Cobra SLIM 60 GB Firewire Drive, by EZQuest
Posted: 6-Sep-2002

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: EZQuest Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE





EZQuest's new line of FireWire hard drives are designed for portability. The new Cobra Slim Line FireWire hard drives are compact and can hold up to 60 GB of information, and are designed to work with either external power or off the FireWire bus. This review unit was the 60 GB version.

This firewire drive was tested on a G3/333 with a firewire add-on card, and on a G4/867 with built-in firewire support. It was tested with it's own power supply, and using the power from the firewire bus.

Drive Features
The Cobra Slim firewire drive features 2 standard 6 pin FireWire ports, an external power supply, transfer rates up to 34 MB/sec, 2MB buffer , 5400 RPM internal ATA drive interface, slim pocket size case, and Intech Hard Disk Speedtools software. The unit measures 5.5" x 3.5" x 1", weighs 0.7 pounds, and comes with a 2 year warranty.

Look and Feel
The first thing I noticed about the Cobra Slim drive is that it is unbelievable small for a drive that stores so much disk space. I remember my first 500 MB disk drive being nearly as big as my computer, and now I have a 60 GB disk drive that literally fits in my shirt pocket. It comes in a stylish translucent case, sporting a cool blue power indicator light. On one end is two firewire ports, a power supply port, and a switch indicating whether the unit should be powered by the power supply or the firewire bus. The drive is incredibly light, and runs very quiet. I literally could not hear it unless the disk was in use. Overall, this unit is the nicest and smallest firewire drive I've seen.

Functionality
Getting the drive operational was as simple as hooking the firewire cable from my G4 to the firewire drive. The unit comes with Intech Hard Disk Speedtools software, but I found that I could access the drive just using the standard drivers that come with the Mac OS. Although not necessary, the Intech software does provide more options than Apple's disk tools. Perhaps the most useful is the Tuning Options which allows you to increase or decrease payload and data transfer sizes. If you want to have more control over the drive, Speedtools will come in handy.


Tuning Options for your Firewire Drive

I am a big multimedia user, and I like to convert analog video, as well as digital video from external devices, into Quicktime movies and Quicktime DV streams (for use with iMovie). To do so, I use my G3 that has a video capture card (that doesn't work in my G4) where I digitize the video from VHS. Then I port the video to my G4, and using a portable firewire drive is the fastest way of doing it. Digital video takes up a lot of disk space, especially uncompressed, so having an external 60 GB drives lets me copy the video I want. Using the power from the firewire bus makes the process so much easier, as I just move the drive from room to room only hooking and unhooking one cable.

The throughput on the device is great. I copied a folder of 400 files, total of 15 GB, from the firewire drive to my hard drive in 19 minutes (about 13.5 MB/sec). In another test, I copied 5 files, total of 3 GB, in 4 1/2 minutes (about 12 MB/sec). While these speeds are far under the 34 MB/sec, it was plenty fast for me, and certainly faster than copying over the LAN. From my experience with firewire devices over the past two years, I actually feel more comfortable with a stable speed of 13 MB/sec, as I have found that the faster a firewire drive performs, the more likely the drive fails (and I've had many fail on me, creating problems from crashing the system to corrupting the drive). Using Speedtools, you can adjust payload size and transfer size which have a direct effect on the speed of the data transfers. On my system, I kept these settings on "Auto", letting the hardware decide the sizes, and was happy with the speed, and happier more with the stability. In several weeks of extensive use, this drive never locked up on me, not on the G4, nor on the G3 with the add-on firewire card (all other firewire drives I tried on the G3 had lock-up problems due to the 3rd party firewire card).

Support
When the first Cobra Slim drive was sent to me, I immediately had the opportunity to test out EZQuest's support. The drive was constantly locking up on both systems, and getting corrupted. Support was very responsive, and after trying several remedies, it was determined that the drive was bad, and they had me send it back, and soon afterwards I received a replacement drive. They confirmed that the first drive had a bad firewire board. They were very good about sending the replacement. For regular customers, if the drive was determined to be bad within 30 days, you would take it back to the point of sale. After that, you would contact EZQuest, and they would have you mail the drive back to them (at your cost), and then mail you a replacement drive (at their cost). Overall, my experience with their support was positive. I do recommend that you thoroughly test any drive you may get prior to making it the home of any important data without having a copy of the data somewhere else.

Summary
The Cobra Slim 60GB firewire drive packs a lot of punch into a small package. The speed of the drive is good, and more importantly, the stability of the drive is solid, better than any other firewire drive I've seen. The drive does not overheat, and accepts power from its own power supply as well as your computer's firewire bus. Using the firewire bus power was a great advantage for making the drive portable - less to transport, less to hook up. The Cobra Slim drive comes in a very sporty and compact case, and includes some good disk software. Although the Cobra Slim drives are priced higher than other firewire drives, I have not seen another firewire drive that I'd rather have. If you have the funds, this is hands-down the drive to get. For those ready to purchase, the cheapest price I found for this unit was at eCost.com selling for $439.

Pros

  • 60 GB of disk space in a very compact unit
  • Can get power from firewire bus or external power supply
  • Sleek light design, easily portable
  • Solid performance and stability

Cons

  • Steep price

Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice