LaCie Skwarim 30GB pocket hard drive
Is storage really this funky?
Review Don't ask me what the word 'skwarim' actually means - I don't know and neither, I suspect, does LaCie. It's pronounced 'square-im', and it's meant to suggest of the hard drive's shape, which is indeed square. Though with its fluorescent pink hue and eyestrain-inviting pattern, this certainly isn't a square product, in the other sense of the word. But has LaCie gone too far to try to make storage funky?
What we have here is an 8.5 x 8.5 x 1.3cm box weighing 99g and containing 30GB of raw, unformatted storage capacity. The casing has a slightly rubbery feel and, of course, that colour and pattern. In outdoor lighting, it doesn't look so but but under electric light it's a shock to the eye and possibly the brain - this is not, perhaps, a product for folk susceptible to migraine headaches.
The case has a built in USB cable and connector that dock into a perfectly sized bay in the side of the drive. Pull out the cable and you'll see a small red LED that lights up when the Skwarim draws power from the bus, though it's not an activity light. I found the USB cable to be too small to be useful. While the connector itself leaves ample room for other devices in adjacent ports, the short cable means the drive itself gets in the way. And if you've a desktop system with USB ports half way up the front or back of the case, the drive just dangles down.
LaCie bundles a colour-coordinated USB extension cable, but I'd have rather it just shipped a standard mini USB cable and shaved a centimeter off the Skwarim's case.
The disk itself is a 4,200rpm job with 2MB of cache. I hooked up the Skwarim to Reg Hardware's test PC, an Athlon FX-60 machine with a 250GB Serial ATA II HDD and formatted the pink 'un as an NTFS volume. Copying across a 4.01GB test file took, on average, 213.84s - a thoughput of 19.22MBps. Duplicating the same file on the Skwarim itself took a whopping 16m 16.62s. That amounts to a mere 4.21MBps - rather less than the 12.16MBps I got using LaCie's Rugged drive. The HD Tach benchmark suite measured a burst transfer rate of 35MBps and an average read speed of 19.5MBps.
But you don't buy a disk like this for its performance. As a simple, easy-to-connect drive for basic back-up protection - done manually or using LaCie's elementary 1-Click back-up application, bundled with the drive - it's more than adequate. It's compact size make it an ideal data portability product - though you'll always have to take the USB extension cable with you, just in case. It sits perfectly in a shirt pocket.
The downside is - yes - the colour. It's a little too much. LaCie is at least offering a blue version, which is still too in-yer-face for my taste, but certainly less offensive than the pink model. It's also a 60GB product. There is an upside: as a colleague cheekily put it, at least no one's going to want to steal a drive looking like this.
And you pay for the design. The 30GB Skwarim costs £99/$150 - only £20 or so cheaper than some admittedly less funky-looking 80GB USB-only drives I've seen but with less than half the capacity. For portability, though, the Skwarim is very hard to beat.
In the words of the Skwarim's industrial designer, the drives are "plutonic sacred boxes" with a embossed pattern that's "symbolic and metaphorical of the age of information... a metaphor for data and energy". Such pseudery aside, it's a wonderfully compact, reasonably nippy and consumer-friendly portable drive. If you love the look, you won't want anything else, but if you'd prefer something more soberly styled, you can get much higher capacity products for not much more money. ®