by Andrey Kuznetcov
08/15/2006 | 09:55 AM
Compact external hard disk drives have recently been enjoying a rise in interest from the manufacturers who don’t what to share this market with their competitors. Maxtor, who is about to merge with its ex-opponent Seagate, has also announced such a product. External drives from Maxtor have all been designed in the 3.5” form-factor until now, so the company’s first model with a 2.5” HDD inside looks most exciting to us.
We just can’t help checking it out in our labs.
The case of this drive is made of aluminum with rubber-like inserts in the side panels so that the device didn’t slip out of your fingers. It’s all right from an aesthetic point of view – the drive is designed up to the latest fashion trends in this area. An OneTouch button with a LED indicator of operation mode is located on the front panel; on the rear panel there is a USB port and a power connector. The manufacturer’s name stands out in relief from the top panel.
A 100GB hard disk is used inside this drive (a 60GB version is also available). The HDD has an 8MB cache buffer and a spindle rotation speed of 5400rpm. The average seek time is no higher than 9 milliseconds. I didn’t open the case up for fear of damaging the device, and it was impossible to identify the drive with Windows-based tools, but I am almost 100% sure a hard drive from Seagate is employed in here. Other variants are unlikely in view of the imminent marriage between Maxtor and Seagate. The drive has a USB 2.0 interface that, according to the manufacturer, provides an effective data-transfer rate of 33MB/s. The device is powered by the USB connection and can work normally within an ambient temperature range of 5-35°C. The dimensions of the device are 5.24 x 3.54 x 0.79mm; its weight is 205 grams.
The drive comes with a quick start guide and a Y-shaped USB cable. The latter has two connectors on one end to ensure that the hard drive receives enough power in case the main connector cannot provide it. You will find that an electronic user manual and software is already installed on the hard drive initially. The software allows performing automatic data backup and synchronization while ensuring two-tier data protection with the DriveLock and Encryption features. The System RollBack feature allows restoring the system to a certain state in the past.
The average retail price of the drive is $170 US.
The following testing utilities were used to explore the operating properties of the external hard drive:
The external drive was connected to a mainboard’s USB 2.0 port during the test. Its results are compared with those of an analogous product Seagate USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive that had been tested in our labs earlier. Seagate’s external drive is based on a 100GB ST9100823A HDD with a spindle rotation speed of 5400rpm and with 8 megabytes of cache memory.
Here is the data-transfer graph of the OneTouch III Mini Edition hard disk drive:
You can see that the speed potential of this hard drive is limited by the effective bandwidth of its interface to a speed of a little lower than 31MB/s.
The rest of the tests were performed on a 32GB partition created on the drive. Let’s first see what we have in FAT32:
The results suggest that the new external drive from Maxtor is a little but worse in both the scores than the Seagate which had been released much earlier to the market.
The diagram with the results of the drives in NTFS shows that the Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition is again a little slower than the older drive from Seagate in the High-End Disk WinMark score, which is the more important of the two. The Maxtor scores more Business Disk WinMark points, though.
The diagram that shows the data-transfer speed at the beginning and end of each hard disk helps clear things out. You can see that the external drive from Seagate has better results than its opponent from Maxtor.
Synthetic benchmarks are good, but real-life tests are better yet. I will now compare the drives in the FC-Test utility which performs various operations over five file-sets that differ in the number and average size of files included. The utility measures the time it takes to perform each operation and calculates the speed of the drive. The operations are all performed on one 32GB partition except for the Copy Far operation during which the file-sets are copied from one disk partition to another.
The results of the drives in FAT32 come first.
The first diagram shows the file creation (write) speed. The Seagate is an obvious leader here. The Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition doesn’t look competitive at all.
The Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition is slower than its opponent at reading the file-sets, too. The difference isn’t as big as in the previous case, though.
The Maxtor is slower than the Seagate Portable Hard Drive when copying files within the same partition.
The last diagram shows the speed of the drives as they are copying files from one partition to another, and the Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition is much slower than its opponent across all the file-sets.
Let’s see if it’s any different in NTFS.
The Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition is lagging behind the Seagate in this test, although it doesn’t look too bad in comparison with the opponent in the Windows and Programs patterns.
The Seagate Portable Hard Drive’s read speed is higher in NTFS than the Maxtor’s, but the gap between them is not too big here.
Copying files within the same partition, the Maxtor wins the Windows and Programs patterns that consist of a lot of small-size files.
The Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition is faster when copying the Windows and Programs file-sets from one partition to another. The Seagate Portable Hard Drive is better with the other three file-sets.
The release of a compact external hard drive is an expectable move from Maxtor who has previously been offering a wide range of external devices based on 3.5” HDDs. But Seagate makes external HDDs, too, so it’s not quite clear what’s going to be in the future when Maxtor and Seagate merge into one company and begin selling products under the latter’s brand only. Well, after all it’s the two companies’ business to decide which product lines are going to survive their merger.
On our part, we have made sure today that the OneTouch III Mini Edition is slower than the Seagate Portable Hard Drive. We also advise you to use NTFS on the former drive since it has performed somewhat better with it than with FAT32 in our tests. In the rest of its parameters the new drive is much alike to its bigger mates that don’t have the words “Mini Edition” in their names. The key features of the drive are the OneTouch button that facilitates the process of backing up your data and the preinstalled software that protects your data from unauthorized access. The system rollback feature may also be helpful. The OneTouch III Mini Edition doesn’t need additional power sources apart from the USB, has a cute design and readily fits into your pocket.
So, not a record-setter in terms of performance, this product looks good enough from other points of view. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the money you are asked for it.