This article first appeared in HWM Aug 2011.
It’s been three years since we last saw the HyperDrive in these pages. Three years, in which a lot has happened in tech, including the launch of the iPad (and now the iPad 2). The iPad’s launch also explains the latest iteration of the HyperDrive - the HyperDrive iPad Hard Drive.
Much is the same as the previous HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA. The LCD screen is still 3.2 inches; there are two memory card slots (supporting just 12 different formats this time instead of 14); it can backup and view RAW formats, while further RAW compatibility can be added via future firmware updates. What’s new is iPad support - not only can you transfer files from your memory cards to the HyperDrive iPad Hard Drive, you can transfer files from the HyperDrive to an iPad of your own.
If you’ve never heard of the HyperDrive, think of it as a wrapper and interface for a hard drive, focused on archiving your memory cards. When you insert one, the HyperDrive will back up the entire contents of your card to a folder. That means that it doesn’t just back up photos, it also backs up the videos you’ve shot, even though it can only playback images.
If you’re backing up the same card after an additional shoot, the HyperDrive can help you save time by doing an incremental backup instead of another complete backup. The HyperDrive can also plug into your PC and set to register as an external hard disk, so you can easily drag and drop your files off the device and onto your workstation.
You navigate through the various functions using a combination of the d-pad and the different buttons. It’s not exactly slow, but it’s not fast either. There’s a slight half-second delay that you’ll notice, especially if you’re used to the responsiveness of some of today’s tablets. Remember when we said the HyperDrive is a wrapper for your hard drive? When you navigate your folders photo, you do so via a folder-based interface.
On paper, the HyperDrive sounds like a good proposition, and in fact it does get a lot of things right. As an archive device it gets the job done, but as a preview device it needs more work. In the age of smartphones with AMOLED and 'Retina Displays', the 3.2-inch QVGA (320 x 240) display doesn’t cut it for careful inspection, not to mention the short but noticeable loading time in between images.
But the iPad’s large screen and snappy interface are perfect for previews, and that’s where the new feature comes in. You simply attach the HyperDrive via USB using Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit and the iPad recognizes it as a memory card (as such, you can only transfer files per each memory card save at a time).
Which isn’t to say that the HyperDrive doesn’t work. As a backup device, it performs beautifully – and that is its singular strength, to function as a mobile hard-drive backup of your work. It doesn’t come cheap though; at $339, the HyperDrive doesn’t come with a hard drive, which you have to buy separately. The upside is that even though there are other backup devices on the market (like the iPad itself), because the HyperDrive uses a hard drive, the disk space you can potentially have is huge.