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We remember when 80GB seemed like an unbelievably huge amount of storage for our Mac. But of course, 80GB now barely covers our collection of Simpsons episodes, not to mention all the other stuff we’ve got crammed in there. But your Mac can only hold so many hard drives. If you’re constantly pushing up against its limits or you want to add a heavy-duty backup, turn to an external RAID (redundant array of independent disks). These boxes let you expand storage with additional hard disks, even backing themselves up by writing the same data to multiple drives.
The Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 includes several RAID format options; connects via USB 2.0, FireWire 400 or 800, or eSATA; and matches the speeds you’d expect on those buses. While the Qx2 lacks some of the refinements of newer dedicated backup systems, it’s a solid performer as a whole.
Your Mac Pro has a new friend. Cute!
Setup is easy. Slide in your disks—the Qx2 holds up to four 3.5-inch drives—connect to your Mac via one of the included cables, pick the RAID setting, and plug in the AC adapter. The manual explains RAID basics to beginners, and the Qx2 supports RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 configurations. Different settings combine the disks in different ways. For example, RAID 0 incorporates multiple disks into a single, big partition, while RAID 1 mirrors data to multiple disks. You’ll have less total capacity, but the automatic backups keep your data secure when one of the drives inevitably dies.
The Qx2 works well but has a few rough edges. The documentation details how to enable different RAID settings by twisting a wheel with a screwdriver, but we had a hard time decoding the chart printed on the box. The enclosure door pulls off instead of gracefully swinging open on a hinge. If you want to remove a drive, you awkwardly drag it out from an off-center thumbscrew. And unlike smarter, more user-friendly systems, this is a basic storage RAID; you can’t add a new drive without reformatting the existing drives.
Admittedly, you’ll forget most of those complaints after finishing the setup and spending time with the drive. It’s a workhorse device, and while the fans rev up while disks are in use, thankfully they’re fairly quiet.
Meanwhile, the Qx2 is plenty fast; we easily captured uncompressed 720p video from a digitizer when connected over FireWire 800, and we copied about 2GB of video files over FireWire 400 in 61 seconds. Expect faster results if you’ve added an eSATA port to your Mac Pro and slower speeds on USB 2.0.
The bottom line. It has a few minor flaws, but the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 is quick enough and big enough for nearly any storage needs.
Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2
USB 2.0, FireWire 400/800, or eSATA port
Multiple connection options. Includes cables for all connections. Can be configured as spanning or RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10.
Can’t add a new drive without reformatting. Minor design gaffes, such as door pulling off without a hinge.