OneTouch Firewire, by Maxtor
Posted: 13-Dec-2003

5 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Maxtor Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Description
The Maxtor OneTouch Firewire is an external firewire drive made for the G3 and G4 firewire equipped Macintosh computers. Maxtor calls it the "smarter storage" device, with a push-button backup trigger and 250 GB of storage. The OneTouch includes a whisper quiet 7200 RPM drive with 8MB cache buffer, and comes with Dantz Retrospect Express software.

Features

  • Built for Macs - pre-formatted
  • FireWire interface powered by the Oxford 911 chipset
  • Ideal for editing video and creating high-end graphics
  • 7200 RPM, 8MB cache buffer
  • Whisper-quiet fluid dynamic bearing motor
  • FireWire compatible - up to 400Mb/sec data transfer rates
  • Anodized aluminum design
  • Customizable Maxtor OneTouch button
  • Connect up to 62 FireWire devices
  • Plug and play storage
  • Hot-swappable
  • Dantz Retrospect Express software included
  • Desktop disaster recovery
  • Power on/off button and power management utilities included
  • Quick and easy installation
  • 250GB holds up to:
    • 19 hours of DV video
    • 250 hours of MPEG video
    • 250,000 digital photos
    • 62,500 MP3 files


Review Machine
This unit was reviewed on a G4/867 running both Mac OS 9.2.2 and OS 10.3.1.

Set Up

Installation on OS 9.2.2 was a breeze. I was able to mount and access the drive on OS 9.2.2 without the installation CD. In order to use the push-button backup, installation of the accompanying software was required. The software installed easily and without any problems. After a restart, I was using the button for instant backups.

Installation on OS 10.3.1 didn't go quite as smooth. The software CD is required to use the drive under OS X, but after I installed the software, my system halted with the ISOD (International Screen of Death, also known as a Kernel Panic). If I unhooked the drive, my system operated fine, but as soon as I hooked the drive back up, the ISOD halt occurred. I contacted Maxtor support, and they gave me directions to grab an updated driver from their web site. I installed the updated software, and the ISOD problems went away. Once that problem was tackled, use of the software and drive was very easy.

On both OS 9 and OS X, when you first push the button on the front of the drive, Restrospect automatically launches and guides you through the initital setup. Basically, this initial setup establishes an automated backup script called "Maxtor OneTouch". This becomes the script that runs when you press the button on the front of the OneTouch drive. All-in-all, very easy to set up.

The Hard Drive
Out of the box, the OneTouch drive is very impressive. It sports a sleek metallic case with teal plate on the front. The only widget on the front is a long thin rounded button with a blue light extending the length of the button. On the back are two firewire ports, an AC plug, and an on/off switch (a welcome improvement over it's cousin, the 5000DV). The drive also comes with a teal plastic stand to allow the drive to sit vertically (leaving you with more desktop space).

As impressive as it looked, the major hardware achievement of this drive is how quiet it runs. With the G4 running, you cannot audibly hear any sound coming from the OneTouch. Even when the drive was in use, copying files to and from your Mac at firewire speeds, it emits a very soft disk access sound.

With the benefits of power and quietness, there is a side effect which may catch some off guard. After running for awhile, the metal frame on the drive can get quite toasty. It's nowhere near the point of scolding, but it is warmer than your average external drive (on the other hand, it makes a great hand-warmer during the cold winter months).

With regards to function and stability, this drive receives the highest marks. I did some major testing of file copying, from single large files, to thousands of smaller files, and everything in-between. The copying was fast, and flawless. The newly designed button on the front is much easier to access than the button on the 5000DV, and it looks more like a specialized button that might be used for backups (the button on the 5000DV looked more like a power button). When I/O is functioning on the drive, the nifty blue light on the button separates into two alternating blinking blue lights to visibility show operation.

Also, as mentioned above, the OneTouch includes a power button on the back next to the firewire ports and AC port. This comes in quite handy for times when your Mac crashes, or for some versions of OS X, it may not shutdown your firewire devices at shutdown. In times like that, you can just flip the switch off (rather than having to unplug the AC).

