Fujitsu DynaMO 640SD / 1300SD Storage Drive Reviewed by CPU-zilla (18 Nov 99)
*GIGAMO standard      ** Non-ISO
Model 640SD 1300SD
Standard 640, 540, 230 and 128MB disks 1.3GB*, 640MB, 540MB, 230MB, 128MB disks Overwrite (OW) 640 and 540 MB disks 640, 540 and 230** MB disks Interface SCSI-2 Data Transfer Rate Drive Up to 3.9MB/s Up to 5.92 MB/s (1.3GB media) Interface 5 MB/s (async.), 10 MB/s (sync.) Seek time 28 ms 28 ms Latency time 8.3 ms 6.7 ms (640/540/230/128MB media)
9.3 ms (1.3GB media)
Rotational Speed 3,600 rpm 4,500 rpm (640/540/230/128MB media)
3,214 rpm (1.3GB media)
Buffer size 2MB Power requirements 100-240 VAC Power Consumption Operating 8.1 W 14.0 W or less Sleep mode 5.1 W 6.5 W or less Dimensions (H x W x D) 37.4mm x 135mm x 211mm 39.5mm x 142mm x 212mm Weight 1.1kg
<Introduction><The Good><The Test><The Bad><Conclusion><Rating>
When the word Magneto-Optical (MO) is mentioned, the name Fujitsu comes to mind right away. It is not surprising since it was Fujitsu that first introduced the world's first 3.5-inch MO drive with 128MB MO media in 1992. Fujitsu continued developing the MO technology until what it is today, with capacities exceeding 1GB. The great advantage to the line of MO drives is that each newer generation of drives is compatible with the previous generation of medias. This enables you to use your older medias without the need to transfer your data to newer medias. In addition, the whole concept of the MO drive revolves around the existing floppy disk drive, where data can be written to it at any random manner, unlike CDRW discs where one needs to erase the disc before anything can be re-written on the disc. In addition, the LIM-DOW (Laser Intensify Modulation Direct Overwrite) technology delivers faster writing performance than traditional writing methods.
What is MO and how does it work anyway?
As the name implies, MO involves optical and magnetic field. If we look into our Quantum physics textbook, we know that light is a travelling wave of magnetic and electric fields. Since the characteristics of light is governed by these two components, by altering the magnetic field, the property of light can also be altered. With this concept in mind, the changes in the direction of a magnetic field could alter the polarization of light accordingly. Thus, information on an MO media is basically manipulated by changing the magnetic field direction, and these changes can be detected effectively by observing the polarity of light reflected by the media. The changes in the light polarity is then translated electrically into 1s and 0s.
In the writing process, a low power laser beam raises the temperature of the magnetic media layer up to the "Curie point" (Curie point is the temperature at which magnetic change can occur). The Curie point of most magneto-optical materials is about 180-200°C. The application of a bias magnetic field changes the magnetic direction (or better known as a change in the angle). Anyway, since the laser only heats the media locally, the magneto-optical layer cools very rapidly. Upon cooling, the material coercivity rises, and this fixes the magnetic direction. There's no way of altering the state except by using the same process as above. Since you have to physically heat the media to about 200°C, the data written on the media is more or less secured. Thus, this is the reason why magneto-optical medias are not sensitive to magnetic fields (unlike magnetic disk medias), light or even X-Ray. This makes them a very robust form of storage.
When the drive reads from the media, the laser is reflected (sometimes transmitted, depending on the drive) from the magneto-optical layer. As light polarity can be influenced by a magnetic field, the various changes in the magnetic field on the media made during the write process changes the polarity of the laser beam accordingly. However, the changes in light polarity are rather small, and they are "amplified" by passing them through polarizing filters. By detecting the changes in the light polarity, the drive can detect these so called pits and lands.
Although this description is by no means complete, it does give a proper description of how an MO work.
Skip the physics, is it reliable?
