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The Drive

At the heart of the drive is Maxtor's Diamond Max 80 ATA100 drive coupled with a Symbios 13FW500 ATA to 1394 adapter which forms the actual bridge between the parallel IDE interface and serial 1394 interface. The Diamond Max 80 uses Maxtor's 20GB/platter technology and 4 platters to produce the full 80GB. Spinning at 5400 RPM, the DM80 is currently the largest capacity IDE hard drive on the market, with only the IBM 75GXP coming close.

With a seek time of 9ms and 2MB of onboard cache to help keep things moving smoothly, the DM80 is certainly no slouch in the performance department.

The drive comes pre-formatted with one large 80GB FAT32 partition and packaged with a soap-on-a-rope power adapter and 1394 cable for quick installation. Installation is very straight forward. Plug it in and Windows auto-detects the drive and is ready to go.

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This is actually one of the more attractive external units I have seen in a long time. The semi transparent housing is very reminiscent of iMac components and is actually quite stylish.

As obvious from the design, the case is stackable, saving space in tight quarters. In addition, at only 41x152x219mm the case is small to start with.

This drive is really targeted at two markets - general file servers/data backup systems and home users. Although many consider the 1394 interface to be for digital A/V use only, it has several features well suited to hard drives.

Firewire is Hot swappable, meaning that devices can be added and removed without powering down the computer. This is great for servers where additional hard drive space must be added and removed without shutting down the system. Home users will also appreciate not having to power down the system to remove the drive for storage or transport. Just remember that this is not intended as a mobile drive. You would not want to carry this drive around in a laptop bag all day - the IDE hard drive would very likely have data reliability problems. However, as long as you are careful, the occasional trip is not a problem.

Much like SCSI, Firewire is a 'chainable' system where devices can be linked together over a single bus. Maxtor recommends that no more than 16 devices be present on each chain, but at 80GB per drive, there is a lot of potential for large storage systems.

One interesting combo is Windows 2000's RAID abilities combined with a drive like this. The potential is there for some very, very large volumes. Windows 2000's RAID 1 and 5 support also brings up some interesting backup scenarios for important data. RAID 5 would seem to be the most attractive option, providing maximum performance, fault tolerance, and most user space for the number of physical drives. Granted, there are several other issues such as performance, but we'll deal with that in a minute. In reality 4-5 drives per chain is about the maximum for balancing performance and capacity. However for pure capacity there is really no limit. The sheer expandability of the 1394 interface makes this drive perfect for file servers and backup systems where capacity comes first and speed second.

 

 

The System

 





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