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What it all boils down to.

Firewire based hard drives are just in their infancy right now. They won't really mature until ATA66/100 1394 to IDE bridges are out and the next generation of Firewire doubles the bus bandwidth. Until then, 1394 performance is good, although won't match external SCSI.

This is the first 1394 based hard drive we've had a look at, and we weren't quite sure what to expect in terms of performance. All the components are there for a high performance drive but too often we see great products on paper fall flat on their face in the real world. When we received this drive Maxtor made clear that is a value drive, not a performance drive. Performance would not be comparable to external SCSI. Well, we have to say that performance is much better than expected, certainly well out of the value performance range. It's good enough that it opens many doors for possible uses, everything from video storage and editing to file servers and backup systems.

Under WindowsME we were not too impressed with the performance of the drive, peaking at only 18.5MB/sec and dropping off from there. Certainly those numbers are not bad, but we felt that the drive was not living up to its' full potential. Moving to Windows 2000 and new VIA drivers allowed performance to jump nearly 35%. Now we were beginning to like this drive. We're hearing that performance on MacOS and Linux is also very good. Look for an upcoming article dealing with the new 2.4 Linux kernel and Firewire support.

Under Windows 2000, Maxtor and Firewire technology are staking out performance in external SCSI territory. Traditionally if you wanted an external storage solution, SCSI was the only choice. With the recent explosion in popularity of Firewire, it also has become a viable interface for external drives, opening up many, many more doors. The real benefit to consumers of Firewire is the ability to use standard IDE hard drives coupled with 1394-IDE bridges. In the last year or so, IDE drives have skyrocketed in capacity, and prices have steadily dropped. Cheap, large capacity drives can now be used externally and still have excellent performance. Maxtor is not the first company to take advantage of this, but this will be the first drive widely available at consumer level prices. LaCie and several other smaller companies have been marketing 1394 based drives for some time now, but they never seemed to take off. Maybe the time has come for Firewire to spread its' wings.

After using the drive for a while and seeing much better than expected performance, this drive is almost a shoo-in for anyone needing external storage. We have already looked at performance from the drive, the last component not yet discussed is CPU usage. A typical internal IDE drive utilizes on average around 6% of the host processing time during peak performance, while SCSI clocks in around the 3-4% mark. On our Duron 800 equipped test machine, Maxtor's 1394 external drive utilized on average 6.74% of the processor time during peak operation, as reported by Winbench99.

 

With a MSRP of $400 and a street price of around $370, Maxtor's external 1394 drive is very attractive to those who need large external storage solutions. Performance is comparable to external SCSI, the price tag lower, capacity much greater, and installation a lot quicker.

' This drive kicks some serious booty '

Andrew Oliver
November 21, 2001





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