In terms of the market it's trying to reach with the Floppy Plus, it's arguably fair to say that Iomega's Floppy Plus isn't really a floppy drive; it's more of a multi-card reader that just happens to have compatibility with floppy disks. Quite whether the floppy addition is actually a worthwhile thing is rather open to debate; a quick poll around ZDNet Australia's offices found that most users hadn't actually touched a floppy for a number of years. Multi-card readers of the type that are included with the Floppy Plus are, however, a hot commodity item, especially if you own multiple digital cameras, PDAs or other items that rely on portable storage.
The Floppy Plus sits 1 inch high and weighs in at 340g, which makes it about the same weight as many add-on USB floppy drives supplied with notebooks. As multi-card readers go, however, it's on the big and bulky side. Its silver coating should match up well with many modern notebooks of either the silver or black variety, but you will need a little extra desk or lap space to accommodate it comfortably. Aside from the floppy drive that sits at the bottom of the card slots, the Floppy Plus manages its seven media types (Compact Flash, Microdrive, SmartMedia, MMC, SD, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro) via two slots -- one to cover CF and Microdrive cards, and one for everything else. While that does give it a cleaner overall appearance, some users might be better off purchasing a multi-card reader with separate slots if they're likely to need to shuffle files quickly from multiple card sources.
The Floppy Plus is host powered, which is a plus for anyone considering it as an add-on to a notebook with a spare USB port, but there is one catch here. The supplied manual notes that due to power issues, it's unwise to use the floppy drive at the same time as any MicroDrive is reading, or vice versa. The Floppy Plus is not compatible for writing to Imation's SuperDisk floppies.
The supplied software CD features drivers for Windows 98 or better; installation of drivers includes a system reboot, although the manual could do a better job of explaining who needs to actually install drivers -- we tested with two Windows XP systems, one of which had the drivers installed properly; both worked equally well at detecting the drives, which suggests that, contrary to the onscreen instructions, it's a step that Windows 98 users will only need to undergo. Once installed you'll see three additional drives pop up, with the floppy taking either A: or B: (depending on if you have an existing drive) and the two card slots pitching in after any other drives. Aside from a PDF user guide, you also get a copy of Adobe Photoshop Album SE on the supplied CD.
While the Floppy Plus proudly boasts that it's USB 2.0 full-speed compliant (up to 12MB/sec), you're unlikely to get that kind of performance from any type of media card inserted into it, and especially not from the floppy drive. Each of the card types it accepts will drop out at varying rates; we tested with a 1.3MB file (to keep the floppy drive in our test group). As expected, the floppy transfer was the slowest, clocking in at 53 seconds. Copying to a CompactFlash card or an SD card took a little under 2 seconds. Copying to a standard Memory Stick took a little longer at 3 seconds -- still well clear of the floppy, of course.
It's somewhat hard to see the exact market that Iomega's pitching for with the Floppy Plus. At AU$99, it's a tad more expensive than most standalone multi-card readers, and while that does cover the cost of the floppy drive component, we're not that sure it's such a compelling component that consumers are likely to jump at the chance to own one, especially as it's not designed in such a way that you can use the floppy and memory card slots simultaneously.
Iomega Floppy Plus 7-in-1 Card Reader
Distributor: Selected resellers
Phone: (02) 8875 7851