With higher-capacity media, more polished software, and an improved enclosure, the new 250MB Zip drive is a good product made even better. The $199 unit reads and writes to Iomega's new $16.99 250MB cartridges, but also supports 100MB Zip media. While it has a few annoyances, the Zip 250 is a good buy.
The drive is housed in a familiar purple enclosure, but with a few improvements. The unwieldy power brick in the original Zip drive has shrunk to the point where the word brick seems a misnomer. The drive now also features a power switch in front. On the downside, it still supports just two SCSI IDs, 5 or 6, and the case still rattles when you shake it.
When reading or writing a file to the new 250MB media, the new Zip is zippier, offering a 40 percent performance boost over the old drive. However, the new drive is a bit slower than the original when writing to 100MB media.
With the original Zip drive, Iomega put its software utilities on the included Zip cartridge, inviting users to install the software and then overwrite the cartridge. IomegaWare now comes on a CD-ROM that includes Mac and PC versions.
Iomega has honed its Tools application, which lets you create a rescue disk with a complete or minimal System Folder and a copy of Apple's Disk First Aid software. After a system crash, you can boot from the cartridge and check the internal drive.
The software also lets you add copy protection to Zip cartridges. However, the interface is vexing; the opening window presents a set of icons with no labels. The only way to use the program is to take a guess and click on a button.
The CD also includes an easy-to-use audio-capture application called RecordIt, which lets you copy songs from an audio CD or record voices with the Apple microphone. You can then store these sounds on your Zip disks for playback. However, Zip disks are no match for a CDthe RecordIt player pauses frequently during normal computer use.
Iomega has reason to crow, as the new Zip drive improves on an already strong product. Thanks to the popularity of the original drive, Zip cartridges remain a good way to share data with coworkers. With the new higher-capacity media, the Zip is now more attractive as a backup device. However, Zip disks, while generally reliable, are not the sturdiest removable media you can buy. If you plan to use the drive for archiving, you'll need to purchase backup software and make multiple backup sets.
Iomega will continue to sell the 100MB drive through 1999, and plans a USB version of the Zip 250 for the second half of the year.
RATING: PROS: Higher-capacity media; backward compatible with 100MB media. CONS: Cryptic software interface; limited SCSI ID choices. COMPANY: Iomega (801/778-1000, http://www.iomega.com ) LIST PRICE: $199; 250MB cartridge, $16.99.
April 1999 page: 56