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Maxtor 1394 80 GB External Storage

Richard Price
6 December 2000

Maxtor 80 GB External StoragePC users have never had much choice with external devices. There was either SCSI which never exactly took off with Windows, or USB which while convenient is rather slow.

Maxtor aims to change this with the release of high capacity external drives that use the speedy IEEE 1394 interface.

IEEE 1394 technology may not be too familiar with Windows users but it has been around for some time. In the Apple community it is better known as Firewire, while Sony refer to it as iLink.

Whatever it is called, it is fast! The Maxtor external drive offers data transfer rates of up to 400 MBPS --- about 30 times faster than USB.

Connecting the Maxtor 80BG drive to my system was a piece of cake. It took a bit longer than installing a USB device, but only because I had to first install a 1394 PCI Adapter Card.

Most Windows systems don't have a 1394 port so anyone looking at purchasing one of these drives will probably have to install an adapter card as well. Maxtor has anticipated this and also sell a 1394 PCI Adapter Card that adds two ports to a PC. Purchase the drive this December and the adapter card is free.

Maxtor also have a Type III PCMCIA card for laptops. Once the card is installed the ports can also be used with other products that support Firewire such as digital video cameras and audio equipment.

Yes, installing once of these cards involves opening up the computer, but it is not rocket science. The card plugs into a vacant 32-bit PCI slot on the motherboard and the ubiquitous Windows Wizard finds the necessary drivers on the Windows CD.

The version of Windows 98 on the test PC had no trouble recognizing the drive once I rebooted my system. It is now happily working away as a secondary hard drive. An external Iomega Jaz 2 GB USB drive is also still working and there is no conflict when using other USB devices on the computer.

Maxtor has set the drive up with one large FAT 32 partition. I never bothered to change this because I prefer to have a hard drive with a lot of folders as opposed to a lot of extra little hard drives.

The Maxtor 1394 is based on Maxtor's Diamond Max hard drive and has a speed of 5400 RPM. This 80 GB drive is wrapped in a stylish, translucent, plastic case with some grey trimming.

There is an external power source and a small red light indicates when this surprisingly quiet drive is operating. The cases are designed to be stackable.

I wasn't game enough to drop it but it looks sturdy enough to withstand being left on a designer's workbench.

80 GB is a lot of space (think 20,000 four-minute MP3 files or 8000 high-resolution digital photos). But if this is still not enough, further units can easily be chained together to increase capacity.

Like USB, these devices are hot-swappable and there is no need to shut the system down when connecting them. Before removing the unit it is necessary to use the Unplug or Eject Hardware icon added to the system icon tray.

My guess is that the relative high capacity and fast transfer rate will appeal to video editing enthusiasts or digital musicians.

Minimum requirements for Mac users are a G3 and Mac OS 8.6 or higher. Windows users would need version 98, ME or 2000, a Pentium II PC and 32MB of RAM

Price AU$899; 1394 PCI Adapter Card AU$129



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