WiebeTech’s FireWire Keychain lets you turn the large-capacity IBM MicroDrive or CompactFlash memory card used in many digital cameras into an ultraportable, bus-powered hard drive. Using a drive the size of a box of Tic Tacs to boot your computer or transport files is cool, but the high price and slow performance of large-capacity memory cards (compared with standard FireWire drives) might leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The Keychain ships without a memory card installed, so if you already own one, the Keychain is a good investment. Installing a CompactFlash card or IBM MicroDrive in the FireWire Keychain requires removing two small screws and inserting the card into the case. The Keychain’s connector pins can bend, so swapping cards is inadvisable. As a consequence, while you’ll gain durability and portability with the FireWire Keychain’s closed, metal case, you’ll lose the flexibility that traditional media readers offer for about the same price.
The operating system you use, the type of card installed, and the formatting of the drive can all affect the FireWire Keychain’s performance. The units we tested came formatted for both Mac and Windows. Reformatting them as HFS+ cut read and write times in half. Compare: the 20GB LaCie PocketDrive (Reviews, January 2002) read, wrote, and duplicated a 50MB file in 19 seconds, while our fastest Keychain configuration, with a 256MB CompactFlash card, clocked in at 65 seconds.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The FireWire Keychain is the smallest FireWire drive we’ve seen. If you have large-capacity memory cards gathering dust, the FireWire Keychain is a great way to put them to use. If not, you can get more for your money by buying a standard portable FireWire hard drive.