Iomega’s Mac Companion Hard Drive Expands Your iMac (And Fast Charges iPad) [Review]

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There’s a lot to like about Iomega’s Mac Companion Hard Drive, an external drive designed for flat-screen iMacs. It’s the fastest way to charge an iPad, for example.

Apple was so impressed by the Mac Companion drive, it ordered the first two production runs exclusively for its stores. It won’t be available anywhere else for several weeks, Iomega says.

The Good:

Our family iMac is only a couple of years old, yet its hard drive is already full. It’s mostly a gargantuan 500Gbyte iPhoto library with tons of fuzzy, out-of-focus photos of our kids that I’m forbidden from pruning.

Enter Iomega’s Mac Companion Hard Drive, an external drive designed just for flat-screen iMacs (or Apple’s new Cinema displays). With a capacity up to 3-TB, there’s enough room for many, many more photos.

The Mac Companion is nicely styled. The aluminum-and-black-plastic drive complements the iMac’s design. It sits perfectly on the foot of the iMac’s pedestal, eliminating my biggest pet peeve with external drives — where to stash them. Turns out, the foot of the pedestal is a great place to park something like this. It’s accessible, but it’s also out of the way.

Outside, there’s a capacity gauge that shows how much storage is available. When all four white LEDs are shining, the drive is less than 20% full; one red LED says it’s more than 80% full.

And then there’s the 2.1 amp USB charging port on the side of the drive. According to Iomega, it’s the quickest way to charge the big fat battery in an iPad (which charges painfully slowly with lower-power USB ports). The placement of the charging port is a big plus when using an iMac. I love this machine, I really do, but the USB ports on the back drive me crazy.

The Mac Companion Drive has the following ports:

  • 2 FireWire 800 ports
  • 2-port USB hub
  • 2.1 amp USB port on the side

And it comes in two sizes:

  • 2 TB for $239.99
  • 3 TB for $369.99

Like the Helium Portable drive I reviewed yesterday, The Mac Companion drive carries a three-year warranty with registration.

One touch I really like about all Iomega’s drives, and this one is no exception, is that they come with all the necessary cables in the box — in this case: FireWire 800, FireWire 400-800 conversion cable and a USB 2 cable.

The Bad:

The only problem I’ve encountered so far is this: For the 2-port USB hub to function, the drive must be attached by USB. But for the 2.1 USB port to deliver the fastest charge, the drive must be attached via FireWire. I have it attached via FireWire to be able to use the side charging port, but can’t use the USB hub.

In addition, you have to download a Iomega’s Mac Companion Capacity Gauge Utility for the capacity gauge to work. It’s a minor inconvenience, but worth noting.

Verdict:

The Mac Companion Hard Drive is a really well-designed and thoughtful accessory to the iMac. It has a ton of room for digital storage but sits unobtrusively under the screen. I likey.

[xrr rating=90%]