There's a couple of minor things that can be done to improve the OneTouch design. First, there could be some protective plastic caps on the areas of the drive where fingers are more prone to touch. Such plastic devices were found on the 5000DV, and this simple add-on did a good job of hiding just how warm the drive got. This isn't a big deal to me, and if you are using the drive to keep your hands warm, you may prefer it as is. One thing I would like to see changed, however, is when the drive spins down after your Mac shuts down, I'd like the lights to go off. Currently, when the drive spins down, the blue lights on the front button glow in a slow alternating flash (reminds me of Christmas blinking lights). If may seem festive at first, but if the drive is in your bedroom, and you're having a hard time sleeping, the blinking lights can be unnerving. Fortunately, there is the power off button in the back that can be used to eliminate that problem.

One Touch

As with the Maxtor 5000DV, what truly sets this drive apart from other drives is the One-Touch button action. It's difficult not to be excited about this feature.

It's as easy as the product description states: Push the button and important data files are automatically backed up... seemlessly, and in the background! This is the dream device of every hard working Mac enthusiast who ponders the importance of backing up data, but finds the task too tedious. Even after a disaster occurs, and we suffer the fear of lost data (or even lose data), do we ever learn? We make promises to ourselves that we will back up important data from now on. At best, we may do it once before falling back into our familiar pattern of being free of tediousness (that's why we're Mac users). The OneTouch action removes the tediousness out of the task, giving us the best of both worlds.

It was extremely easy to setup the backup script, and even more easy to perform a backup. You don't need to have Retrospect running for the OneTouch to operate. Simply press the OneTouch button, and Retrospect automatically starts up, runs your OneTouch script, and then quits (all in the background, so it doesn't stop you from working). This is an impressive feature, all the moreso because of how simple it is. This combination of hardware and software made it so easy and painless to back up vital data, that I've actually gotten into the habit of backing up data on a regular basis.

There is more you can do with the Retrospect software, of course, including scheduling backups to occur automatically. The software by itself is a great product, and can be used with your other drives as well as with your Maxtor drive. There were only a couple of things I wanted to do that I was not able to do. By default, the OneTouch script does a copy of files from one source to your Maxtor drive. I wanted to have the script copy files from multiple folders in different locations, but Retrospect did not support that. I tried tricking it by using aliases to the folders all in one folder, but all it did was copy the aliases (not the actual folders and files). Retrospect does support multiple sources, but only for backup archives, not for file duplication. I preferred the file duplication because it makes the copy readily available (rather than in compressed format that can only be read by Retrospect). I wanted my OneTouch to make copies of my iTunes MP3 folder, my digital photo folder, and my video folder, but they are all in different folders and on different volumes. Instead, I have my OneTouch setup to handle my MP3 files, and then I have other scripts to handle the others. Having multiple OneTouch drives, or a combination of OneTouch and 5000DV drives does not resolve this issue either. Only a single OneTouch script can be active on a single machine, regardless of how many drives you may have invested in.

Pricing & Availability
Prices and availability appear to vary from one location to another. At the time of this review,
Maxtor's store lists the 250GB OneTouch drive for $350. Amazon lists the same drive for $329 and J&R Music lists it for $330. Additionally, Maxtor is offering a $30 rebate on the OneTouch drive (expires on 12/27/03).

Summary

The Maxtor OneTouch 250GB firewire drive is an awesome technological achievement. I was very impressed with the Maxtor 5000DV, so my expectations were already high. Still, Maxtor managed to impress me again. Demonstrating intelligent integration of hardware and software and a sleek new design, Maxtor truly is the "Apple" of external hard drive manufacturers. Whether you use the OneTouch on Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X, you really cannot go wrong with this drive. With 250GB of storage, a cool design, solid performance, and whisper quiet operation, the hardware alone makes this drive a valuable addition to any Mac system. With the OneTouch operation and Restrospect Express software, this package is a cut above the rest. I'm still hoping that some day Retrospect will support the ability to copy files with the OneTouch script from multiple sources, and the ability to recognize different OneTouch and 5000DV button actions on the same Mac. Still, feature-for-feature, Maxtor has succeeded in building the best firewire drive solution for the Mac. I highly recommend it to any Mac user, and for those with backup needs, this is a must-have add-on to your system.

Pros

  • 250 Gigabyte storage drive with solid performance
  • OneTouch action button for easy backups
  • Retrospect Express software for all backup needs
  • Stylish design includes on/off switch


Cons

  • Retrospect only supports a single source per script for file copying
  • Does not support multiple button actions with multiple drives
  • Blinking light in shutdown mode could interfere with sleep


Overall Rating

5 out of 5 Mice