Well, if you've read the previous section, you would appreciate just how powerful the magneto-optical technology is. However, the concept behind data storage in MO medias made it more robust than your conventional magnetic disks. As I've mentioned above, the media is not sensitive to light, magnetic fields and even X-Rays. This makes it extremely safe to transport your data in your MO disk since it is immune to such elements. In addition, the drive does not have any direct contact with the media, and this literally translates into a maintenance free drive (although you've got to make sure you keep your drive and medias away from dust).
Let's test it out, shall we?
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The installation of the drive was simple as it was truly plug and play. However, you need to have a SCSI card installed first. Since my system was already installed with a SCSI card, the installation was reduced to plugging the SCSI cable to the drive, installing the drivers and softwares and rebooting the system.
The drive unit comes built with an internal power supply. This is particularly attractive since they were able to integrate a universal power supply into a small unit, although it is not as light as a ZIP drive. The fact that you do not need to carry an extra power supply (unlike other external storage devices) is enough motivation to carry this wherever you go. In addition, the power supply accepts other AC power sources, and it is not confined to only 240VAC. This simply mean that you can use this even when you traveled to a foreign country. (e.g. US AC supplies are rated at 110VAC).
The media is pretty cheap too. For less than S$20 for a 640MB disc, it is a lot less than other available magnetic disc medias available today. Of course, we should not compare it to CDRW discs since they don't provide the same kind of "Harddisk-like" access like the MO drive and it should be omitted from the comparison altogether. Nevertheless the price of the media is low enough to make ZIP disks inferior. In addition, the size is almost like a floppy disk, but probably a little thicker than a floppy and slightly thinner than a ZIP.
A comparison between a 3.5-inch floppy, a Fujitsu MO disk and an Iomega's ZIP disk.
The OS support available for the drive is also pretty wide. It has support for Windows 95/98/NT3.51/NT4.0 and even the older Windows 3.1. OS2 Warp 3.0/4.0 users would also be delighted at the additional support. And yes, there's support for Mac OS too, for System 7.1 and above. However, only users with the older Macintosh can use it since they have a built-in SCSI port. The newer Power Macintosh G3 and G4 would need an additional SCSI card to use it. iMac users would be disappointed since it does not have SCSI built-in. But, iMac users need not despair as the USB version was already announced. Fujitsu Singapore also hinted two more Firewire models for the 640MB/1.3GB drives. iMac DV and Power Macintosh G4 users will be delighted with these new devices as they have built-in Firewire ports. In fact, the Firewire 640MB model (DynaMO 640FE) is already available now. The 1.3GB will be released early next millenium. Hopefully Hardware Zone will be able to get their hands on these drives later.
The drive comes with very basic softwares and drivers. Both models come with an MO formatting utility that allows you to format your disk according to the kind of usage (Floppy mode or Harddisk mode). However, the 640SD model comes with an extra utility that allows you to convert files between your Macintosh and PC. This is especially useful for Windows users since there's practically no way to read Macintosh formatted disks except by purchasing third party softwares like MacOpener. On the other hand, Macintosh users are always ready to read PC formatted disks and convert files between them, as these features are already built into the Mac OS. This shows how much more consideration Apple puts into making the Mac more user friendly. Below are some screen shots of the softwares.
Left : MO format utility for the 640SD, Right : MO format utility for the 1300SD
You can also format the disk like a harddisk by partitioning it into different sizes using the MO format utility. However, this option was only available for 640SD model. If you format the disk into two partitions, you will need to restart your PC (with the disk inserted) before you can see the two partitions appearing in the system.
Creating partitions for your MO disk
The included RINGOWIN utility is another piece of neat software as it allows you to convert files between the Macintosh and PC. As I have mentioned earlier, you can move Macintosh formatted files in and out of the disk. What's good is that it allows you to move files from other sources such as a Mac CD-ROM too. This is really an added plus that PC and Mac users would gladly welcome. In addition, you can also use the utility to partition the MO disk into a Windows & Mac Hybrid format. In this way, the user need only carry one disk and not need to worry about copying files to/from a Macintosh or a Windows-based PC. Below is a more detailed explanation of the features available in RINGOWIN. Please click the thumbnails to view the full picture.
