know how long these units will be available -- if you want one then don't hesitate, buy it now.
As we stated previously, the VP-2030 lacks a "verify" function after data transfer from flash cards. Although we encountered no errors during actual use there is always the risk of possible data loss so we don't recommend this product for professional users. Other portable storage devices with data verification that we have reviewed are:Delkin PicturePAD