by Andrey Kuznetcov
01/29/2004 | 09:45 AM
Among the whole lot of diverse external storage devices intended for transportation of large data packs and supporting USB interface we could give a special place to 2.5” hard disk drives. They steadily occupy a niche in the today’s market, because they boast much higher storage capacity than any of the existing flash-drives, and at the same time they are smaller and lighter than any of the 3.5” external drives.
Wide spreading of USB 2.0 interface turned out a new stimulus for the manufacturers who started developing new solutions trying to win their spot under the sun. We can already buy new models of external 2.5” HDDs, which can work in Hi-Speed USB mode. Today we decided to test one of those solutions developed by Transcend Company. For a more illustrative and interesting test session we will also test one more solution, which we have already introduced to you in our article called Data Storing and Moving: Choose the Best Portable Device Now!. This time, however, we will run an extensive set of tests.
The external drive, which I found in the box, impressed me a lot with its futuristic design. The silver plastic case is decorated with relief figures, which make the case look highly original and easy to recognize. The company name written on the upper part of the case also contributes to the recognizable design. Four small round “legs” at the bottom of the case made of some rubber-like material prevent this case from sliding off the table surface and reduce the vibrations during work. At the very edge of the upper side of the case there are two light-emitting diodes indicating the status of the product during work: they stand for power and data transfer. At the side of the case there are power supply and interface connectors.
The storage capacity of this drive is 40GB and it supports USB 2.0 interface. The manufacturer claims that this case allows using HDDs of up to 160GB storage capacity. I think these words suit mostly marketing purposes, because if this were true, then the ATA-USB bridge would have to support LBA48, so that they could overcome the 128GB barrier. Moreover, you all know that the maximum storage capacity of 2.5” HDDs is only 80GB, and it is still a big question how soon larger models are going to arrive.
The case size is 145x80x17mm and it weighs 105g (without the drive inside), so you will be able to easily install and remove the drive and have it with you in many situations.
Inside the package I found not only the hard disk drive, but also a small leather carry-bag, a USB cable, a power supply cable with PS/2 connector, miniature CD-disk with the drivers and a quick installation guide.
Getting a little bit ahead of time I would like to say that this solution had a Hitachi IC25N040ATCS04 HDD inside, which you can clearly see from the Device Manager screenshot above. Unfortunately, Travelstar 40GN HDDs developed by IBM have already become too outdated. They have very low spindle rotation speed of only 4,200rpm, 2MB buffer and the average seek time of 12ms.
The second external drive taken for a more illustrative comparison during the test session has already been described in great detail in this article, that is why I will simply mention its basic specs and major features this time. Easyharddisk is designed in a flat gray case with yellow sides. At the top there is the product name and Hi-Speed sign. Also there are two LEDs indicating the work mode. The device is powered from the PS/2 port and the power supply cable is equipped with a corresponding plug. The connector for this cable is located at the back of the case, next to the mini-USB port.
The drive we took for our today’s tests is 40GB big. It supports USB 2.0 specification. The size of the case equals 135x75x16mm.
Besides the hard disk the package also contained a protective carry-bag for device transportation, a brief user’s manual, a USB cable, a power supply cable and a CD-disk with the full version of the user’s guide and drivers.
This hard disk drive also uses a Hitachi solution inside: it is IC25N040ATMR04. This HDD belongs to a not very up-to-date Travelstar 80GN family developed by IBM. This HDD model differs from the pervious one by considerably higher data density – 70Gbit/sq.inch against 34Gbit/sq.inch, which definitely implies a significant advantage in the internal data transfer rate.
These are the programs we used for our today’s test session:
Our testbed was configured as follows:
Both external drives were connected to USB 2.0 ports of the mainboard (ICH5) and tested with the OS drivers.
At first let’s take a look at the performance of both storage devices in sequential read and write tests:
To make further discussion easier to understand the best results in the table above are highlighted with blue. As you see, Storage Kingdom Easyharddisk has a word “error” in some cases instead of the number. It means that the benchmark reported an error when we tried writing a data block of the given size onto the drive.
On the read speed graph you can see that Transcend’s solution is somewhat faster than the rival during smaller data blocks processing, and loses a lot to the rival as soon as the data blocks grow bigger.
Since we didn’t manage to get all the results for Easyharddisk we can actually compare the performance of the two only for larger data blocks. Here, Easyharddisk looks definitely better.
In the table below we have the results for both storage devices tested in WorkStation pattern. In this test the drives work under typical workstation load:
You can see on the graph how the two solutions behave with the entire disk space involved into testing. Transcend Portable Hard Disk is evidently slower than Easyharddisk.