You can select any Macintosh formatted medias from any of the SCSI attached devices, as well as any of your IDE devices. When you transfer files from Windows to Mac, you can set the kind of text conversion you need in this dialog. In addition, you can also determine the Macintosh file type to use for each different filename extension in Windows. This dialog pops up when you transfer files from the Mac to Windows. The settings are basically quite the same as above. You can also format your disk using RINGOWIN in order to use your disk in both Mac and Windows. Just choose the Mac & Windows Hybrid Format. You can also set the amount of space you want in each of the Mac and Windows partition. If you think you're going to copy more Mac formatted files, you should allocate more space for the Mac partition. You can even choose to transfer files between the two Macintosh and Windows partition on the same MO disk! Cool!
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In the test, I connected the drive to my old Initio SCSI-2 card to do some transfer rate tests. The installation of the driver was very simple and straightforward. Upon rebooting, the drive was at once recognised and it behaves exactly like a floppy drive.
|Processor:||Pentium II 300 (o/c to 450MHz)|
|RAM:||128MB Mira PC100 SDRAM|
|HD:||IBM Deskstar 6.4GB|
|SCSI Adapter:||Initio PCI SCSI-2 card|
|Operating System:||Windows 98|
Files were transferred to/from my system's harddisk from/to the MO drive using a 640MB media. The time taken to transfer the file was taken and the system was rebooted after each transfer to clear the cache.
DynaMO 640SD vs. 1300SD transfer rates (for a 540MB file)
Copy direction DynaMO 640SD DynaMO 1300SD HD to MO 712 KB/s 891 KB/s MO to HD 3.03 MB/s 4.12 MB/s
The transfer rate for the higher capacity drive was faster. This is expected since the rotational speed of the 1300SD is 4500RPM as compared to 3600RPM for the 640SD. Anyway, judging from the transfer rates, the drive is pretty fast especially when you are reading data from it. I suppose the speed is fast enough to stream MPEG videos directly from the drive. However, when you are transferring data to the MO drive, the transfer rate is reduced more than four times.
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There are only a couple of comments I could think of in this section. Firstly, I was rather disappointed that the RINGOWIN software was only included in the 640SD model and not in the 1300SD model. Macintosh users may want to avoid the 1300SD model unless they are just hardcore Mac users who don't feel the need to exchange files between Windows and Mac. However, the Macintosh can already read/transfer files directly to a PC formatted disc, and RINGOWIN is only a utility for Windows only. Still, it would have been complete if RINGOWIN supported the 1300SD.
The drive is also pretty expensive given the maximum data capacity that the drive can handle. For the price of the 640SD, one can easily purchase Castlewood's 2.2GB ORB drive, and probably an extra media as well. However, in the long run, users would see the benefit as the cost per MB is pretty low. Still, I won't be surprised if prices of magnetic media start to fall in the future. Anyway, if the price was lower, the product would certainly be very attractive indeed. Also, bundling a SCSI card with the product would also be a good idea.
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The Fujitsu DynaMO is truly a different form of storage that you might want to consider if you are seeking for a more robust storage solution that could withstand the elements of light, magnetic fields and X-rays where conventional CDR and magnetic storage would have failed. It is also a very portable drive and it plugs directly on both PCs and Macs. The only major drawback is the price.
Current pricing (as of the publication of this review) is S$599 and S$949 for the 640MB and 1.3GB models respectively. Each drive comes bundled with 1 piece of media, a 640MB Fujitsu media for the 640SD, and a 1.3GB media for the 1300SD. There are many different brands of media available (e.g. Sony, Mitsubishi, Teijin, Maxell, Tosoh) and the average price for a 640MB media is about S$18 and a 1.3GB media is about S$45. Please note that the prices may change in the future.
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