MoFoto 500GB Portable Video Storage Device Review
We’ve reviewed a lot of flash memory camcorders, and generally we think flash camcorders are the best of breed of the digital camcorders. They are smaller, lighter, less power hungary, and more reliable, but one thing we’ve never liked about them is the limited video storage. As the recording quality has skyrocketed up to 1080/60p, the amount of storage space needed to operate one of these camcorders rapidly exceeds the current size of flash memory cards. And even more disturbing is the high performance memory cards needed to record at that quality are VERY expensive. One of our editors stumbled upon the MoFoto Portable Video Storage Device, and we realized that it would be a great companion to the flash camcorders we like so much.
The MoFoto Portable Video Storage Device comes in various sizes (80GB, 160GB, 320GB, & 500GB), but we obviously went for the 500GB. The device has two buttons (yes try to think of another consumer electronics device with only 2 buttons) and is very simple to operate. The hardest part for us was actually turning on the device. You have to hold the button down for 2-3 seconds before it turns on. It said it right there on the instruction card, but we had already figured it out before we found that.
There are 3 card reader slots on the device that accept 12 different types of memory cards. The important ones for owners of flash camcorders are obviously SDHC, Memory Stick, and possibly xD. You simply put your memory card in the correct slot, press the copy button, and wait for MoFoto to copy the video from the card to its internal hard drive. When you insert the memory card, the screen shows the type of card you have inserted. The screen shows the percent complete while the copying is taking place. The files will be copied into a folder on the MoFoto. The first time you copy a SD card onto the device, the files will be put into the SD1 folder. The second SD card goes into the SD2 folder, and so on. Once the copying is complete, you put the memory card back in the camcorder, and use the camcorder to format the card. We really like that MoFoto doesn’t automatically delete the card once it’s done copying. This would make us really uncomfortable.
One trick we learned is that if you press the copy button while there is no card in the device, it will tell you how much space is left on the device. The screen will flash P1 and then 234GB (or however much space you have left). We’re not sure what P1 means, our best guess is Partition 1, but we’re not sure. As a safety blanket we liked checking the space before and after a copy.
We tested with a couple different size cards, but we feel that its better to have two 4GB or 8GB than one 16GB card. That way you can still be recording with one card while the other card is copying. Another good option is a dual memory card recorder like the Canon VIXIA HF200.
The battery is generally pretty good, especially considering it is driving a laptop hard drive. Ours lasted about an hour and a half, but we learned that this can theoretically go up or down depending on what part of the hard drive your data is getting written. Yes, writing on the outside of the disk takes less power than the inner part of the disk. I guess we never thought about it, but it makes sense because 1 revolution covers a lot more bits on the outer part of the disk than the inner part. If you expect to be away from a power source for a while, and need to copy lots of cards, then get some extra batteries. Unlike your IPhone, you can actually remove the battery from MoFoto very easily and exchange it for a fully charged backup. You can buy extra batteries from the MoFoto site, and it’s probably a good idea to get one extra. The device can be powered by a 1600 mAh lithium polymer (li-po) battery, 120/240V wall adapter, or via the USB cable. There is also a car charger available which also charges via the USB port.
Once you’re back home you can copy the video files off of MoFoto, onto your computer. The USB cable that comes with MoFoto has two Type A USB plugs on one end and a single MiniUSB plug on the other. This is pretty common for external USB hard drives, and is due to the fact that most 2.5″ hard drives consume more power than a single USB port can supply. The dual port cable uses the power from both the ports to provide enough power to the hard drive. Some computers may supply enough power with just one cable, but most of ours required both. Once the device is connected to the computer, it may take a few seconds for the drive to spin up, and for your computer to detect the device. We tested on Windows XP and Windows Vista, and we didn’t need any drivers for either system. MoFoto shows up as an external hard drive, and you can copy the files just as you would from any disk. One thing we didn’t expect is that when the device is connected to the computer, you can actually use MoFoto as a memory card reader because the memory card slots show up in Windows. That’s one less thing you have to carry in your bag, and might just make enough space for a MoFoto.
Overall, we really liked the device. It is simple, easy to use, and provides our flash camcorders with nearly infinite recording capacity.
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