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- Fast FireWire 800
- Cables included
- Timemachine ready
- Packed with tons of software
- Quality build
- eSATA requires an external power source
- eSATA performance disappointing
The Bottom Line
OWC’s Mercury Elite line is a fantastic place to find quality and speedy accessories for your Mac or Windows box and this portable hard drive is not exception. Even though the eSATA figures didn’t impress as they should have, truth is, this a portable device that will encounter more FireWire and USB than eSATA which nearly negates the offense. You will not be disappointed slipping this hard drive into your pocket.
The OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini is fitted with a “Quad Interface” on the back that runs off the bus power of your FireWire or USB ports. OWC packed everything you’ll need in the box including high quality double shielded USB, FireWire 800, and eSATA cables. You will also find a DVD-ROM packed with Intech’s SpeedTools, Prosoft Engineering’s Data Backup for OS X, NovaStorBACKUP for Windows, Carbon Copy Cloner – a favorite of mine – and over 2 GB of other goodies. Inside the slick “aircraft grade machined aluminum enclosure” of the Mercury one would find a 2.5″ SATA hard drive (OWC also offers solid state drives), a translucent blue activity LED, an ultra-protective shock system, and ports for connecting the mini to your computer. You will not find a fan in the super quiet unit since OWC uses the enclosure to rid the unit of heat build up from either the 5400 or 7200 RPM drives. When attached to your computer, instead of the standard OS icon, you’ll see a picture replica of the OWC Mercury Elite AL Pro mini – that’s a mouthful – on your desktop. Ya, between the blue LED and that, it makes the Mercury just that much cooler.
I hooked up the drive to USB, FireWire 800, and eSATA for some testing via the accompanied SpeedTools. You can see the results below. The USB 2.0 figures are what you would expect, slow, but not terribly slow. FireWire 800 was a third of the time of the USB, what one would expect from the fast protocol. eSATA, basically like having an SATA internal drive to your system externally, was surprisingly slower than I would have thought with the real world test even though SpeedTools indicated it to be the quickest. I used a ripped DVD to test the transfer speeds for “real life” situations and the 6.35 GB folder took about 2 minutes with FireWire 800 and a hair under that for the eSATA. I was really expecting something quicker, at least by 30 seconds, but after testing the transfer a few times, even with a different test folder around the same size, the results were always the same. eSATA just didn’t impress in its speed when transferring files between drives.
Now, granted most systems will not even have an eSATA port, my Mac Pro didn’t and thus I used OWC’s own NewerTech eSATA 6G PCIe 2.0 Controller Card for the testing, so this may not be an issue for most. However, if you do have such a port, taking advantage of the speed gains of the protocol would be a great thing especially if you have a large mass of data to move over to cut down on your wait time. To add to the dismay, you have to use an external power source such as a non-supplied AC adapter or you can use the FireWire 800 cable to grab power off the bus of the host computer. With all those wires and you only are getting about the same speed of FW800, why bother with eSATA? To be fair to OWC, the drive in my test unit was rated at 5,200 rpm which does have effect on the read / write performance. You can opt for a smaller capacity drive with a faster 7,200 RPM drive.
The Mercury Elite AL Pro mini really excels in its small foot print and ability to stay cool. I was able to use this drive for many things and easily brought it with me places as it simply slipped into my jeans pocket with ease. Most have USB cables, but wrapping up one and putting them in your pocket with the drive doesn’t add bulk. It was great to pull it out of my Levi’s and watch the surprised look of people when they realized I had a hard drive in my pocket. No, you won’t be able to make crass jokes with this on your person, unless you want to make yourself to look foolish.
I really loved this drive outside of the eSATA performance. Plugging it in and the Mac immediately asking if you’d like to make the drive a Timemachine drive is nice. It’s small compact size allows you to bring a bulk of data with you just about any where you go, easily. It looks super slick in its aluminum shell and that blue LED is just so sticking cool. Not to mention the fact that OWC packs a ton of software such as Audacity, Handbrake, VLC Media Player, Cocoa Mad Race, SuperTuxCart, Cyberduck, Adium, smcFancControl, SuperDuper!, Chicken of the VNC, Growl, MenuMeters, NeoOffice, Apple updates, and even Apple commercials dating all the way back to the famed 1984 Mac spot is amazing. Sure, you can get this all on your own from many public domain sites, but come on, it’s all there for you already. And the 1984 commercial? Sweet!
Test Results (FireWire 800)
Test Results (USB 2.0)
Test Results (eSATA)
Note: The following are benchmarks for different drive speeds and interfaces:
5200 FW800 81.24 MB/sec READ 76.34 MB/sec. WRITE
5200 eSATA 89.53 MB/sec READ 87.996 MB/sec WRITE
7200 FW800 81.83 MB/sec READ 77.96 MB/sec WRITE
7200 eSATA 109.93 MB/sec READ 109.25 MB/sec WRITE
Editors Note: The review was updated on 7/1/2010 at 22:01 to reflect the drives capacity and slower spin rate to account for slower eSATA times with added comments in the second and third paragraphs. Additionally, benchmark findings are pointed out in a note following the test results above.
Test Unit:: 1TB with 5200RPM hard drive
Price: $79.99 (0 GB) – $269.99 (1 TB)
Platform: Firewire400/800/USB 2.0/eSATA running on a Macintosh or Windows system. See site for specific OS, processor, and memory requirements.
Website: Product Webpage