Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/01/review_peripherals_external_hdd_freecom_mobile_drive_cls/

Freecom Mobile Drive CLS storage

Portable drive array with archiving ambitions

By Shaun Dormon

Posted in Hardware, 1st November 2010 13:00 GMT

Review The turn of the century spelled the death of VHS and cassette tapes, along with the plastic cases they came in. Fast-forward to 2010, and you can once again store your data in a translucent case with a paper label adorned with an indecipherable scrawl.

Freecom CLS

The new tape? Freecom's Mobile Drive CLS

Indeed, the appearance of the Freecom CLS drive suggests some folk at Freecom have a fondness for such things. Essentially, the Mobile Drive CLS is a 2.5in disk enclosed in a black rubberised enclosure, complimented with a miniUSB port and a paper label concealed behind a Perspex window. Each CLS drive also includes a VHS-like (albeit smaller) plastic case with yet another paper label and compartments for both the drive and the included 8cm USB cable.

In stark contrast to most other portable hard disks, Freecom has not enclosed the CLS range of drives in hard shells or solid cases, instead opting for solely the protection offered by the moulded rubber cover. This results in softer corners, which will provide a decent amount of protection against fall damage.

Available in 250GB, 320GB, 500GB and 640GB capacities, Freecom intends the Mobile Drive CLS to be Collected, Labelled and Stored. Yet there’s more to this CLS idea than just the drives, as there’s a CLS Dock too. This hub offers a neat and organised way to attach up to three Mobile Drive CLS disks and one other USB 2.0 device to your PC.

Freecom CLS

The dock mounts multiple drives using just a mini USB connector in each bay

The concept seems targeted at those who archive large amounts of data with no need for instant access or those who miss the 20th century. We await the Freecom, the Hard Disk Rewinder in due course. Back in the here and now though, Freecom also offers a data recovery option for £25. It's effectively 3 year insurance should your drive go belly up in that time. As for the drives, benchmarks with Crystal DiskMark 3.0 on the 250GB model produced the sort of results expected for a USB 2.0 drive, no real surprises here.

Performance results

Also, as anticipated, HD Tach reports consistent performance in the 30-35MB/s region. Not fantastic, even for a USB 2.0 drive. However, if you’re the type of person who would put a hard drive in a plastic case and file it away on a shelf, then performance that’s slightly below par probably isn’t a big worry.

Benchmark Tests

CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Results

Freecom CLS
Freecom CLS

Results in Megabytes per Second (MB/s)
Longer bars are better

Freecom CLS

In the dock

With prices starting at £65 for the 250GB disk and rising up to £109 for the 640GB edition, the CLS series is not exactly cheap. In fact, I would say it’s rather expensive for USB 2.0 storage. If you take a look through the rest of Freecom’s product catalogue, you’ll find the Mobile Drive XXS, which is almost identical and is, on average, £10 cheaper for each available capacity. The drive dock is an additional £15 but having it makes more sense of the whole CLS idea.

Freecom CLS

Not the fastest, but delivers off the shelf convenience

Verdict

For those unlikely to be shuffling multiple archives in a handy hub and simply need an external USB drive, there are plenty of other more reasonably priced drives on the market, which offer similar or better performance. Yet, as a concept, Freecom’s Mobile Drive CLS storage options offer something a bit different, more akin to cartridge drives of old. Portability aside, the convenience of mounting multiple drives is really aimed at users who aren’t fussed about performance and don’t mind spending a bit more on something that simply works and makes a case for some good old-fashioned values. ®

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