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Reader Report: OWC Portable Firewire DriveReturn to News Page

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Reader Report: OWC Firewire On the Go Drive
Portable Firewire Hard Drive

By Michael Kramer
Published: 5/21/2001
(Updated for additional comments on DV capture to the drive)

20GB OWC Mercury FireWire On-The-Go Portable 2.5" with Cables & Software (For a current list of models (incl. 80GB) and pricing, see OWC's Firewire products page)

I wrote a brief review of this drive.

  • Mechanism: Hitachi 4,200 RPM 20GB 9.5mm 2MB buffer.
  • Case: OWC Mercury FireWire On-The-Go
  • Applications: FinalCutPro v1.25, v2.0
  • Camera: Canon XL-1
  • VTR: Sony MiniDV/Mini DVCAM deck
  • Systems used: G4 (AGP) 450 640MB, Gigabit G4 (466) 256MB both with OS9.1

This is a real world review. Benchmarks are fine, but the point of this kind of drive is to be able to bring 20GB of multi-media with you and have it work without problems. This review speaks only to this issue.

Plugged right in one minute out of box (after checking for any warnings in manual), and it worked fine. Came with 200MB of shareware in a folder. I moved it to my G4 HD to clear the room off the drive. So many utilities, etc., a very nice touch. Can't update driver with Drive Setup, have to use another method (not sure what), but otherwise, it is trully plug and play with OS9.1. Only gets real performance of about 5MB/sec write (20 min for 6GB copy from internal HD to FWdrive), seems to be a bit faster on reads, but that's fast enough as you said for DV work, and I haven't seen dropped frames or stutters. [See the related articles section below for a link to my past real world vs benchmark tests of 3 firewire drives, which shows the huge difference between ATTO benchmark rates and real world file copy rates for portable and AC powered drives tested with 4 macs.-Mike]

So far, Using for DV with no problems. When running a DV clip, the activity light is on roughly 3/4 of the time, indicating that the drive has some headroom for DV. Straight copies from drive to internal HDs keep activity light illuminated almost contiunously. This seems to be a good indication of how hard the drive is working. Audio file playing only causes the drive to blink every second.

Drive does not interfere with either the Canon camera or the Sony deck capture or playback. OWC recomends not plugging the drive into a hub but directly into a port on the computer. I did this. There are two ports on the back of the drive. I haven't tried connecting another device to the drive, though. There is also a power port on the back for the included power adapter, but the drive doesn't require it to be used. Haven't checked whether self-powering increases speed over bus powering.

[updated comments on DV capture]
I did capture some of the clips to the drive, and captured 60 min of audio only from a DV tape to the drive with no errors, and copied plenty of files to and from. I didn't capture everything directly to the drive because I got the drive after I had already started the latest project.

But I have been using the drive exclusively this weekend for this project, keeping an entire FCP project, including 100 min of movies, 90 min of audio, file, render, scratch, etc on it and working directly from it. This takes up 16GB of the 19GB formatted size. This way, I can take it to any FCP workstation, and have used it on four including my G4 at home. Again, no dropped frames or stutters of any kind.

I am about to do another project tonight and capture about 1 hour of DV. I intend on doing everything directly to the drive this time, and will let you know if I get any dropped frames.

OWC portable drive pix

I like the look of the case. It is transparent graphite, with darker graphite rubber sleeves that cover the front and back to protect against bumps and shocks and hide the screws. The see through nature also allows the power and activity indicator light to be entirely inside and glow through, minimizing the complexity and breakability of the case. It is roughly the size of the VST pocket drives (a bit thicker), and nice and light in weight.

And a very nice touch is the small, black vinyl carrying case they send at no charge. It is a square shape that zippers around three sides, and is lightly padded inside and out. It is the size of a padded CD holder. There are two elastic seatbelts inside. The larger holds the drive securely, the smaller holds the included firewire cable next to it. There is no place for the power adapter, but you'd leave that at home anyway. But there is a nice webbed pocket inside to hold the manual and any CDROMs or music CDs you want to take with you (in paper sleaves). You could even fit bud headphones in there (without the storage box).

Drive Case photo

Overall, I am very impressed with this unit. While not as fast as the VST is reported to be, the design, the carrying case, and the price ($257 shipped next day) are all superb for a portable drive of 20GB. At that size, it holds 100+ min of DV plus render, audio, and project files for Final Cut Pro with enough headroom for better performance. A nice way to take an entire documentary, short film, or music video project with you in your backpack, satchel or purse.

I would buy another one the instant I need it. I just wish that the larger capacity 2.5" drives would come to market (40GB+), so the 30GB model will come down in price.

I also have nothing but good things to say about Mike's sponsor OWC. I have now bought four things from them, and everything has been well priced, on time, and as advertised. What else could you ask for?

Note: I bought this as a preassambled drive, and that adds 48 hours to shipping time. Invoice lists the unit as preassambled, but also shows the kit and the drive as line items, so you know EXACTLY which model case and drive you are getting. That's a nice touch, as some companies will make you open the case to double check what kind of drive they threw in there.
-Michael Kramer
Kramer/Collette Entertainment


Availability:
OWC sells several models of the pre-assembled portable firewire drives as well as case kits, controllers, cables and more. See their Firewire products page for current models and pricing.


Other Firewire Drive Related Articles:

The Firewire articles page is organized by topics (drives, controllers, case kits, etc.) and includes reviews of the first ADS Pyro, Macally and Clubmac cases, as well as several portable Firewire drive tests, portable case kit build guides, Firewire PCI controller card tests and more.

 
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