Sunday, July 17, 2005

External Storage: Maxtor OneTouch II

Maxtor OneTouch II Posted by Picasa

I was in the market for additional external storage and a backup drive when I came across Maxtor’s OneTouch II, which satisfies both of my needs. For some reason, I always thought that pure backup drives were relatively slow and were meant solely for backing up another drive in full—that is—I didn’t know you could use the rest of the space as regular storage or run programs off of the drive.

I. Maxtor?

In my mind, Maxtor is a manufacturer that is on par with Western Digital in terms of quality and price point. They both make similar hard drives, but just like operating systems, most people tend to stay with the company the grew up with. Maxtor’s prices seem a bit lower in general and their cache and capacities are slightly better than Western Digital's. I think Western Digital has a slightly (maybe negligible) edge in terms of prestige, but who cares.

The other major manufacturer that I trust is Seagate, who makes the famous Barracuda drives. Seagate drives typically sport higher prices and lower capacities, but have higher rpm speeds. Seagate also makes professional drives for RAID servers and a host of other uses. Seagate has also released a drive comparable to Maxtor’s OneTouch II, boringly called “External Storage Hard Drive.” Whereas the OneTouch II goes for about $279.99 retail, a Seagate model comparable in storage and interface is about 269.99.

II. External Storage

External storage is a relatively new thing for me. I used to just take hard drives that other people were junking and throw them into my computer. At one point I had 7 hard drives going (3 directly on the motherboard and 4 attached to a PCI add-on card) and while I had the speed I wanted, it had significant drawbacks:

  • HEAT: Hard drives throw off a lot of heat. And with 7 inside one box, not even the best retail fans could keep the case cool.
  • LAG: The more hard drives I added, the longer it took for Windows to load up explorer.
  • TRAVEL DEBACLE: It was much more difficult for me to take a drive with me on a trip back home to New York.
  • PARANOIA: If something went wrong with my system drive, the others might have problems as well (though I doubt this would happen). But, what is a drawback is that if your system dies, all the attached media is inoperable unless you physically remove them. Instead, external storage can plug in to whatever else you have laying around (like a laptop).
Please keep in mind that “external” storage does not necessarily mean “portable” storage. This is not your standard pocket drive. It is much larger than a standard iPOD. The OneTouch II weights 3.1 lbs and is 1 5/8” x 5 1/2” x 8 5/16”. It’s hefty.

III. OneTouch II Features

Maxtor has released a number of different OneTouch II models, all with different capacities and interfaces. I opted for the 300GB drive with USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces. The OneTouch II is fully compatible with WindowsXP and Mac OSX. For a 7200rpm drive, it is remarkably quiet and hardly vibrates my desk. The OneTouch II also boasts a beefy 16MB cache, which is better than my internal drives.

USB 2.0 and FireWire (400) are a terrific one-two punch. I will say, however, that I prefer USB 2.0 because it does not have quirky transfer issues. Theoretically USB 2.0 is supposed to have faster transfer rates, but I’ve never gotten around to measuring, so I always assume that they’re both equal. The problem with FireWire is its prevalence of “Delayed Write Failed” errors when transferring large amounts of data. It’s a real shame pain when the transfer corrupts data. The good thing, however, about having both interfaces is that you can hook the drive up to almost anything. Not only does everyone have either a USB (1.0 is fine too, though significantly slower) or FireWire port, they also have spare cables laying around, which means you can just bring the drive and the power adapter.

Apart from the vast amounts of storage, the OneTouch II has—as its name suggests—a button on its front that will backup your computer with just one touch. Of course, it’s more like one touch, and a few clicks of the mouse, but you get the point. Maxtor’s drive comes bundled with Dantz’s “Retrospect HD Express,” a backup utility that, while not overflowing with features, gets the job done with ease. I have the drive programmed to run an automatic backup every Friday at 2:00am. It backs up any files that were changed or added to my system drive over the previous week. The great part about these weekly backups is that they are appended to previous backups. This means that you can basically restore your system to a specific point in time since older files are not replaced when a new backup is made. The downside is that this style of backup takes more space on the drive. But with 300GB, I’ll have years worth of backups before I need to start thinking about sizing it down. Plus there's other backup options included in the software in case you want to save space.

The button on the front of the drive can be customized. You can open any program you want when you press the button. Although this isn’t as useful of a feature to most users because no one wants to open up some random program, this is extremely helpful for professionals who might use more advanced backup software and opt out of the bundled software.

The drive has one peculiar setting. Under the “Adjust Performance” category, you have these two options: “Highest Performance” or “Normal Operation.” There is no explanation of either of these two choices. Guess which one most people would pick. I can’t stand developers who insist on giving people meaningless choices.

For those of you who backup important files with sensitive data, Maxtor’s drive features “DriveLock,” which is a software lock that you can install to lock out unauthorized users. Especially if the drive is lost or stolen, you (theoretically) don’t have to worry. Personally, I’d be pissed if my drive was lost or stolen. Second, I don’t know how good the software is, but I assume its decent since they have small business versions available too.

The OneTouch II is aesthetically pleasing. It has a two blue LEDs inside the button and the hard drive itself is made of anodized aluminum, which is much more pleasant to the touch than my BUSLink external hard drive. At full speed, the BUSLink drive will burn my hand whereas the Maxtor drive will simply get a little warm.

IV. Conclusion

If you would like to backup your entire computer and/or have some extra storage for videos, photos, documents or songs, Maxtor’s OneTouch II is a great option. It’s simple to use and works in a variety of systems and circumstances.

No comments: