Plextor has launched a new family of tiny external hard drives, one of the smallest designs available in a conventional capacity.

The attractively-styled USB 2.0 drives will be available from next month in one of two sizes , the 60GB PX-PPH60U and the 120GB PX-PPH120U, both of which based around a 1.8 inch hard drive, probably spinning at 4,200rpm.

Drives of this size are fairly well established on the market - the company's claim to have created the first "truly pocket-sized external hard disk" is a bit exaggerated - but the new drives do appear to have cut the external casing down to as small a size as is possible with the 1.8 inch drive form.

The exact dimensions are 12mm thick, 90mm long and 62mm wide, with a laptop bag-pleasing weight of just 90g.

Could such drives become the standard for external storage instead of mere curiosities? Given that they are roughly half the size of current external drives based on the 2.5 inch laptop drives, possibly. Capacities for 1.8 inch drives have been increasing recently. Plextor has yet to announce a price for all this shrinking, however, and cost is probably as big a consideration as size for most users.

"The Plextor Pocket HDDs are incredibly useful, offering much more scope than memory sticks with the footprint of a credit card. The fast USB transfer is ideal for transporting multimedia and data files," said Plextor's Rudy De Meirsman.

Interestingly, De Meirsman's point about memory sticks inadvertently draws attention to one of the drawbacks of Plextor's drive in its current form - the lack of any bundled software security.

External drives are still sold on the basis of capacity, case size, and speed of interface, in that order. If the Plextor drive's real rivals are not larger external drives but smaller USB sticks - which are now a perfectly usable 32GB and 64GB in capacity while consuming less power - then perhaps its size is irrelevant.

An increasing number of larger businesses now mandate encryption for all external storage media, something that could only be applied as an extra to the Plextor. SanDisk, by contrast, now builds encryption into its enterprise Cruzer USB stick drives as standard, and has more recently added anti-virus as well.