Imation SuperDisk USB
  4 stars

November 23, 1998
by John Engler

Street Price: $149.99
System Requirements: iMac or USB-compliant PowerMac

Pros: uses 120MB SuperDisks or 1.44MB floppies, feels solid, looks great next to an iMac
Cons: somewhat slow USB transfer rates, lacks an installed base on Macs

   You've heard the criticism time and time again, especially from non-Mac users: the iMac doesn't have a floppy. Or a SCSI port, for that matter, which posed a major problem for anyone looking to transfer files without using the internet. Many people predicted that the iMac would flop due to what some called a major design flaw. Imation quickly came to the rescue with their SuperDisk drive for the iMac, which is finally shipping in decent quantities. This drive allows for the use of 120 MB SuperDisks or regular 1.4 MB floppies, complete in a case that takes a page out of the iMac's design.

What is it?

SuperDisk Drive   The SuperDisk drive is bondi blue and ice colored, just like the iMac. The cords are even translucent just like the cords that connect the keyboard and mouse. It is easy to see that the SuperDisk was designed to complement the iMac wonderfully.

   The LS-120 standard, which many hardware developers are now supporting, is what enables the Imation SuperDisk to read and write to both 120MB SuperDisks and regular 1.44MB floppies. Since the Imation USB SuperDisk drive and a PowerBook module by VST are the only such drives availible to Mac users, SuperDisk has yet to become very popular in the Macintosh Realm, but many new PC's are being sold with built in and removable LS-120 drives and a SCSI version for Macintosh by Imation is in the works. Also since the iMac USB supports multiple input sources (up to 127) you can always add a Zip or other external drive when they become available.

What do you get?

iMac w/ SuperDisk   Included in the box with the SuperDisk Drive is a 120 MB SuperDisk, a translucent USB cable, an AC/DC power converter & cord, and a CD with the applicable USB drivers. There is a PDF manual included on the CD, but you probably won't need to view it as the CD sleeve has eight little pictures that describe how to connect the drive to your iMac. It is much like the user's manual that ships with the iMac, and takes less than five minutes to get up and running.

   The SuperDisk Drive is about the same size as an Iomega Zip Drive (roughly 5" x 7" by 2") but is heavier and seems more sturdy than any Iomega drive. The 120MB SuperDiskettes are the same size as a regular 3.5" floppy and unfortunately feel just a flimsy.

   The specifications of the SuperDisk include a claimed transfer rate of up to 25 MB per minute. I noticed that when using the drive in practical situations it performed under this optimistic estimation. When trying to use the Drive and print at the same time the speeds of both my printer and copying slowed down considerably.

   Using an iMac Rev/B with 96MB Real RAM, 97 MB with Virtual Memory, OS 8.5, connected to an ADS four port Hub, Imation SuperDisk, and Epson 600 printer produced the following results:

task copy to SuperDisk copy from SuperDisk
1 file, 2.4 MB 7.9 seconds 7.48 seconds
1 file, 47.2 MB 2 minutes 25 seconds 2 minutes 6 seconds
963 files, 113.6 MB 9 minutes 51 seconds 7 minutes 28 seconds

   The speed of the Imation SuperDisk USB is somewhat limited when compared to traditional SCSI external devices. Transferring files to the SuperDisk is about 10% slower than transferring them from the SuperDisk, but the SuperDisk really slows down if you are using other primary USB devices (such as a printer) while you are copying. You can generally expect the times to be double during these cases.

   The SuperDisk works well with backup utilities like Retrospect. With Imation's 120MB SuperDiskettes, it is very good for the iMac as a backup source. The drive has larger storage disks than Iomega's Zip, and they're about the same price as Zip Diskettes if not cheaper

Overall Evaluation

   The SuperDisk is an ideal drive for iMac owners, solving both the floppy issue and adding a higher capacity method of transfering files, all in one drive. It compliments the iMac in design and ease of set up. While transfer speeds over USB with the SuperDisk are slower than they are with a SCSI interface, even compared with Iomega's Zip drive, if you can afford to wait a minute or two more and would like to be able to use floppies, the SuperDisk is an ideal way to go. tr

The Review

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