Volume Number: 18 (2002)
Issue Number: 9
Column Tag: Reviews
by Michael R. Harvey
WiebeTech recently released the latest in it's line of FireWire storage products. The FireWire KeyChain is an ingenious little device that takes a Compact Flash card or IBM Microdrive, hooks it up to an Oxford 911 chipset, and gives you a portable storage solution that you can, literally, string onto your keychain.
Roughly the size and weight of a small pager, the device supports Compact Flash and IBM Microdrive storage units. The unit we tested had a 256 MB Compact Flash card installed. Other sizes up to 1 GB (with a Microdrive) are available, or an empty case can be purchased, into which you can install your own storage. The case is a small, anodized steel box, with one side a removable plate. Two screws provide access to the innards. It's a tight fit, but getting the storage into or out of it is not all that difficult. A small pad is provided to make sure the Compact Flash card or Microdrive is held snugly in place. The FireWire port on the keychain is the standard 6 pin, and is situated along the devices side.
Set up is relatively easy. Plug it in to the FireWire port. Done. That's pretty easy. Under Mac OS 9.1, the drive showed up fine with no additional drivers necessary, although we could not format it. Under OS X, you can format the FireWire KeyChain as you would any other disk drive. The device is as speedy and responsive as you would find any other FireWire device to be. We ran Quicken, a few games, and Internet Explorer from it with no perceptible hit in performance compared to running them off an internal hard drive. You wouldn't get that kind of responsiveness with a similar USB device.
This KeyChain is a tough little device. It can take a beating. We dropped it from heights as high as ten feet, and even threw it against a cinder block wall. The KeyChain took the abuse, and just kept on working. A few minor scratches, but nothing that your car keys rubbing against it won't eventually produce.
The FireWire KeyChain's shape makes it a bit unwieldy to really dangle from your key chain, but it is certainly doable. Just be careful putting it in your pocket, as it could leave an unsightly, albeit square shaped, bulge in your pants. In all seriousness, though, the device is tiny for what it does, and is overall a great product for easily moving files from place to place.
The FireWire KeyChain from WiebeTech is available in multiple capacities starting at 32 MB for $69.95 up to 1 GB for $359.95. The case with no memory installed is $56.95.
Michael R. Harvey