The graph for the overall performance indexes shows that Transcend’s solution is about 10% slower than its rival in this pattern.
When we involved only 32GB of the storage capacity of the tested drives, the situation didn’t change even a slightest bit. The performance grew a little bit higher, but the overall picture remained the same. Easyharddisk is still an indisputable leader.
On the overall performance diagram you can see that Transcend’s product is more than 10% slower again.
Now let’s see what results we will obtain in the popular WinBench99 test package. The best results in the tables below are again highlighted blue.
Let’s start our discussion here with the linear read graphs for both drives:
The graphs explain very clearly why Easyharddisk was so much faster than our today’s hero in the above described tests. You see that Transcend’s solution demonstrates much lower internal data transfer rate than the competitor. Together with bigger access time value, this fact makes Portable Hard Disk only the second fastest today.
Let’s check the results shown by our testing participants in FAT32:
The diagram shows that Easyharddisk is in advantageous situation in terms of both measured parameters. It is especially true for High-End Disk WinMark, which we consider the major value characterizing the drives performance in WinBench99.
The use of NTFS file system doesn’t change anything compared with the previous diagram. Easyharddisk remains a steady leader.
When we shift to a 32GB logical partition the situation also remained the same. Again the performance gap between the two drives is quite tangible in FAT32: Transcend is simply unable to compete with Easyharddisk here.
NTFS file system makes the gap between the leader and our Portable Hard Disk even bigger compared with what we saw in FAT32. The “slaughter of the innocents” continues.
This benchmark is closer to life than any other test. We tested our hard disk drives according to the already formed algorithm with the help of five already existing patterns. ISO includes three files, a few hundreds of megabytes each. MP3 pattern consists of a few dozens of files with the typical size varying from 1.5MB to 8MB. Unlike other patterns, Install works with a few dozens of files of various sizes varying from a few bytes and up to 25MB. And finally, the two remaining patterns, Programs and Windows, include hundreds of files which correspond to those you have in the same folders on your own system. The difference between them lies in the file size: those from the Windows pattern are usually smaller (around a few tens of kilobytes). We used FAT32 and NTFS file systems. Before we started, we formatted each of the testing participants as a drive with two logical partitions, 20GB each.
First we created files in the first logical partition of the tested drive (Create). Then the entire set of files was read from the drive (Read). Then we copied the entire file set within the same partition (Copy near). And at last we copied the files from one partition to another (Copy far).
Let’s start our discussion of FC-Test results from FAT32 file system.
Easyharddisk coped better with files creation, which you can see from the diagram.
Reading files from, the drives again shows that Easyharddisk doesn’t yield even a tiny bit to Transcend Portable Hard Disk.
File copying within the same partition is another triumph of Easyharddisk solution, which is an indisputable leader here.
File copy from one partition to another reveals simply unbecoming behavior of Easyharddisk: its performance is almost twice as high!
Now let’s take a look at the results obtained in NTFS file system.
File creation diagram didn’t show anything new compared with what we saw in FAT32. Transcend’s solution again loses dramatically to the competitor.
In file reading we witness another victory of Easyharddisk.
File copy within the same partition again demonstrates the same picture: Portable Hard Disk one more time yields to the competitor.
File copy from one partition to another is the final straw here: Transcend Portable Hard Disk is completely defeated.
Well, I think that you have already drawn all the necessary conclusions yourselves, while reading the article. The thing is that all benchmark results indicated almost indisputable victory of one solution. As you have already understood, I am talking about Storage Kingdom Easyharddisk. It easily defeated Portable Hard Disk from transcend in almost all tests.
Transcend Company released a very nice-looking and easy-to-use product. But this is where I should end the list of its advantages. Portable Hard Disk has no trumps against Storage Kingdom Easyharddisk. To tell the truth, this is a very mild wording for the performance gap we all have just seem during the results discussion. It is probably the outdated 2.5” drive, which is used inside Transcend’s solution that determines such poor results. Keeping in mind that both these models are now selling at almost the same price, $209, the product from Transcend has simply not a single chance to win the competition. Storage Kingdom Easyharddisk drive turns out much more attractive from all considered viewpoints. I don’t think it makes sense to pay the same money for a solution with definitely poorer characteristics. Of course, Portable Hard Disk will be purchased by those user’s who are guided by some formal reasons when making a buying decision, but it will never be demanded by the users who care not only about the name, interface and storage capacity.
I don’t want to be considered a malignant person, so I dare say that it is not a dead end. Transcend Portable Hard Disk will find its niche in this market if the company revises the pricing, namely reduces it. If it cost less, buying it will be a much more reasonable thing to do.