I bought this drive, like most people, to accompany my Mac Mini and it has served me pretty well. The obvious attraction is that it is designed to fit on top or underneath the Mac Mini and match its brushed aluminium and white plastic looks. I think this makes a fantastic addition to the Mac Mini or other small desktop, laptop, or notebooks for whom a lack of both storage space and connectivity is a problem as this provides a nice amount of both. It's 3 USB ports and 2 Firewire 400 ports have come in incredibly useful in connecting all my peripherals over the past few years.
The down sides are that it is a little loud and can get a bit hot. I used this drive for recording music and found that the sound of this hard drive doing its thing found its way on to a lot of my musical output over the last couple of years. The extra heat from stacking the drive made my Mac Mini's fan work a lot harder which again was pretty noisy - probably quite a bearable level of noise for most but not for its primary intended use.
That said, I would still recommend the MiniMax as I believe the combination of USB, Firewire and storage space will probably not be found for much cheaper or in a smarter looking package.
WHY DID I BUY IT/WHAT IS AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE?
External hard drives, whilst a relative unknown not too long ago, are now fairly big business in the world of electronics, with numerous different brands competing for your money. The basic idea behind them is that they act as a backup for the files on your computer, so that if the worst should happen and your computer drives break or become corrupted, you can always recover your precious photographs, music, documents and so on from the external drive sitting next to your computer. In a world where people are storing increasingly large amounts of information on their computers, external hard drives are becoming a must have accessory to act as peace of mind in case something goes wrong, and perhaps rightly so.
Personally I bought the Iomega Minimax Desktop Hard Drive for exactly that reason. I had just bought a MacBook Pro, which as well as being a pricey item in itself, was also to ultimately be used to store a large amount of personal files on, including vital work documents, photographs, and music. Whilst I had every faith that my newly purchased Apple product wouldn't break on me, I thought that the price of an external hard drive was a small one to pay for that piece of mind. I will confess that my path to buying this particular hard drive was not extensive; it is one of Apple's recommended products (it is actually designed to sit on top of the Mac Mini), and after scanning some positive reviews online, I took the plunge.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS/VITAL STATISTICS
The Iomega Minimax is a compact little unit, measuring approximately 16cm x 16cm square and being about 3.5cm high. It is white on top with silver trim around the sides. As should be obvious, it is nice and neutral in colour and will look right at home next to the majority of computers. There is no option to stand it up on its side as there is with some of its competitors. However, this really isn't necessary, as the square design is convenient enough to fit pretty much wherever you need it to go, including for stacking on things and having things stacked on it (though with the latter I would recommend very lightweight items only).
In addition to the basic design, there is also a small slit blue light on the front of the unit below the logo, which illuminates when the drive is turned on. The light isn't too bright or distracting, though is perhaps not as subtle as it could be. Personally I've never had any issues with it though, and I wouldn't particularly consider it to be a negative.
The on/off switch is located on the back of the unit to the right, which is as convenient a place as any, and the AC point which connects to the mains. They are joined by an impressive array of four USB ports, a USB 2.0 port (which is a different shape) and three Firewire ports (which do the same job as USB ports essentially, but transfer data quicker). In other words, this hard drive should be able to handle anything that you want it to in terms of multiple connections. I have only ever used it to connect to a single computer via a single Firewire port, though it is clearly capable of handling more ambitious use than that.
SETTING IT UP AND TAKING IT FOR A SPIN
The Iomega Minimax Hard Drive has its own independent power supply, as opposed to being powered directly through a USB cable (as is the case with portable external hard drives), and therefore it has to be plugged into the mains to work. However, once it is plugged in it can then be switched on and off via the switch at the back, which means no bending down to switch it on and off at the mains.
Once the unit is switched on and connected to your computer (via either a USB or Firewire cable) it should immediately be recognised and pop up as an icon. At this point it is effectively set up, and you should be ready to drag and drop items into it as and when you wish. However, nowadays it is possible to set up external hard drives to back up your computer automatically. How this works varies depending on your operating system (Macs do it via Time Machine), but whichever way you do it the Iomega Minimax can setup to work in this way with just a few simple clicks. It can then work away in the background without you having to do anything. For those who want to use it for more technical purposes, for example to backup a Playstation 3, it can of course be formatted however you wish, and therefore has a large degree of flexibility.
A common problem with external hard drives is that they are noisy, especially when writing data to the drive. Fortunately there are no such worries here. The Iomega Minimax does make some noise when it's initially switched on, but otherwise works away very quietly. If you listen carefully you can hear it, but I can't say it has ever come close to distracting me when I'm using my computer, so in this regard the hard drive has to get top marks.
Of course it is fair to say that a hard drive would be remarkably ineffective in terms of giving peace of mind if it was prone to breaking itself. And indeed, external hard drives do not have the best track record in terms of how long they last. However, I again have no complaints in this regard in relation to the Iomega Minimax. I have owned it for about two years and it still works as well today as it always has done. Admittedly I only turn it on when I want it to back up my files (perhaps once every few days on average), and then turn it off when it has finished, but I wouldn't recommend keeping an external hard drive on indefinitely in any event. Providing you use it how I have done, I would expect that the Iomega Minimax should last quite a while.
In terms of physical durability, I can't confess to ever having dropped the unit or really banged it in any way. It has survived two house moves in its time, but it was well packed on both occasions. As such I can't really say how well it stands up to physical punishment. However, I wouldn't expect that the average person would want to use this as a rubgy ball anyway, and certainly keeping it away from the edges of things is just common sense. So the only advice I can give is just to be sensible with it.
The Iomega Minimax is my first external hard drive, and the highest compliment I can give it is that it has never given me any reason to seek out a replacement for it. It works quickly, quietly and efficiently in backing up my files, and is a subtle addition aesthetically to my desk. It has never broken or in any way degraded in terms of its performance in two years, and therefore really doesn't offer an negatives in my experience.
In terms of price, the 500GB version of this model has now largely been replaced with the 1TB and 2TB models, which obviously offer more storage. However, if you can track down the 500GB version you should expect to pay £60-£80, which is a little pricey compared to rival models. However, the extra cost is worth it for the reliability factor in my opinion.
All in all there is nothing I can really criticise about the Iomega Minimax External Hard Drive apart from possibly the cost of buying one, so ultimately I can only recommend it.
I bought this drive some time back to go with my Apple Mac Mini. The reason behind this is simple, it's design is planned so that it can sit on top of or underneath the Mac Mini unit, I recommend against this though sadly as when placed underneath the Mac Mini it emits a loud rattle as if the internal components are being pressed down upon, and when placed on top it makes the Mac Mini overheat.
Anyway, sat next to the Mac Mini it still looks pretty cool. You can connect it to your Mac using either Firewire or USB connections, the choice is yours. It is important to note at this point that the external drive can also act as a firewire or USB hub, however the USB hub will only work if connected to your mac using a USB cable, and the Firewire is the same but with firewire. as a USB hub you gain 3 extra ports, as a firewire you gain 2 extra slots.
The device will work on either Windows or Mac operating systems depending on what format you put the hard drive in. After three years my device is still going strong and in spite of the disappointment of not being able to place it in a tower with my Mac Mini it's still a solid device as a whole.