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Other Hardware and Peripherals Other Apple systems and peripherals discussion.

Hard drive reviews - 500 GB w/FW 800


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bobtomay

 
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This is a 2 part post.

Have been doing my typical research trying to figure out which drive I want. One of these days (years), maybe I can get out of my PC building habit of needing to check out all the possibilities and reading all the reviews I can find and just pick one. But until then, thought I may as well share my findings with the crowd. And with the current prices, don't see any point not to go with a 500GB drive if you intend to do any video. Also, don't see any reason not to pony up the few extra dollars for FW800. So all drives will have these two items in common.

NOTE: This is not really a review as such, since I have not yet purchased a drive. It is more a review of reviews and some of my observations. For other switchers like me, maybe this can save you the leg work.

First off, I've noticed that not many really know how to read reviews. So, first is a guide to reading reviews. Professional reviewers give you one type of info that can enable you sometimes to narrow down your choices, but end user reviews and hardware forums have, for me, become an important part of my selection process.

So, when you are reading "end user" hardware reviews, any hardware, whether for TV's or in this case hard drives - (you can go on to the 2nd post if you want to jump right to the actual review of reviews)

Do not pay attention to (but do read in case a pattern develops):
A. Single posts about people who got it home and it didn't work. Hey, it happens. And most of the time it is not the manufacturers fault. All manufacturers are going to have a certain percentage of failure. With any manufacturer producing thousands of units, not every device is going to be physically verified to work before it goes out the door. And no manufacturer has control of the care taken of their product during shipping. You can glean info if there seems to be an inordinate amount of failures posted vs. the total # of reviews.
B. Reviewers complaining about not being able to get it to work "the way they want". Most of these are complaining about things the device isn't capable of, and they would have known that if they had just gone to the manufacturers site or read a single review prior to the purchase.
C. Reviewers complaining that they can't get it to work. I have read too many user reviews over the years of building my own PC's and have come to realize that most of these: 1) don't really know anything about hardware/software to begin with, 2) didn't read the manual/guide, 3) read the manual and can't follow instructions, 4) don't know how to do a simple search to find the answer to their (many times supposed) issue, etc. NOTE: There is a lot to learn that is just not in the manuals of specific hardware when it comes to building and/or adding some to computers. If you often find yourself of this type of reviewer, maybe you should take them to heart so you can make sure what you purchase is truly plug and play, no knowledge or skill required, rather than the best for your money.
D. The one and two line posts like "This ........ is a piece of junk. Don't buy it." These provide no help and are basically useless.

Do pay attention to (most of the time):
A. Reviewers that can give you their pros and cons.
B. Reviewers that demonstrate their understanding of the hardware in the review.
C. Reviewers that have experimented with several manufacturers and can list the differences. Not just this one worked and that one didn't - again a useless review.
D. Reviewers that have purchased several of the same type of device. This can be over a several year period for most home users or in the case of some IT guys (and gals) many multiples of an identical item and can report on the failure rate. (At the same time, with this one, you need to realize there are really only 4 hard drive manufacturers left (we'll have 5 as long as Seagate continues to allow Maxtor to operate as a separate competing division). All of them are good at recognizing issues with their drives and typically make corrections in the next iteration. So, a review of a particular drive will not necessarily have anything to do with a newer model. The initial failure rate today really is pretty low with all of them - typically less than 0.5%. Back-up back-up back-up, you don't it's your fault - we've all been warned for years now, so it's not something new.)

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On to the review of reviews. No particular order. Have only considered 500GB drives with USB, FW400 & FW800. For those not familiar with speed of the three primary external interfaces, FW 800 is around double the speed of FW 400 which is about 50% faster than USB. There is also eSATA which on the tests I read was about 3-5% faster than FW800 at writing and 10-15% slower at reading. In everyday use, you might find FW800 maybe 15-40% faster than USB. Where it will really shine is during large file reads, writes and transfers

The Lacie, Maxtor and WD change places in speed tests as to which one is the faster. My guess is Lacie is using a lower end Maxtor looking at the tests. The Seagate 7200.10 and its perpendicular recording sits toward the bottom on most of the tests rarely making it into the top 3. WD and Maxtor really come out the best, with Hitachi, Seagate, Lacie and Samsung bringing up the rear, not necessarily in that order. In every day use, I think they are all fast enough for all but the most discriminating. They are all good enough to let other features or appearance be your guide in making a choice. If you are a video pro and plan on building a RAID 0 array, then maybe you should look up the speed tests for yourself.

Western Digital My Book Pro: 3 yr warranty: $215 at dealmac.com - free shipping (anyone ordered from this company?): $223 at newegg - includes EMC Retrospect Express backup software - probably not that great, but adequate for freebee; LED indicating capacity along with read/write; fanless design; silver plastic case reviewers say match the MacBook Pro; 6 foot cables, while WD says it is stackable would not recommend stacking this drive due to heat; WD claims you can daisy chain, at least 2 reviewers indicated they tried this and it would not daisy chain with another My Book Pro and had to use USB on the second drive, but it would daisy chain with other peripherals - one of them say they confirmed this with WD, another reviewer had bought 4 drives and could only get one of them to mount and returned them all, my guess is same issue here; auto powers on and off with your computer or on connect or disconnect to your computer; Professional reviewers all like this drive, user reviews are about as good as it gets for a hard drive and the negative ones are the typical you should expect based on the quantity of reviews you can find for this drive

G-Drive: 2 yr warranty: $349 and up at g-technology.com, very nice looking stackable aluminum case with rubber feet and heat fins on the bottom; the case is what causes most to purchase this drive to start with; fanless; they're using 8MB cache drives instead of the 16MB drives everyone else is using, and apparently not selling the case by itself; no software; pre-formatted for the Mac; Few professional reviews for any of this manufacturers drives, none for this specific model, but all say they are fast and quiet, even fewer user reviews, but had zero negatives

Lacie d2: 1 yr warranty; they have several versions - all of them 8MB cache; the cheapest of them $228 at newegg, $236 at macmall.com; smart fan; Silver Keeper, auto backup and EMC Retrospect Express software; one of the options includes biometric fingerprint safeguard, a nice feature if you're concerned about access to your drive; a Mac specialty company, not a hard drive manufacturer, they have used drives from several different manufacturers over the years, did not find info on who's drives they are currently using; Pro reviewers like the Lacie, there are a lot of user reviews - and almost 50% negative related to hard drive failure and support from Lacie, sorry this is just too much negative for me, and they must be using low-end drives from whichever manufacturer they buy from or making a special deal so the manufacturer doesn't have to support the drives they sell to Lacie

Fantom Drives G-Force MegaDisk Triple Interface: 1 yr warranty: $223 at newegg: very nice looking aluminum case; best I can tell it has a fan; the only company stating they are using SATA II drives, no other company provides this info and did not find this info either, my guess is all the others are IDE drives; No professional reviews I found for any of their drives, user reviews were few and far between but had an equal # of positive vs negative - not good; one reviewer who opened up the case found the drive to be from a company that supplies refurbished parts - he had enough info to be believable,

Seagate: Industry best warranty of 5 yrs on their internal drives - but no FW800 devices at this time, make sure you check this out, any manufacturer that only lists FireWire - this means FW 400, if it was FW 800, 1394b it'd say so - if you want a Seagate you'll have to purchase your own enclosure or you can check out OWC below.

Hitachi: is not packaging any of their drives in an external enclosure

OWC Mercury Elite Pro: 2 yr on the enclosure, plus another 3 yrs from Seagate on the 7200.10 they are using; $289 from eshop.macsales.com, you can also buy this enclosure for $95 and drop in the Seagate drive yourself - $160 at newegg at a savings of $34);
OWC Mercury Elite Aluminum Pro: same warranty but only $260 with an aluminum case; matches the Mac Pro; you void the 2 warranty by opening the case on either one of them.
Another specialty company catering to Mac owners, but unlike Lacie and others, they not only state which drive is in the case, but also pass the manufacturers warranty on the drive to the end user - a big, big plus in my book; Includes Speed Tools and back up software; 3' cables; Not many reviews really, but with the chipset they are using, it should be comparable to the others; If you want a nice looking case, or just one to match your Mac Pro, OWC is definitely worth a look.

Iomega: 1 yr warranty; $270 from iomega; another 8MB cache; again not a drive manufacturer and they don't share who's drives they are using; that was all I needed to know by this time

Maxtor One Touch III model T01W500: 1 yr warranty; $250 at maxtor or amazon; only includes FW800 cable, no USB nor FW400 in the package, back-up and restore software, hardware drive lock password encryption, ability to sync files between 2 computers, one touch back-up, pre-formatted for the Mac; fan cooling though is suppose to be pretty quiet; This particular drive is pretty new, so not many reviews, of the few that are out there, this device is liked by all except for the bright white light on the front of the unit, another post here by no8rainer says he "turned the hard drive around to face the wall but the thing lit up half the wall". Also, says he found the drive for $179, this makes it a very good buy.

Bottom line after all of this, all the 8MB cache drives are out for me. Lacie has multiple strikes against it. Still in the running at the end of the weekend are the WD, Maxtor and OWC. Come to think of it I guess Maxtor is out also due to the bright white light and only a one year warranty. The Maxtor may need to be left in if you like/need the abiblity to sync multiple computers.

So for me, down to WD and OWC.

Sidenote: at newegg, don't pay attention to the warranty term listed, they show all hard drives as having a 1 year warranty. You need to check with the manufacturers site to verify the warranty offering. edit, 3/22/07 - Have seen newegg make some corrections on this.

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Excellent post, Bob!
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Seemed like lately there have been a couple of posts a week asking about which external drive we all would recommend. Since I almost always do my own research, thought I may as well share my findings and be able to give at least some real info rather than just "I have the.... and it works fine" type of response. There's much more but that was long enough to give everyone an overview of all the available devices out there.

Also, for those looking at purchasing smaller externals (for whatever reason), the basic info still applies. If you are not using your external for video recording / playback or backing up / transferring large files (multi-gig), then I would say (maybe, if you really need to save that money) you can save the extra $$ it costs to go with FW 800.

If you go back checking posts, you will find the most common recommendations here are WD, Maxtor and Lacie with a few buy your own enclosure and separate HD to save some money. First, if you want FW800 with your enclosure, it will cost you more $$ than buying one put together for you already. For smaller drives without FW800, you're only going to save maybe $10-20 and wade through hundreds of enclosures to make a choice. An enclosure with it's own, separate warranty doesn't really seem worth while to me unless you already have an internal drive you want to use.

Personally, cannot recommend any device from a non-hard drive manufacturer that doesn't tell you a) what FW and USB chipset they're using, b) what drive they are using and/or c) cannot pass on to us the warranty from the drive manufacturer. This alone rules out all of them except OWC. OWC is also the only non-drive manufacturer incorporating a top of the line drive into their enclosure rather than the cheaper 8MB cache drives just to save $5-$10. If they are cutting corners here, then where else are they cutting corners in the manufacture of their enclosure?

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Just an update: New one found I didn't see prior:

Another OWC: really looks like this may be the one I end up going with right now.
500GB, FW800, 32MB cache, RAID 0 array, SATA drives not IDE/ATA, still a 2 year warranty on the enclosure and 5 years on the drives - $270
For an extra $50 over the WD MyBook you get RAID, double the cache, for sure SATA drives (have not been able to confirm anywhere whether WD is using SATA or IDE drives in theirs as of yet) and a 2-5 yr warranty vs 3-3.

The WD drives may be a little faster than the Seagates for most things, but don't think the MyBook could keep up with this RAID 0.

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Another subjective review for G-Drive. I have a G-Drive 250 GB Firewire 400. It is very fast, very quiet and I am very happy with it. I agree that the case design, and the fanless nature of the case design, were the first big draws. Then I did the same sort of research you did, and found that they were good performers and people liked them. Finally I purchased. I have been very happy with it. Eventually I bought a second one, and have been happy with it as well.

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Update on my onetouchIII, for some reason, the drive started throwing codes up, so seagate will replace my drive. kinda bummed that the drive is less than a month old and it already has to be sent back


josh
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Just an update on where I am at with my search and a little more recommendations.

Anyone just looking for least expensive option, just get yourself the USB external. Personally recommend the new Seagates or the WD MyBook line since you will get either a 5yr or 3 yr warranty with these for an extra $10-20 over the price of the Maxtor and it's 1yr. Newegg price currently on the WD is $139 for a 500GB USB.

For myself, am torn between getting the OWC AL Pro (is less expensive than the plastic case they are carrying) with eSATA/FW800/FW400/USB which comes with a Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500 SATA drive instead of IDE like most of their other enclosures vs. just buying this case and then getting either a WD SE16 or the WD RE2.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I put to much into my decisions on this stuff.

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Regarding the WD Mybook. I have never had a worse running drive. It often shuts itself off, mid file transfer. Often doesn't mount to mac or windows. If you do get this drive it works best on firewire. I've finally gotten it running the way I want it too and its not turning off as much anymore.

But j2lyk its the LOUDEST Ext HD I have ever owned. My comp. in my room and it drives me insane when I need to do a long file transfer overnight. Most times I will sleep on the couch when I have to do an overnight file transfer.
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Well, here it is 2 months after starting my investigations. You can tell I don't do anything in a rush when it's something I don't need right away. Finally took the plunge with what appears (at least to me) to be the best options at this time.

Went with the OWC Mercury Elite "Quad" Interface eSATA, FW800, FW400 and USB for best compatibility now and in the future. This is one of the few multiple interface enclosures that takes SATA drives and not IDE drives. Price $110 - very reasonable for what it offers.

For hard drive, have gone with the WD SE16 WD5000AAKS - $119. This is their 3 platter design, which has reduced temps, sound and power usage, while providing a higher areal density, thus resulting in benchmarks and transfer speeds meeting and surpassing the Raptor drives. Really wanted to go with a Seagate primarily just for it's 5 yr warranty. But, I plan on this drive being kept in the LR and there were just too many reviews mentioning how loud they were for HTPC use and being returned for other drives due to this one issue. Meanwhile, the loudness of this WD drive was mentioned relatively infrequently and almost no one returning the drive due to this.

Can't wait to get 'em now and test it out with my EyeTV Hybrid and some video editing. Once I get it, will try to do some tests comparing USB, FW400 and FW800 speeds and post back the results.

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Well, some of you probably already know from a couple of other posts, my WD showed up DOA from newegg. The box had definitely been dropped during shipping as one corner was crushed. But no problem, thanks to newegg, had an RMA # within 4 hrs and only 1 e-mail to them on a Saturday. Great company.

Before I could order another, Fry's had a 1 day sale on the retail kit Seagate SATA II 750GB drive for $199 ($280 at newegg and $240 even for the OEM version). At only a couple of pennies more per GB, the ability of storing an additional 40-50 movies on it, and the 5 yr warranty, this was just too good for me to at least not give it a try.

My biggest concern with the Seagate were all the reviews talking about how loud the Seagates are for using in a HTPC setup. Have to say they are very misleading. Right now I have it set up in the TV room, sitting on top of my end table, less than 2 feet away from my ears. Sitting next to it, at 3 AM with not another sound around, yes, you can hear it spinning and on occasion you can hear some clicking during heavy writing. But, it is very quiet, and with the TV on is virtually silent. The WD's in my experience are quieter during drive access, but I am hard pressed to find issue with the Seagate in this regard.

I have done some testing on the drive related to times on the USB, FW400 and FW 800 connections. Did not get an eSATA card to test that, but as you will see, don't believe I would gain any significant times with it from my MBP. At this point have only run tests mainly related to moving files back and forth betwen the drives. Hopefully, at some point in the not too distant future, I will have further tests related to recording HDTV, editing the resulting files and playback. Keep checking back if you're interested in those results.

Ran most of these at least twice just to verify the times were repeatable, particularly where the times were very close.

I also ran tests in both directions; from the internal drive to the external and back. The times in both directions were identical or so close that it could be user error since I was just using the system clock for my tests. Ex. I saw a 1 sec difference on FW800 on both the 1.32GB and the 7.57GB folders

My Pictures folder: only 70MB - about 100 photos, mostly wallpapers
USB - 8 sec
FW400 - 7 sec
FW800 - 6 sec

Copying a folder at 1.32GB, with 97 files, mostly .dmg's:
USB - 1 min 26 sec
FW400 - 59 sec
FW800 - 50 sec

My iTunes folder - 4.03GB, some music, but mainly podcasts in mine, some an hour long and some video, pretty good mixture of file sizes
USB - 4 min 10 sec
FW400 - 2 min 45 sec
FW800 - 2 min 41 sec

A movie file at 7.57GB:
USB - 8 min 9 sec
FW400 - 4 min 39 sec
FW800 - 4 min 11 sec

Using Drive-in to copy a DVD to hard drive:
Movie without copy protection at 4.36GB
To the internal drive - 10 min 29 sec
To external w/FW800 - 10 min 39 sec

Movie with copy protection: approx 7.6GB
To the internal drive - 34 min 30 sec
To external w/FW800 - 34 min 38 sec

So, bottom line translation:
1) Don't buy USB external enclosure. FW400 enclosures are competetively priced nowadays and will consistently cut your transfer times by 1/3 to 1/2.

2) FW 400 vs FW 800 - we are seeing the limitations of the internal 5400 RPM drive in these tests. FW800 with only a 3-15% improvement is probably not worth the extra investment for most of you with a MacBook or MacBook Pro. The FW400 should be quite adequate. For the geeks like me, who just have to have the fastest and/or plan ahead the FW800 probably is worth the litle extra investment.

Maybe someone out there with an iMac or Mac Pro could give us some times using a 7200RPM internal drive to give us a comparison on the FW interfaces.

3) On just copying something from the optical drive - we are definitely seeing how slow these drives are that Apple is using. Even my 3 1/2 year old Sony 4X burner is faster than the drive in my MBP as you can see here. I did not run a test with FW400 on this, but for most work, based on my other tests, do not believe it would be significantly slower than copying to the internal drive.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobtomay View Post

Hitachi: is not packaging any of their drives in an external enclosure
G Tech uses hitachi in their solutions, if I am not mistaken.
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Sweet post! I'm surprised this thread has not had any more hd reviews. I would chime in, but I'm short on time.

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You had to do some digging to find this one.

One thing I can say, this thread does provide some insight into my own methodology prior to purchasing just about any piece of electronics.

And just in case someone is wondering, both that OWC quad enclosure and the Seagate drive, which had only been out for maybe a couple of weeks and held the size crown at the time, have performed flawlessly for the last 3 1/2 years.

I cannot be held responsible for the things that come out of my mouth.
In the Windows world, most everything folks don't understand is called a virus.
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