Product Type: other hard disk drives
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Big and hard
Maxtor 1394 External 40 Gb Hard drive
Member Name: Cheuk
Maxtor 1394 External 40 Gb Hard drive
Date: 18/09/01, updated on 18/09/01 (2103 review reads)
Advantages: Big 40 Gb of storage, Good value for money, Good performance
Disadvantages: No 6-4pin cable otherwise would have been easy installation, Poor Maxtor technical support, No power button!
Well this purchase was only necessary due to my on going problems with my Dell laptop, as a means to back it up. As software gets more and more bloated and storage devices get bigger to keep up, 40 Gb doesn’t sound that big compared to a couple of years ago. Indeed with digital imaging and movie editing, size of files are increasing and a big hard disk is certainly desirable. Upgrading a hard disk is not easy in a desktop system but prices are very cheap. On a laptop this is even harder, on the dell it is quite easy though most only support one such device. External devices are much more expensive but much easier and convenient. Problem with external hard disks have been they are relatively slow due to the data transfer rate between the unit and the PC. USB can transfer about 10Mb/s which is pretty slow if you have a lot of data to transfer, and with 40Gb you would have to be rather patient, still its an advancement over serial and parallel versions.
Maxtor also have a 80Gb version. To play devil’s advocate, most external removable hard drives are really an internal one, stuck in a casing with the relevant ports and power supply bolted on. Some companies off the casing itself so you can purchase a drive to put in.
Firewire vs USB
More recently the firewire or IEE1394 ports are becoming more popular on PCs, especially laptops. The ports are usually standard on Apple iMacs and newer machines. Sony complicates matters by calling theirs iLink. The transmission rate are 30 times greater than USB 1.1, at 400 Mb/s, so more suited to this type of work. Most modern digital camcorders also supports this and are ideally suited. Unlike USB though there is no power supply in the lead and requires an external power source. Linux has just begun to offer basic support for firewire, but not many devices are supported. Macs are well supported. PCs with windows 98
SE onwards should support Firewire, make sure the device is compliant though the Maxtor is. As firewire becomes more and more popular, new PCs will have them standard. Existing users can add a card with firewire support, and Maxtor also sells one of these. Laptop users can purchase a PCMIA card to add the relevant port and support. Another advantage of firewire is like SCSI, you can daisy chain devices together but is much more easier to do so than SCSI, without having to change switches. The drive unit has two firewire sockets, so you can add another firewire device into the back of this slot. You can daisychain another 63 devices, so in theory you can have unlimited storage by plugging in additional units when the drive is getting full. It is also hotpluggable, so you don’t have to switch off the units to connect or disconnect.
Well Maxtor promises a ready to go out of the box experience for PC users. The box contains a sheet of manual, a 6pin to 6pin firewire cable, a CD-ROM for mac users, and the drive itself. The drive is formatted in one partition and ready for use with PCs.
The casing of the drives differ depending on which version you buy. It has a iMac type grey and translucent white case and you can see the drive inside. Doesn’t exactly look pretty though. Its fairly big 41.2 x 152.4 x 219 mm and quite heavy 10.6 oz. But its not designed to be a portable drive for portable users, in fact Maxtor advises against this type of use, as the drive can be damaged. It has 2 IEE1394 sockets on the back, a red light indicating disk access on the front, and a green one for power. Well that’s it, there’s no power switch which is a bit of bad design, as the drive is externally powered it doesn’t power down when Windows is shut down. It has to be done manually, by switching off at the mains, I’ve forgotten to do too many time already! Th
e drive spins at 5400 rpm and has 2Mb of cache buffer, so it should be fairly speedy alongside the firewire connection. Certain magazines have found this drive to be fairly speedy, but not really great for disk intensive applications like movie editing as the drive can’t really keep up, but very good for backing up data. I have found that it sustains a data transfer rate averaging 12Mb/s but it all depends on the sizes of files, this was using a 6-4pin firewire cable, supporting 400Mb/s transfer rates. Small files tend to average around 8Mb/s.
Other specification for techies
Track to track seek 1ms
Full stroke Read Seek <20ms
Average Latency: 5.55ms
This was suppose to be an out of the box job, but it turned to be much more difficult. No it wasn’t that easy for me, in fact it was a few days later before I could actually use the drive. Why? Well Maxtor thoughtfully only supplies a 6pin to 6 pin cable. They could have supplied a 6-4 pin adapter at least. Most notebooks only have a 4 pin socket, so notebook users you have been warned. This means having to purchase a separate short cable creating much more expense, and not every where stocks one, or an adapter, and most places where out of stock even when they do! Maxtor’s technical assistance was not much use either as emailing them for help was practically a waste of time. They do not stock such parts and suggested I contact Dell to find stockists of the cable! In other words its not their problem! I eventually tracked one down at Buy.com (they have several products and its quite confusing to know which one is which) and much cheaper than most places as well, though don’t ask their customer service as they just refer you to Belkin’s web site. Its much cheaper to buy the cable than a PMCIA card with a 6pin socket!
Anyway once the correct cable arrived instal
lation can finally begin. Yes installation was a breeze. Plug in the cable, plug in the power lead, and hey presto, Windows detected it. After installing the relevant drivers and restarting the OS, a new hard drive to use.
The drive is certainly quick for every day use, though backing up Gb of data still takes time. It is fairly quiet, in fact much quieter than the IBM travelstar unit in my notebook, so its important not to move the drive while its in use. The red disk access light isn’t very visible from some angles so its hard to know when its in use. Performance wise is good as mentioned, though haven’t done any movie editing yet. Certainly performs a backup job very well, and as a general drive also.
Well this drive should have had a lot going for it. At this price most drives of this type are only have half the capacity, so this is extremely good value for money. Its not designed as a portable unit for notebook users which is a shame, but a power source also needs to be found. It is extremely easy to install, and performs very well, but the lack of a 4 pin plug is a big minus, and loses a couple of stars for that, considering notebooks are more likely to have a firewire socket than desktops, and are of the 4 pin variety! The lack of a power switch is also a bad design. Otherwise great additional storage power at a great price. The price shown includes next day delivery and the additional 6-4 pin cable, only fair I think considering Maxtor should have included one in the first place! Well is it big enough?
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