Hard Drive Roundup: eSATA External, UltraMax Desktop, My Book Pro Edition II

Hard Drive Roundup: eSATA External, UltraMax Desktop, My Book Pro Edition II

You're looking at enough storage to hold 280,492 copies of the Dixie Chicks song "Wide Open Spaces."


Here's the problem with hard drives: They fill up. As remote as that concept might have seemed when you bought your Mac ("How can I possibly fill up 100GB?" you might have asked yourself), after a year or more of use, you could very well have run out of room. Your Mac is so packed with digital music, videos, photos, documents, and other files that you can't fit anything else - at least not without seriously compromising performance. You need an external hard drive, and if you don't see yourself cutting down on media files, it's time to consider a 500GB or larger hard drive. You're in luck. These days, you can get a ton of storage for an attractive price.


Iomega UltraMax Desktop. Inside the Mac Pro-esque UltraMax case is a pair of hard drives formatted for the Mac with HFS+ configured as a RAID 0 (a "striped" set, which essentially gives you faster data rates). The UltraMax is ready to go right out of the box, unless you want to reconfigure the UltraMax as a RAID 1 (a "mirrored" set, which allows one drive to mirror the other to protect your data from drive failure). You can also use the two drives without RAID, and they'll appear on your desktop as two 500GB drives.


You can connect to your Mac via USB 2.0, FireWire 400, or FireWire 800, and Iomega was nice enough to include cables. We especially like the three-port USB hub built into the rear of the UltraMax, so if you do decide to connect via USB, you don't lose a port, but actually gain three more. The case measures 9.63 by 4.82 by 3.07 inches.


The drives comes bundled with EMC Retrospect Express backup software. Retrospect works fine, but its interface lacks sophistication.


Western Digital My Book Pro Edition II. The 1TB My Book has the size to match its massive storage capacity - the case measures 6.9 by 6.27 by 4.1 inches. Like the UltraMax, the My Book has a pair of 500GB hard drives formatted for the Mac with HFS+ as a RAID 0. If you want to reconfigure the My Book, Western Digital's RAID Manager software does it easily with a few clicks. Just select the drive in the software, select the file format and RAID configuration you want (RAID 0 or 1), and click the Configure button. The drive also comes with EMC Retrospect Express backup software.


The My Book includes USB, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 ports, as well as cables for each connector. The pair of LED rings that grace the front of the My Book are helpful status indicators. The inner LED circle is a capacity gauge, while the outer LED ring indicates drive activity. Serious geeks will love the My Book's vent holes, which are actually Morse code marketing speakā€”the code spells out personal, reliable, innovative, design, and simple, repeating over and over again.


Seagate eSATA External. A couple of things make the eSATA External stand out in our trio. The major difference is that the drive can only use an external Serial ATA connection. It comes bundled with an eSATA PCI card that you can plug into any Mac with a PCI slot, which means you can use it only with tower Macs and not with the iMac or Mac mini. Also, it's a 500GB drive and it uses a single hard drive instead of the pair of drives in the My Book and UltraMax.


We encountered only one small hiccup when installing the eSATA card in our Power Mac G5: The manual's instructions for installing the card's software drivers aren't correct. We had to fish though the included CD to find the drivers. The eSATA External comes formatted in FAT32, which is a Windows format that the Mac can read and write to. To reformat it, you use Apple's Disk Utility. The Seagate drive includes CMS's BounceBack Express backup software, which we prefer for its ease of use over EMC Retrospect Express.


The speed test. The My Book and UltraMax finished copying a 2GB file in the same time with three different connections: It took 210 seconds over USB, 64 seconds over FireWire 400, and 42 seconds over FireWire 800. Interestingly, the eSATA External took 48 seconds, slower than the My Book and UltraMax drives using FireWire 800 and RAID 0 configurations.


We also used the benchmarking utility Xbench (free, www.xbench.com) to gauge the speed of the drives using each drive's fastest connection. The UltraMax was the fastest, recording a speed of 62MB per second in Xbench's Sequential Uncached Write test over FireWire 800. Second place went to the My Book, which posted a speed of 51MB per second. The eSATA External was rated at 47MB per second. The drives followed the same order when we performed the Sequential Uncached Read test, with the UltraMax at 76MB per second, the My Book at 69MB per second, and the eSATA External at 58MB per second.


The My Book and UltraMax drives were tested using FireWire 800. The eSATA External uses only external Serial ATA.


The bottom line. Of the three drives, we like the UltraMax for its size and performance, though you might want to purchase a different backup application. Try CMS's BouceBack Professional ($39) or Prosoft Engineering's Data Backup 3 ($59).


COMPANY: Seagate
CONTACT: www.seagate.com
PRICE: $329.99 (500GB)
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.4 or later, Mac with an available PCI 2.2 or later slot
Decent speed improvement over USB and FireWire 400.
Can only be used with tower Macs. Manual's instructions for installing the eSATA card drivers are incorrect.



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CONTACT: www.iomega.com
PRICE: $429.99 (1TB)
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.1.5 or later
Comes with USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 connectors.
Bundled Retrospect software isn't a favorite.



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COMPANY: Western Digital
CONTACT: www.westerndigital.com
PRICE: $499.99 (1TB)
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3 or later, USB
Comes with USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 connectors. Nifty LED indicators.
Big, bulky case. We're not too thrilled with Retrospect.





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Read this article, ILouis Vuitton see a lot of things
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It would be nice to see a more recent review of similar products that are more up to date.



Unfortunately the reviews never mention relative noise levels, which is critical in my situation. I have the WDC 1TB drive and when it warms up it sounds like a jet engine at full throttle. How about the Iomega?



I have one and it is indeed quiet. Just the humming of the drives. My G5 quad is noisier.



The eSATA Seagate does work perfectly well - btw - with the DirecTV HR20-700 HiDef DVR. Regardless what any bog box salesman may tell you, the eSATA port is live.



I must say evolution in storagecapacities must have gone in reverse when they came up with that solution. Or maybee you just typed it wrong because it should be saying that it has two 500GB drives right, not 500MB as it says now?! :)

(Fixed Sat. 6/2; thanks. - Ed.)

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