The progressive users have been long waiting for this and finally their patience has been rewarded: the two high-speed interfaces, USB 2.0 and IEEE1394, got widely spread in the industry. So, the hard disk drive manufacturers got a plenty of opportunities to develop external storage solutions. These devices have always been greatly demanded, however, they couldn’t spread that widely because of the limitations imposed by the bandwidths of the existing interfaces. I am not talking about SCSI here, because these storage solutions and controllers are pretty pricy. Moreover, this interface is not a very common thing for a user PC. It took about a year for this kind of revolution to happen and to make USB 2.0 interface (and sometimes also FireWire) a traditional feature of every contemporary mainboard.
Today’s hard disk drives appear much faster and more efficient even when they are designed as external solutions. However, despite high theoretical bandwidth of USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces, which is 60MB/sec and 50MB/sec respectively, the actual numbers are somewhat lower and the HDDs performance still gets somewhat limited. Nevertheless, despite all these limitations, the HDDs performance got notably higher when they shifted from the popular USB 1.1 to USB 2.0 and FireWire. This fact as well as the growing user interest to devices with larger storage capacity was one of the reasons for external drives to come out, which would allow transporting large amounts of data from one PC to another. Another aspect stimulating the shift to new interfaces was the opportunity to work efficiently in the applications using very actively the external storage subsystem. We shouldn’t also forget about such a great feature of USB 2.0 and FireWire as “hot swap”, which is very important for fast and efficient work.
The cut-throat competition forced HDD manufacturers to start offering the users their own models of USB 2.0 or FireWire devices, because they didn’t want to share the revenues with other companies offering external solutions based on the drives from the leading HD makers. There are a few very interesting solutions among the existing external drives from both: technical and esthetical points of view. We have already introduced a few of them to you, so please check our Storage section for more details.
Today we are going to compare the functions and performance of two external solutions from Maxtor and Western Digital, which support both high-speed interfaces. The Western Digital solution tested with the USB 2.0 controller from VIA performed somewhat slower than we had expected it to, so that we started doubting if we had to blame the hard disk drive for that. This is one of the reasons we undertook a second test session, when the USB 2.0 drives worked via the controller integrated into the ICH5 South Bridge.