iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Zip250 USB Powered

May 6, 2001

A Zip drive... how much it means for a PC or MAC user! Drives of this type take one of the first places in the market of storage devices with removable discs. Advantages and disadvantages of the disc technology used in such storage devices are well known. There was a time when Zip disc drives intended to replace usual floppy disc drives, but it didn't happen, and they formed an independent class with even some competition in it: remember LS-120 and little known HI-Fd. But Zip devices were coping with their task quite successfully. Zip family was developing. The capacity of Zip drives increased dramatically, new interfaces appeared. Today, mobile models of Zip devices are the most attractive solution. But until now Zip devices had one unpleasant drawback - they required an external power supply. And at last Iomega has introduced an advanced model - the Zip250 USB Host Powered. This modern solution doesn't require any external power supply. So, let's take a close look at it.



  • Interface: USB
  • Disc capacity: 250 MBytes or 100 MBytes
  • Disc rotation speed: 2941 RPM
  • Data transfer rate:
    • average - up to 900 KBytes/s
    • maximum - up to 1 MBytes/s
  • Typical bandwidth: up to 55 MBytes/min
  • Average access time: 50 ms
  • Spin-down/spin-up time: 5/8 s
  • Long Format 8-10 min
  • Short Format 10 s
  • Dimensions: 163.6 mm x 101.4 mm x 25.4 mm
  • Weight: 400g

Now let's look inside the box. A pretty drive is made of semitransparent plastic. Rubber side straps make the drive fix properly in a vertical position by means of a prop supplied. As compared with earlier Zip drives this model is thinner and more compact. But on the other hand, the case of the drive is, in my opinion, a bit fragile and untight. For a device primarily intended for mobile use it is not very good.

In the box you can also find a USB-cable, software and booklets with a short installation guide, and a 250 MBytes disc of U-shape type. As compared with usual diskettes such discs have a futuristic form and titanic embeddings for better data keeping and longer diskette utilization. U-shape diskettes are supported with a 10-year warranty. The usual (for standard ZIP storage devices) Clean-as-you-go(tm) and Spin Control(tm) technologies are used for their production.

Drive controls are very ascetic: the front panel has only an eject button combined with an operation indicator, plus an emergency ejection hole which is also located in this button. The slot for disc loading is covered with a standard shutter. On the rear panel of the drive there is a USB-connector of "B" type for connecting the device to a computer. The drive is powered via a USB-bus through the same connector.


There are two ways of installation of this drive: 1.) to install the IomegaWare packet and connect the drive (then the system itself installs the required drivers and programs); 2.) to connect the drive to a computer, and on the system's request you have to specify the location of drivers on a CD. In the latter case you get a well functioning drive, though you are not able to work with password protected diskettes. And with IomegaWare you get the access to all capabilities of the drive. The connection of the device to a computer lies only in connecting a USB-cable.

Here you can see how the drive looks like in the system registry after installation.


The connection method of the disc drive, when power is supplied and data are transferred via the same cable and no external power sources are required, makes it very attractive for a mobile user. Though, as I have mentioned, I wish it were more solid and hermetic. This drawback could be eliminated with supply of a transportation case, this could make a user less worried about possible dust penetration or accidental damage. Switching on/off causes no problems, P-n-P functions work flawlessly. But remember that disabling the device during data recording with the indicator on can bring about a "blue death screen". Like the previous models the drive makes quite much noise. During a 2-minute installation process one can hear rather unpleasant sounds. The connection of the drive can slow down the system if there isn't a diskette inside. Data are usually transferred from a computer to a disc via caches in the system, that is why it is no wonder when in a file-manager a transfer process stops and the drive is completing the task for several other minutes. Our attempt to eject a disc during the operation failed. In the course of data transfer the eject button is locked until the process is finished. An emergency ejection is possible only when the device is off - otherwise you can damage not only a disc but also the device.

The speed characteristics of the disc drive were measured with the Winbench99 program.

Disk Transfer Rate: Begin - 955 kBytes/s , End - 900 kBytes/s
Disk Access Time: 61.2 ms
Disk CPU utilization : 7.5 %

As you can see, the drive is limited by a USB bus bandwidth. I'd like to think that USB can transfer data up to 1.5 mBytes/s, but it's wrong: the bus reserves data transfer channels for slow devices (keyboard, mouse), and for service data. And as a result, there can be not more than 1 mBytes/s for storage devices. In the table below you can see the specifications of the Zip100 USB.


  Business Disk WinMark, thousands bytes/sec Disk Transfer Rate (beginning), thousands bytes/sec Disk Transfer Rate (end), thousands bytes/sec Disk Access Time, ms Disk CPU Utilization, %

Let's consider the data record rate. Here we used a simple test. We carried out the copying of a large file (98 MBytes) and 500 small files the total size of which makes 60 MBytes. Below you can compare the results with those of the Zip100 USB.

Zip100 and Zip250 Write DiskTest

  DiskTest (98 mBytes -1 file), kb/sec DiskTest (60 mBytes - 500 files), kb/sec
Zip100 USB
Zip250 USB powered

As you can see, when copying a great number of small files the record rate falls considerably.

Now a bit on compatibility of the Zip250 drive with old format diskettes of 100 MBytes. Of course, the ZiP250 can read and record old format diskettes, but look at the figures.

Disk Transfer Rate: Begin - 950 KBytes/s , End - 819 KBytes/s
Disk Access Time: 55 ms
Disk CPU utilization : 7.53 %

100 MBytes diskettes are read nearly at the same speed as 250 MBytes ones. Now as for the data recording test. Iomega notifies of a slower recording rate of 100 MBytes diskettes, let's check the figures. The settings are the same as in the previous test for a 250 MBytes disc. The table below shows the results of both 100 MBytes and 250 MBytes discs.

100 MBytes and 250 MBytes Write DiskTest

  DiskTest (98 MBytes -1 file), kb/sec DiskTest (60 MBytes - 500 files), kb/sec
100 MBytes Disk
250 MBytes Disk

For 100 MBytes diskettes the recording rate is very low, but it is OK if you are not in a hurry. Especially considering that it is still higher than that of, for example, the Zip LPT.


The Zip250 USB Host powered is a real pink of perfection of Zip storage devices. This stylish, light, comfortable drive ideally suits for mobile use, since it doesn't require any external power source. Today a USB bus can be found both in mobile and desktop computers. So, you can use a USB ZIP drive practically in any place. I wish only that the case were more hermetic and the drive were supplied with a transportation case.

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