Monday, September 06, 2004

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Firewire 400 + USB 2.0 Combo Kit - FAILS!

Other World Computing- Item Info

[5/05: see also this later discussion.]

Now this might be a contender. OWC is a longstanding Mac vendor with a good reputation. This enclosure has an Oxford 911 chipset -- known to be problematic but at least familiar. They don't bundle Intech but they mention it. The price seems right at $90. It's fanless but they mention heat (at least!) and it has obvious cooling holes. They claim support up to 500 GB (meaning hot drives).

It's one of the few Firewire 400 enclosures sold these days -- so no need to buy a Firewire 400/800 cable or adapter. Includes firewire cable. Also, I have a genuine Apple cable floating around unused.

OWC provides a web page for downloading an Oxford updater.

The assembly directions show real metal in contact with the drive -- so there's HOPE that it won't cook the Maxtor.

All good signs. I'll research further.

Update: I've ordered this drive. They provided an OEM version of the Intech software for $10 (no lifetime updates of course) so I bit on that too. Also a clearance special on a 2.5 drive case, open box, USB only -- for $9. Shipping was $5 for next-day UPS. If this works OWC has made a big fan!

Update: Were I to do this all over again, I'd probably buy a LaCie drive/enclosure unit together. That said, I'm pretty happy so far with OWC. This is not a big operation -- the return address on the plain box had a person's name on the label - presumably the owner, shipper, assembler, etc. The case box was plain white, and completely bare of ANY directions, warrantee, etc. I presume this was a packing error as the web site has quite good assembly directions. In any event this isn't rocket science, Everything was in the box, including extra screws.

Assembly was much more intricate and solid that the CompUSA drive-destructo unit I used last time. Ventilation is interesting and a bit more complex than I'd imagined, it looks like there are a series of plastic baffles to keep dust out. In this case the drive sound is audible in a quiet room. This is a feature -- it means the drive is not completely sealed from the world. The drive/case never gets more than mildly warm. Wow.

With the cheapo cruddy enclosure my large file copy test failed and locked up the system. With this enclosure/bridge set the test completed very quickly and without error. The cheapo enclosure's Prolific PL3507 bridge, and//or the extreme heat, caused delayed and incomplete eject/dismounts. This time the drive promptly dismounted and spun down instantly.

The case is rugged, attractive and very stable with solid and protective bumper/drive stands. It has a slighly eerie bluish glow from the front diode -- an effect wasted on old guys like me.

I'm a happy customer -- even if there weren't any instructions in the box!

Update: This once this looked like a good solution, but it failed the mount, dismount and sleep tests.

In contrast, the LaCie 160GB firewire drive passed all the tests. LaCie does NOT use an Oxford chipset. I think the Oxford chipset does not work properly on many Macs.

Given OWC's 15% restocking fee and the hassles of shipping, I may just use this enclosure with my desktop XP machine. I'm going to buy a LaCie 160GB for my iBook.

Lessons for Firewire and the Mac:
1. It's very problematic -- due to chipset/software issues.
2. Avoid Oxford and avoid Prolific chipsets.
3. Buy an integrated drive/enclosures, don't try to get a random drive to work even with a non-Oxford, non-Prolific chipset.
Update 5/14/05:

The saga continues, now with a new twist. I use removable Vantec drive bay catridges containing 3.5" hard drives for our home LAN backup. I rotate on cartridge off-site. I've been using 80GB Western Digital WD800 ATA drives, but they're no longer large enough. I bought 200 GB Seagate Barracuda drives as replacements. Alas, they didn't work in the Vantec cartridges though they work well in a regular drive bay.

Then I put the 200 GB Barracuda in the OWC Elite Firewire/USB kit. It worked fine. Then I tried the "sleep test". It passed! So ... the scorecard looks like this:
  • OWC firewire enclosure + Maxtor DiamondPlus 9 200 GB: works, but if laptop sleeps drive dismounts (rudely)
  • Vantec enclosure + Seagate Barracuda 200GB: doesn't work at all
  • OWC firewire enclosure + Seagate Barracuda 200GB: works and sleeps
  • Vantec enclosure + Western Digital WD800 80GB: works

No comments: