BlueSmoke - Review : Transcend 1.8" Portable Hard Disk

 Date  : May 28th, 2004
 Category  : Storage
 Manufacturer   : Transcend
 Author  : Jin-Wei Tioh
We truly live in the information age. Virtually everyone has quite a bit of data that they need on the go, be it music, videos or business-related data. Inline with market demand, manufacturers of portable storage devices have been downsizing... their products that is. Among the options currently available are the ubiquitous USB flash drives and either 5.25", 3.5" or 2.5" external cases that can house anything from a CD-R/RW to a desktop or laptop hard drive.

USB flash drives, while small and fast (at least those compliant with Hi-Speed USB), have a higher cost per MB than other competing technologies. Moreover, they have a relatively small maximum capacity, typically 256MB or 512MB. External cases are generally bulky (requiring an external power brick) and more easily damaged due to the sensitive nature of optical and magnetic drives. An exception can be made for 2.5" cases, which are far slimmer, lighter and can be powered directly from the host port. However, these will still occupy your entire shirt pocket and really jiggle around.

Enter Transcend, which has just announced its 1.8" Portable Hard Disk in late April. It has a flagship capacity of 40GB and a 20GB version is also available. A savings of 0.7" is actually quite a bit more significant that it sounds on paper; as the trite but true saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words." Now that we've (hopefully) perked your interest, let's get more acquainted with the 20GB portable hard disk.


What immediately strikes you is that the 1.8" Portable Hard Disk can be quite easily mistaken for an iPod. The styling is similar to many of Apple's products, which is a compliment as it gives the PHD a more polished and even distinctive appearance. It measures 3.7 x 1.8 x 0.5" or 95 x 70 x 15mm (HWD) and weighs in at a scant 118g. To give a rough scale of comparison, a typical business card measures 90 x 55mm. Rounding off the unit's description, there's a red LED status indicator at the bottom and the interface connector is up top.


The retail kit furnishes you with a very complete set of accessories. Included is a small leather carry-bag, USB cable, miniature installation CD, warranty card, quick installation guide and catalog of Transcend products. Among the included software is FalconStor's ExBoot, a drive backup and restore program that may be of value to some. Please note that the Express version of ExBoot is included as opposed to the more fully featured Professional version. We performed a backup of an OS drive and the program seemed well conceived for its purpose.

Installation of the PHD is very straightforward, requiring no drivers on Windows ME, 2000, XP and Mac OS 9.2 or higher. A recurring frustration with 2.5" drives is the inability of the host port to supply enough power, leading to erratic device behavior. This does not seem to be an issue with the 1.8" PHD at all, with the drive working consistently well on a variety of systems.


Aside from our subjective evaluations, we let the 1.8" Portable Hard Disk stretch its legs on some benchmarks.

Platform Information
CPU Intel Mobile Celeron 1.6 @ 3.2GHz
Motherboard ABIT IS7-E2
Memory 2 x 256MB DDR400 CL2 DDR (PMI Gold Kit)
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar SE 80GB
Operating System Windows XP Professional SP1
Benchmarks WinBench 99 v2
Intel IPEAK SPT v3

WinBench 99 clocks the PHD at an effective disk access time of 20.5ms, a figure akin to older desktop drives such as the Seagate U Series 5. The PHD's outer-zone sequential transfer rate (STR) is 19.7MB/s, while the inner-zone scores 10.5MB/s. These low-level measurements translate into Disk WinMarks of 6090 (Business) and 7510 (High-End).

The IPEAK SPT's Read Service Time analysis closely corroborates the effective disk access time given by WinBench 99, giving an average value of 20.6ms. More interesting is the Write Service Time analysis, which pegs the PHD at 12.7ms. CPU utilization maxes out just a hair over 20%, which is well within the standards of desktop IDE drives.

Overall, while certainly not as speedy as any run-of-the-mill 7200rpm desktop hard drive, the PHD delivers pretty impressive performance while still maintaining silent and cool operation.


After reading this far, you probably already know what we think about this product. A most convenient removable storage device around the size of a small stack of business cards, with a reportedly reasonable price (around the $160 range), two-year warranty, more than adequate performance, great ease of use and snazzy looks. Transcend appears to have lived up to its namesake, pushing the size, weight and portability envelope of mobile storage devices.

If you need to move more data than a USB flash drive can hold, definitely give some serious consideration to the 1.8" Portable Hard Disk. It nabs our Excellence Award for being one of the more innovative products we've seen lately.

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