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Freecom Mobile Drive CLS Review

Posted by Andrew at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2010

Freecom LogoFreecom announced the Mobile Drive CLS concept back in July as a new way of storing and organising the vast amounts of data that all of us now seem to collect through our daily digital lives.  The CLS stands for Collect, Label and Store and fundamentally it’s about using 2.5″ portable drives to store data according to type or use.  One Mobile Drive could have photos, another video.  Or they could be arranged by topic with one Mobile Drive storing all the photos and videos from a trip to Europe and another holding the material from a new house you built last year.  I’m sure you can grasp the possibilities.

It all reminds me a little bit of the SyQuest EZDrive and the Iomega Zip drive, and the drive even comes with a translucent plastic case with a paper insert where you can write the contents of the hard drive for future reference. It’s so old skool….

But enough reminiscing.  If you buy into the concept, what do you actually get?  There’s two parts, the first being the Mobile Drive CLS, a 2.5″ hard drive enclosed in a black soft-touch rubberised case and with a label strip down the side.  The second is the CLS Dock, a docking station that takes three of the Mobile Drives.

Mobile Drive CLS

As the Mobile Drives come with standard mini-SD connectors, you can just use the drives with a cable if you want.  Power is supplied via the USB cable.

Alternatively, the Dock makes using them much more convenient. You simply slot the Drive onto the Dock, which can take up to three of the CLS Mobile Drives.  Cleverly, the mini-SD connector is slightly offset from the centre so it’s obvious which way round the drive has to go.  There’s also an additional standard USB port on the Dock for a memory stick.

The Mobile Drive seemed to fit snugly into the Dock and obviously the review unit was new but I’d be fairly confident you wouldn’t need to worry about wear on the connectors anymore than you’d worry about any external unit.

There’s been a bit of care here too with the USB leads.  The supplied leads are a cut above the average USB cable and there’s a short one supplied in the storage case, keeping drive and lead together.

Performance-wise, the disks were pretty much as you’d expect from an external USB2 drive.  Using hdparm -Tt, I got around 1640 MB/s for cached reads and 30 MB/s for buffered disk reads.

Cost-wise, the Mobile Drives come in four sizes from 250 GB (£60) up to 640 GB (£85).  The CLS Dock costs £16.  Comparing the price for the Mobile Drives against similar units, there’s a price premium of £10 at the smallest capacity which gradually reduces as the capacities increase.

I liked this product as it’s well designed and convenient.  I think this product will appeal to the “laptop generation” – those people who live in lofts and apartments and use technology primarily for their own entertainment. Eventually the laptop hard drive fills up with photos, music or films and this is a clever and attractive way to keep files without cluttering up the internal disk.

It might also appeal to people who just want a convenient way to transfer data between home, work and school.  Use the dock at home and the cable while on the road.  And the label strip on the side of the Mobile Drive can easily take a name and mobile phone number in case of loss.

Frankly, I’m surprised it doesn’t come in white…

Thanks to Freecom for the review unit.

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