Recently, Seagate announced the GoFlex external hard drives, which are revolutionary in terms of their interface flexibility. Now Hitachi says it has an "industry first" of its own.
The company on Wednesday unveiled its latest in external hard drives, the new LifeStudio family. The drives are available in desktop and mobile versions, which share a new feature: the new Hitachi LifeStudio software designed to help users manage their "digital mess."
Hitachi bundles the software with any new LifeStudio external hard drive and it will launch automatically each time you connect the drive to a computer, be it a PC or a Mac. Apart from making data backup easy, the LifeStudio software is able to quickly find and organize digital content stored on any hard drive connected to the computer. For example, if you have a lot of photos and don't know where they're stored, the LifeStudio software helps find the one you need when you need it by automatically organizing them by date. It will display their thumbnails on a 3D wall in chronological order, somewhat like the Cover Flow feature on the iPod.
The software also integrates with social Web sites, such as Facebook and Flickr, and enables users to manage photo albums on these sites without having to use a Web browser to log in the traditional way. For example, from within the LifeStudio software, you can download your friends' Facebook photo albums. You can also quickly upload a photo to Facebook, view and edit comments on it, and so on.
Once installed, the LifeStudio software will work with any external hard drive; however, you can only get the software when you buy a new LifeStudio drive. Unfortunately for now, the software doesn't work with network storage devices, such as a NAS server.
The second new feature, which is only available in the "Plus" version of the LifeStudio family, is the USB key. It is much like a regular thumb drive, which can be magnetically mounted on the docking station of the new external hard drives. By design, this key holds only information that you generally want to take with you on the go, eliminating the need to carry the entire external hard drive itself. When you bring the key back and mount it on the docking station, its content will automatically be synced with that on the main external hard drive.
The USB key is essentially a microSD reader and comes with a 4GB microSD card as its storage. You can change this card to upgrade the storage to up to 32GB.
Other than these two features, the LifeStudio drives are rather simple external hard drives. All come with just one USB 2.0 connection, and there's no support for USB 3.0 or any other type of connection such as FireWire or eSATA. They are all preformatted using FAT32 file system out of the box to fully support both PCs and Macs; however, this also means they can't handle files 4GB or larger.
Hitachi's new LifeStudio external hard drives, both the desktop and laptop solutions, are available now for $100 to $200, depending on features and capacities.