Hitachi has unveiled a new range of external hard drives that do a little more than providing users with large storage capacities. Available in both desktop and mobile versions, the new LifeStudio drives come loaded with software from Cooliris to help users manage their "digital mess" by pulling together all of the videos, photos, music and documents it can find in local storage, as well as integrating photos from your Facebook, Flickr and Picasa accounts.
All of the media is then displayed on a "3D visual wall" that should make it easier to find and organize files. The software also allows users to access online TV from certain content providers, and can be set up to enable automatic backups. On top of all this, Hitachi is throwing in 3GB of online storage with every drive. This can be bumped to 250GB for $49 per year and all the content will be accessible from anywhere through a browser or iOS app -- on both free and paid versions.
Besides software there are also some unique aspects to the series design. The Mobile range comes in 250GB, 320GB and 500GB capacity points with a detachable 2.5-inch drive that fits comfortably into the cradle, while on the desktop side there are 500GB, 1TB and 2TB variants. There are 'Plus' models for the larger two capacities in each class, featuring a USB stick magnetically mounted on a docking station that can sync with the main drive to take your data on the road.
The USB stick is essentially a microSD reader and comes with a 4GB microSD card as its storage, but you can change this card to upgrade the storage to up to 32GB. Other than these features, the LifeStudio family comes pre-formatted using the FAT32 file system out of the box to fully support both PCs and Macs and connects to your system via a USB 2.0 interface -- there's no support for USB 3.0, eSATA or FireWire, unfortunately. Both the desktop and mobile solutions are available now ranging in price from $80 to $220, depending on features and storage capacity.