iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Iomega Peerless

The history of development of drives with removable media based on the hard discs started with SyQuest and its drivers based on the Bernoulli effect (when an air current resulted from disc rotation forms an air cushion which doesn't allow magnetic heads to touch a disc surface). Later Iomega which was famous for its ZiP drives decided to extend its sphere for the whole range of drives with removable discs. It resulted in a new drive named JAZ. The struggle between Iomega and SyQuest wasn't long and ended in favor of Iomega which purchased its competitor. At almost equal speeds and reliability Iomega offered a cheaper data storage method. Besides, the company had a wider range of products and could carry out a more flexible policy. The JAZ, thus, was the only drive with removable media based on hard discs for a long time. Some time ago Castlewood released a similar solution - ORB, but there was, in fact, nothing new. The only advantage was that the data storage cost much decreased, but prices for JAZ cartridges also fell down, that is why the situation was steady again. But soon the JAZ failed to meet the requirements of all users, especially because there was a great demand for mobile devices. And a new drive meant to replace the JAZ was Peerless.



  • Interface: USB 1.0, FireWire(IEEE 1394), SCSI (optional)
  • HotSwap support in case of USB and FireWire
  • Medium type: 10 and 20 GBytes cartridges
  • Date rate: up to 15 MBytes/s
  • Cartridge based on a 2.5" hard disc from IBM
    • Spindle speed: 4200 RPM
    • Internal data rate: 25 MBytes/s (buffer/disc)
    • Average access time: 12 ms
    • Typical SpinUp time: 3 s

  • Shock resistance (in an idle state)
    • cartridge: 400G
    • drive: 200G

  • Error-free running time: 250,000 hrs

We tested the drive with a FireWire(IEEE 1394) interface since it allows using all possible capabilities of the drive. In the box you can find the drive which consists of an interface module, a docking station module and a cartridge, a FireWire cable (66), and a power supply unit (if the FireWire controller can't supply enough power). FireWire controllers are usually able to feed an external device, but some models lack for such a possibility. A FireWire controller is able to supply 15W (12V 1.25A) to each port. And if a controller provides only 5W (12V 0.4A), it isn't meant for feeding external modules. In the box you can also find a case for you to wear it on your belt. And the last thing we found here was a CD with the required tools, Iomega drivers and software for working with photos (Photo Suite III SE) and video (VideoWave 3.5).

Despite the stylish design of the drive, it reminds me the LEGO since it consists of modules. A docking station module which contains control electronics is unchangeable. An interface module and a cartridge connect to it. You can buy separately an interface module which you need. Today you can get USB 1.1 and FireWire modules, and SCSI and USB 2.0 will be available later.

A cartridge is just a "jar" of an IBM 2.5" hard disc enclosed in a special case which provides extra protection. Unlike its predecessors, this cartridge is completely hermetic. Among other interesting things there is a speed indicator located on the docking station and an electrical cartridge fixing mechanism to prevent data losses during implementation of reading/recording.

Installation and operation

Installation means you have to assemble the units and connect them to your computer. If your FireWire controller doesn't provide enough power, then connect a power supply unit. Iomega recommends to install the software programs before the connection, but you can do without them. The FireWire version is much more universal than the USB one: you don't have to take with you everywhere a CD with drivers. Everything necessary for operation of FireWire devices is installed during installation of the FireWire controller.
If everything is OK, the indicator will go on:

When data are transferred it starts blinking. The disc can be formatted after it's connected. The Peerless works only with the FAT32, and a user can't divide the cartridge disc into partitions.

The formatting of the 20 GBytes cartridge lasts 21 min. Now let's see how good this controller works. First of all, we will test it with the Winbench99. In case of the FireWire the interface speed mustn't be much higher than the possibilities of the hard disc.


  • Business Disk Winmark 3420
  • High End Disk Winmark 10500
  • Disk Transfer Rate
    • Start 17600 KBytes/s
    • End 10100 KBytes/s

  • Disk Access Time 20.5 ms
  • CPU Utilization 16.4%

Well, the FireWire interface looks excellent. Now we are going to implement copying of files: one ~1G file and 4000 190 MBytes files.

The results are

  • 1 1 GBytes file 1m 32s
  • 4000 190 MBytes files 51s

When copying a great number of small files, the speed drops a bit, but this is typical of many hard discs. Besides, you should remember that the Peerless can't operate with files larger than 4 GBytes. It is not a good news for those who want to use this drive for video capture in a real time mode. The docking station is equipped with a indicator of copying speed, but it is overstated, the real one is 1015% lower.

The cartridge can be ejected from the docking station only after you disconnected the device and pressed the button on the base, since the base locks it. If you are trying to disconnect it incorrectly you will get a blue screen of death both in the Windows98 and in the Windows2000.


High-speed USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces will let us to use all possibilities of the Peerless drive. Today the FireWire Peerless is an ideal solution for working with video and audio information. Do you want to make a full backup copy of your hard disc? No problem, it won't take you much time, above all. The FireWire promises to become more successful than even the USB 2.0. The market is glutted now with home digital VCRs which have a FireWire interface for connection of digital cameras and other similar devices.

As for downsides, there is obviously the price. I hope it will soon drop, otherwise the Peerless won't be popular. Besides, I wish the company developed a combined interface unit instead of two separate ones (FireWire and USB).

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