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OWCs Mercury Elite Pro AL RAID Drive

Lightning-fast FireWire 800 device gets a G5-style makeover By Frank Moldstad

OWCs Mercury Elite line of external drives recently got a makeover with the release of a new series dubbed ?AL, for aluminum. The G5-style Mercury Elite AL units are available in four configurations ranging from 80GB to 800GB, starting at $129.99 for the Mercury Elite AL Pro FireWire 400/USB2 80GB Combo drive.

Recently, I had the chance to put the top-of-the-line 800GB Mercury Elite Pro AL RAID drive (MSRP $749.99) through its paces, and came away impressed. Im a sucker for large storage units, especially fast plugnplay units like this. This device is equipped for FireWire 800, so if you have a FireWire 800 (1394b) jack on your computer and no FireWire 400 devices in the chain, the transfer speed is 800Mbits/second (it comes with FireWire 800 and 800-to-400 cables). Otherwise, itll connect just fine to a FireWire 400 jack, but the transfer speed is reduced to 400Mbits/second

Despite the fact that the Mercury Elite AL drives look like they rolled off the same production line as a PowerMac down to the tiny round holes in the vent cover these units are compatible with PCs running Windows or Linux as well as Macs. They just look better with a Mac.


The dual-bay 800GB model houses a pair of 7200RPM drives striped in a RAID configuration. As you might expect, its a hot rod. I tested it on a Mac G5 with built-in FireWire 800, and it served up large files blazingly fast. For instance, it took 28 seconds to transfer a 643MB audio multitrack project to the desktop from an external LaCie FireWire 400 drive. Transferring the same file from the Mercury Elite to the desktop took 14 seconds.

The Mercury Elite line is designed for audio/video projects, and the 800GB model would be a good choice for space-hungry HD video, animation, motion grapics or surround sound audio storage. One of the beauties of FireWire, of course, is the ability to connect up to 128 devices in a series. So for a large project with uncertain storage requirements, additional 800GB units could be added as needed.

The Mercury Elite drives also make good backup solutions, and they are certified with  the EMC/Dantz Retrospect backup and recovery application for the Mac. A copy of Retrospect Express is included on the Utilities CD that comes with the Mercury Elite units. This allows you to back up and restore files, folders or volumes to whatever media you choose, whether its the Mercury Elite or a DVD.

Also included on the Utilities CD is Intech's SpeedTools, a bundle of seven utilities such as Disk Defrag, a partion app called Drive PC, and QuickBench, a benchmarking utility. A bunch of other utility software and interesting QuickTime files among them some classic Apple ads comes preloaded on the hard drive as well. Its part of OWCs testing procedure to load these, and it has the dual purpose of providing some handy utilities to users. These can be quickly deleted if theyre not wanted.

Here are benchmarks for the Mercury Elite Pro AL RAID drive, as reported by the included QuickBench utility.

Installation of the drive on the G5 was painless -- it comes preformatted as a Mac OS Extended device. After its plugged into the wall through a wall wart, the FireWire cables are connected, and the unit is powered on, its ready to use. PC users (Windows 2000/XP, 98SE and later) will have to format the Mercury Elite before using it. On the Mac, the Mercury Elites are compatible with OS X 10.1 and later, including Tiger. For FireWire 800 use, OS X 10.2.8 is required. The Mercury Elite devices are covered by a two-year warranty.

Theres nothing quite like double-clicking the desktop icon for a removable storage device and seeing that you have nearly 800 GB of free space. Its a challenge all that space waiting to be filled. Considering the size, performance specs and styling of the Mercury Elite AL RAID drive, its a solid choice as a main data drive or a backup drive. At $749.99 MSRP, it works out to less than a dollar per Megabyte!

 


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Related Keywords:OWC, Mercury Elite, RAID, FireWire 800, external drives

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