CMS ABSplus (250GB) Review

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$180
Editor's Choice

Pros: Fast read speed; Ability to boot from external drive; One-click recovery; Durable design

Cons: Expensive for the capacity; No Linux or Mac support

Verdict: This compact pocket drive backs up absolutely everything, including your operating system, in case of notebook hard drive failure.

In order to preserve important documents, photos, music, and video, an external hard drive is essential for keeping your data backed up on another source should your notebook suffer from hard drive failure. CMS adds an extra layer of functionality with the ABSplus, a $180 250GB portable storage drive that lets you to stay productive even when your notebook's hard disk gets fried. This device allows you to boot an exact copy of your entire PC (including the operating system) via a USB 2.0 port.

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Design

Measuring 5.0 x 3.0 x 1.1 inches, the gray-and-black ABSplus is bulkier than such svelte pocket drives as theSeagate FreeAgent Go, but at 7 ounces, it's also lighter. The face of the drive features subtle curves reminiscent of a sports car's hood, a black-and-gold CMS emblem, and a blue power light. Flipping over the 250GB drive, you'll find three rubber feet for securing it to a table, as well as a built-in USB 2.0 cable tucked away in a groove of the body. This durable drive is designed to withstand pressure of up to 1,000 Gs.

Upon connecting the ABSplus to ourGateway P-7808u FX(our testbed for storage evaluations), Windows' autorun feature prompted us to install the preloaded BounceBack Ultimate Backup software. After installation, it took approximately 40 minutes for the software to properly format and prep the drive, and then another 63 minutes for it to copy 127GB of system data. During that time, we saw no negative performance hit as we went about our daily activities.

BounceBack Ultimate Backup Software

The bundled software allowed us to do many of the things you'd expect from modern backup software (such as 256-bit AES encryption, viewing and restoring previously saved versions of files, scheduling backups, and incremental file backup). This device differs from others, however, because it lets you boot your Windows XP or Vista system from the ABSplus drive should the notebook's hard drive conk out.

To test this feature, we turned off the Gateway P-7808u FX, removed the hard drive, connected the ABSplus, and powered on the notebook. We hit F10 to force the Gateway FX to boot from an external drive, and then saved the settings. Booting up from the ABSplus drive took 1 minute and 15 seconds, 19 seconds longer than it took to boot into the system using the normal hard drive. Once we arrived at the desktop, we had the option of booting into the PC normally or using Instant PC Recovery, which boots the system from the drive.

Operating within the backed-up computer environment presented no additional challenges; we surfed the Web, checked e-mail, and navigated Windows as we normally would using the internal hard drive. In fact, if it weren't for the Instant PC Recovery desktop wallpaper and an on-screen dialog box that prompted us to either continue operating in Recovery mode or launch the Recovery process (which copies the backed-up information to the PC), we wouldn't have known that we were using an external drive at all.

Fully copying the system back to the notebook took almost as long as copying it to the ABSplus: 1 hour and 21 minutes. Digging even deeper, BounceBack Ultimate let us simultaneously back up files to a Seagate FreeAgent Go drive, and synchronize folders (which allowed us to keep data synced between the Gateway and anAcer Aspire Onenetbook). Although the BounceBack Ultimate software allows users to make a complete backup of only one PC, the drive can be partitioned to save individual data files (such as documents and photos) for as many as three additional notebooks.

Performance

The 5,400-rpm ABSplus didn't disappoint in terms of data transfer speeds. Copying a 4.97GB mixed-media folder (photos, music, videos, and documents) from our Gateway testbed to the portable drive took 5 minutes and 4 seconds--a rate of 16.7 MBps, which is on a par with the pocket drive average of 16.6 MBps.

When we transferred the same folder from the CMS ABSplus to the Gateway, the drive completed the task in just 3 minutes and 5 seconds, an impressive read rate of 27.5 MBps. That's the fastest speed of all portable hard drives that we've tested, and it's 18.4 MBps faster than theSeagate Replica. Unlike the Seagate Replica, you can drag individual files onto this device.

Other Models

CMS offers the ABSplus in a number of other capacities: 160GB, 5,400-rpm ($167); 160GB, 7,200-rpm ($193); 320GB, 5,400-rpm ($193), and 500GB, 5,400-rpm ($200).

Value

When you think about how much you're paying per gigabyte for the $180, 250GB ABSplus, it's certainly more expensive than other more portable external drives. The 500GB Seagate Replica, for example, costs just $20 more, but has double the capacity. What you're paying for with the ABSplus is its BounceBack Ultimate Backup software, which allows you to continue computing if the hard drive goes kaput (the Replica only allows you to copy its content to a fresh drive). If you'd like to use your own drive, the BounceBack Ultimate software can be purchased separately, starting at $89.

Verdict

External storage devices such as the Seagate Replica excel at keeping your data backed up in case of hard drive failure, but very few allow you to actually stay productive should that unfortunate event occur. It's in those moments that the CMS ABSplus proves its worth, particularly to the businessperson who might suffer revenue loss during downtime. It's remarkably simple to boot directly from the drive, as well as access and restore your operating system, settings, and data, which makes it truly disasterproof storage. Our one recommendation is that you spend the extra $20 to double your capacity from 250GB to 500GB.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Capacity 250GB
Rotational Speed 5,400 rpm
Seek Time
Read/Write Speed 27.5 MBps/16.7 MBps
Ports USB
Storage Type
Size 5.0 x 3.0 x 1.1 inches
Weight 7.0 ounces
Company Website http://www.cmsproducts.com