Price: 40GB – £279; 80GB – £399
Hard drives are swelling in capacity just as quickly as they’re shrinking in price. The challenge today is in finding reliable storage that fits a fast and portable PC lifestyle. Throwing down the gauntlet is Maxtor, with its new 80GB (£399 inc VAT) and 40GB (£279 inc VAT) 1394 External Storage drives. Both employ the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) high-speed connection. Maxtor is betting that fast access to massiveamounts of storage will pique the interest of digital video, music, and photography buffs hungry to keep applications or data on a portable drive. 80GB is a lot of space: you can squeeze in about 80 minutes of uncompressed video on this Maxtor unit. We ran the 80GB model through its paces, and were generally impressed by its performance and ease of use. The 5400rpm drive is small (1.6-x-6-x-8.6 inches), comes with a 6-foot FireWire cable, and a power source. It also has an extra IEEE port for daisy-chaining other FireWire devices. Windows NT users will not be able to use the unit, as FireWire is not supported. However, the unit is compatible with both the Mac OS and other versions of Windows, although you can’t boot from it. For now, all you can do is store data and install applications. We informally tested the Maxtor’s transfer rates by copying a folder containing 100MB of files, and a single 100MB image file to and from our 700MHz Pentium III system with 128MB of SDRAM. The drive impressed us when it dealt with the single image file, averaging about 9MBps transferring it, and 8MBps transferring it back – fast enough to satisfy the high-bandwidth needs of video editors. The 100MB folder took considerably longer, however, averaging about 1.7MBps. Maxtor’s use of the slower 5400rpm disks has allowed it to keep costs down, making this drive one of the most affordable out there. There are faster external 7200rpm drives on the market, but few that compete with Maxtor’s £400 price point. The Maxtor 1394 External Storage is a good deal if you need additional space right now, and if you don’t mind installing an IEEE 1394 card.