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Old 20th January, 2005, 04:27 AM
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Macally Firewire 800 external enclosure review

About a month ago, I bought a cheap hard drive and a cheap USB 2.0 enclosure to put it in. I got the two and hooked them up to my laptop. They produced the desired effect, but unfortunately the speed was nowhere near satisfactory. I finally got fed up the other day and put out the money for a firewire 800 enclosure.

The first thing I noticed about the enclosure was it's weight. While not extremely heavy by any means, it is at least twice as heavy as the old USB 2.0 enclosure I had. I soon found out why. Not only is the Aluminum thicker than it was in the old enclosure, but it's longer than the old enclosure. Length is shown in Picture 1 The reason for the extra length presented itself as soon as I opened the case. This firewire 800 enclosure has plenty of extra electonic components as shown in Picture 2. My old enclosure had only the bare minimum to function. It turns out that the electonics in the FW800 enclosure have multiple benifits, which will be discussed later.

Installing the hard drive was a snap as expected. One thing I thought was very interesting was the method they used to secure the hard drive in the enclosure. Instead of screwing it right to the metal, they added thick and flexible rubber washers on the ends of the screws (picture 3.) This helps reduce the noise to a level where I can barely hear the drive spinning up. With music on at a reasonable level, you'd have to try hard to hear the drive. This was a plus because in my old enclosure you could hear everything. I soon had everything assembled and ready to go.

Picture 4 shows the enclosure in its stand, with a view of the rear of the device. The enclosure has 2 Firewire 800 ports and 1 USB 2.0 port. These enclosures are stackable and if I'm not mistaken FW800 allows something around 70 devices to be daisychained. A quick inspection of the box showed all the cables you'll ever need: an AC adapter, a Firewire 800 cable, a six pin Firewire 400 cable (FW800 is backwards compatable) and a USB 2.0 cable for those without Firewire ports on their computer. I plugged the thing into my Powerbook with the Firewire 800 cable and the drive mounted right away.

After partitioning the drive, I decided that my first test would be to clone my laptop's drive using Carbon Copy Cloner. Using the USB 2.0 enclosure to do this was painful; I had to leave the computer on overnight the first time in order for it to finish. With Firewire 800, it had all 25 GB sucessfully cloned in an hour. (CCC not only copies all files but verifies them.) I then copied all my home movie files to a seperate partition on the external drive. It had all 6.5 GB copied in less than 5 minutes. Running XBench showed a transfer rate of about 55 MB/sec. That is MUCH faster than my USB 2.0 enclosure, which couldn't quite reach 5 MB/sec (though that may have a lot to do with Apple's USB2 drivers.)

Later, I found out one feature that I like a lot: this enclosure allows the hard drive to spin down. My USB 2.0 enclosure didn't do this, leaving the drive running whenever it was plugged in. This created a lot of heat, which stayed in the old enclosure. On that point, this new enclosure is also a pro. It never ever gets even close to as hot as my old one used to. This new enclosure just has vents for heat to escape from and also has a bit of space between the drive and the aluminum, allowing heat to dissipate more rapidly and efficiently. The last part of this drive that I should mention is the fact that it's fully bootable. I love this because this can let me test things out on my computer without fear of screwing things up, as I can just clone everything back.

All in all, I love this thing. It's a little pricy at $77 US (Newegg.com), but it was well worth the money. I'm now able to edit video without taking up precious space on my laptop drive. I strongly recommend this drive for anybody currently looking for an external storage solution. That being said, I'd like to add a disclaimer. These tests were all performed on an Apple computer. I don't think many (if any) WinXP computers come with FW800 ports, though I know you can get them. Some things (like drivers) may limit your performance on a WinXP computer.

Hard drive used: Maxtor 120GB 7200RPM UATA
Enclosure: Macally PHR-100ACB
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Macally Firewire 800 external enclosure review-1.jpg   Macally Firewire 800 external enclosure review-2.jpg   Macally Firewire 800 external enclosure review-4.jpg  
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Old 20th January, 2005, 06:27 AM
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Old 20th January, 2005, 07:13 AM
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Very informative, well done!
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Old 20th January, 2005, 02:59 PM
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Great Job there bud!!!
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Old 21st January, 2005, 01:45 AM
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isnt usb2.0 faster than firewire 800?

EDIT: mjust realized its firewire 800 not 400 so whats the speed difference here?
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Old 21st January, 2005, 03:31 AM
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USB 2.0 is rated at 480 Mbits/Sec transfer rate. Also, USB is a Master/Slave architecture, where the controller in the computer is the Master, and is thus responsible for handling all transfers on the bus. This makes USB devices easier and cheaper to implement, but limits their performance somewhat because of greater overhead. Firewire is a peer-to-peer architecture, so each device is intelligent and the devices can handle bus arbitration and such like on their own. This makes the Firewire devices more difficult and expensive to impliment, but also makes them more robust and able to perform better.

It's kinda like IDE vs. SCSI. Each is good for what it is designed to do, it's just a matter of finding the best tool for the job.
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Old 21st January, 2005, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ELRocco
isnt usb2.0 faster than firewire 800?

EDIT: mjust realized its firewire 800 not 400 so whats the speed difference here?
As already dicussed I guess its what you use it for, however I have foudn that on the pc the firewire connection updates my ipod faster than the usb 2.0 connection can?
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Old 23rd January, 2005, 04:13 AM
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Today I did a bit of benchmarking with my computer, but I paid particular attention to the HDD benchmarks. I compared my internal disk drive to the new external setup and I have to say that the results are quite interesting. Before we get into analyzing the numbers, I should get a few things out of the way.

The internal drive is a Hitachi 80GB UATA/133 drive running at 4200RPM.
The external drive is a Maxtor 120GB UATA/133 drive running at 7200RPM w/ 8MB cache.
I'm not sure what the cache size is on the internal drive, but it would be safe to guess that it's a 2MB cache.
You must keep in mind that the OS was running on the internal drive while performing these benchmarks.

The 4k block comparison chart isn't all that striking (save for the last test.) It doesn't seem as though the external drive is THAT much faster at this point. In fact, the internal beats the external by a fairly wide margin in one test.

The 256k block comparison chart is much different, though. The internal drive gets blown away in each of these tests. One look at the chart reveals the internal drive as the clear winner.

I observe a few things from these tests. First is that the external drive doesn't differentiate itself much from the internal in tests with a small sized file. However, the external drive seems to be of increasing usefulness in accessing large files. This revealed the setup's excellence in it's primary purpose: storing and retrieving movie files. DV movies, as many of you know, are huge files. It seems importing DV files straight to the external drive and leaving them there for editing is not only a great way to keep plenty of free space on my internal hard drive but also for faster editing.
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Old 23rd January, 2005, 04:44 AM
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Looks like you got what you bargained for! ":O}
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Old 23rd January, 2005, 05:19 AM
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To be fair, though, the internal drive is running at nearly half the spindle speed. That will have a direct impact on sustained drive transfer rates.
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Old 23rd January, 2005, 08:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gizmo
To be fair, though, the internal drive is running at nearly half the spindle speed. That will have a direct impact on sustained drive transfer rates.
Of course. That's why I made sure that everyone knew that these hard drives weren't equal to begin with. I'm not telling everybody to go out and buy one of these things right away; everyone here most likely has a 7200RPM drive in their desktop computer anyway. It's merely a basis for comparison.

If I could have done so, I would have connected this to my desktop computer, which has a very similar drive running in it. However, the fact of the matter is that no PCs (that I know of) come standard with Firewire 800 ports, leaving me with no option but to test with my laptop's internal drive.

For these purposes, comparing the same drive in the USB 2.0 enclosure to it in the FW800 enclosure would have been better. In fact, I actually benchmarked it in the USB 2.0 enclosure. I accidentally lost the sheet that I put the results on, though. Maybe I'll benchmark the same drive and enclosure using the USB 2.0 connections instead of the FW800. I'll leave that for another day; it's 2:15AM here and I'm off to bed.
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Old 23rd January, 2005, 08:35 AM
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Sorry. I couldn't wait. I'm also not that tired. I performed FW800 to USB 2.0 comparisons. Here they are. One thing to consider: I hear that USB 2.0 drivers are a little slower on the Mac than they are on the PC. Makes a little bit of sense, as Apple really is the company who pioneered Firewire technology. So, the performance I get here is not necessarily what you'd get on your PCs.
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Old 23rd January, 2005, 05:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fantomfreq
Of course. That's why I made sure that everyone knew that these hard drives weren't equal to begin with. I'm not telling everybody to go out and buy one of these things right away; everyone here most likely has a 7200RPM drive in their desktop computer anyway. It's merely a basis for comparison.
Sorry, I didn't mean to sound like I was criticizing, because I wasn't. I was just trying to underscore the point that you were making.
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Old 23rd January, 2005, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fantomfreq
Sorry. I couldn't wait. I'm also not that tired. I performed FW800 to USB 2.0 comparisons. Here they are. One thing to consider: I hear that USB 2.0 drivers are a little slower on the Mac than they are on the PC. Makes a little bit of sense, as Apple really is the company who pioneered Firewire technology. So, the performance I get here is not necessarily what you'd get on your PCs.

This is still interesting. The FireWire connection is performing nearly 3x better using the SAME drive?! Something in the neighborhood of 2x would be expected, because of the difference in bandwidth. Sounds like we may be seeing the difference in drivers that you are talking about, as well as possibly the difference in the USB vs. FireWire communications mechanism (Master/Slave vs. Peer-to-Peer)?
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