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August 31, 2004

Apricorn EZ Bus Mini 20GB Review

Posted by Mark Mitford (editor) on August 31, 2004 09:28 AM in Reviews , Storage .

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb usb hard drive review

The Apricorn Ez Bus Mini 20GB is the Mini-Me of USB 2.0 external hard drives.

The EZ Bus Mini comes in two sizes 20gb and 40gb for around $200 and $280 respectively, quite a bit more than larger USB external hard drives (both physically and in terms of storage capacity).

Is it worth the extra cost? keep reading to find out.......

First Impressions:

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb contents

The Apricorn Ez Bus Mini is shipped in a rather unimpressive white box but when you open it you are in for a big surprise: this thing is tiny!

(Update: the white box was temporary, Apricorn sent me a picture of their retail packaging that looks much better)

As far as size is concerned the best comparison I have is that it is the size of a pack of cards (smaller than a pack of cigarettes for the smokers out there).

Along with the Apricorn Ez Bus Mini the box contains a simple neoprene sheath/case, a 3 foot USB extension cable, a small instruction booklet, and 2 CDs of software.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb front view

The front of the EZ Bus Mini is simplicity itself, paint it white and Steve Jobs of Apple would be really jealous. All there is on the front is the white on black Apricorn logo and a small LED to show drive activity.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb rear view

The rear is just as simple a label, 4 little rubber feet, and the USB cable recessed into the case.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb usb connectivity

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb usb connectivity rear

The USB cable just pulls out and clips back in very securely. Fully extended it is about 4.5" long: long enough to connect to most PCs without needing the extension cable.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb neoprene case

The neoprene sheath/case covers the Apricorn Ez Bus Mini completely and provides good basic protection, enough to survive minor bumps, I wouldn't try dropping it on the floor though.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb innards

My mother always said I was a destructive little *censored* as a child, so I had to get out the screwdriver and take a look inside the Ez Bus Mini, not a lot to see though and thankfully I didn't break it.

Setup and Use:

Using the Apricorn Ez Bus Mini as an external hard drive is simple, just plug it in and it is automatically recognized on my windows XP PC without needing any software installed.

The Apricorn Ez Bus Mini comes with 2 cds of software:

Clone EZ: allowing a fully backup to be made of any hard drive.
Image EZ: allowing the compressed backup of a complete hard drive partition.
Cryptainer LE: on-the-fly encryption of data.
Second Copy: automatically creates backup copies of any files or folders you specify.

We took a detailed look at using the Image Ez software to create a compressed backup of the windows system partition on our Sony Z1 notebook:

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb image ez software menu

This is the main Apricorn software screen, on here we choose "Create Image" to create a new partition image.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb image ez software menu 2

The first Image EZ screen appears and we choose which hard drive partition to clone.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb image ez software backup

On the next screen we choose the location to save the image and specify a filename. Using the Image EZ software we can save to any hard drive or CD/DVD writer, not just the Apricorn Ez Bus Mini.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb image ez software backup2

The next screen allows us to choose between faster backup or smaller image file. The option we choose estimates a time of 80 minutes and a file size of 5.9GB.

(We will see later these estimates weren't very accurate).

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb image ez software backup 3

Image EZ lets you password protect the image file.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb image ez software backup 4

Next Image EZ gets to work and displays a graphical representation of its progress along with an estimated time remaining.

apricorn ez bus mini 20gb image ez software saved file

The partition cloning and compression took a total of 20 minutes 32 seconds (compared to the estimated 80 minutes), but the final image size was 8.1GB (instead of the estimated 5.9GB).

Average speed for compression and writing of the image was 11.6MB per second.

Testing:

We wanted to test and see how fast the 1.8" 4200rpm hard drive inside the Apricorn Ez Bus Mini was, so we started up our copy of the Sandra benchmarking program and we got the following results:


Benchmark Breakdown
Buffered Read : 29 MB/s
Sequential Read : 19 MB/s
Random Read : 15 MB/s
Buffered Write : 21 MB/s
Sequential Write : 14 MB/s
Random Write : 13 MB/s
Average Access Time : 14 ms (estimated)

Any external USB hard drive is going to be slower than an internal drive, but the Apricorn Ez Bus Mini performed surprisingly well considering its small size. In comparison to the Micro Solutions Lockbox we reviewed a couple of weeks ago the Apricorn was faster at reading but a little slower for writing (making this a good solution for a portable boot disk for example).

Conclusions:

The Apricorn EZ Bus Mini 20gb is a great solution if you need a ultra portable hard drive, either to carry extra data when traveling on business, to back up important data, or to have a bootable hard drive to help fix PC problems.

We would recommend spending the extra $80 to double the hard drive size as 20gb is really easy to fill these days. If 40gb isn't enough then 60gb 1.8" hard drives will be available soon so I would expect to see a version of the Ez Bus Mini with 60gb storage next year.

The only portable storage you will find that is smaller is a CompactFlash or other memory card based drive, and there you get a lot less for the same price. If portability is your goal go with the Apricorn.

Pros:

Size and ultra portabilty
Software included for easy backups
No need to carry an AC adapter

Cons:

limited storage capacity for the $$$
unimaginative packaging

Overall Rating: 9/10

Update: Apricorn sent a photo of the retail packaging which looks a lot better.

apricorn ez bus packaging


Order the Lockbox with Free Shipping from Buy.com (search for "Apricorn Mini"):
20GB ($185.99 as of 8/31)
40GB ($252.99 as of 8/31)

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