|OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2
July 16, 2009
By Sven Rafferty
Original Article Link: http://svenontech.com/reviews/?p=97
* Super speedy
* A bit pricey
The Bottom Line
Full ReviewOther World Computing is known for its Mac accessories and stellar support since 1988. OWC has brought that experience and ventured into the hard drive space with its external storage solutions for some years now. Its latest venture is the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 which offers 2.0 TB to 8.0 TBs of space for your 1 and 0s to be placed on in an alpha bet soup of configuration choices. You can attach the Mercury drive to your Mac or PC by either FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, or through the speedy eSATA connection. I chose to use the FW800 port in the back of my Mac Pro Dual-Core Intel Xeon box and - wow - did I notice the speed immediately. For fun, I copied over a few ripped DVDs from my Mac’s internal drive to the Mercury Elite and watched it go. When copying 7.86 GBs of data, one becomes use to waiting but I have to say, I was quite impressed with the little amount time it took the OWC box to suck it all up. It only took it a total of three minutes. Impressive. Compare that to the LaCie HD Max which took it over ten minutes. Granted, the LaCie is on a USB 2.0 port but when one accounts the speed transfer ratios, the OWC Mercrury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 is still a clear winner. Ripping a 4.31 DVD only took an amazing two minutes! For a more in-depth speed test look, view the results below.
One reason for the pure blazing speed is the RAID setting placed this bad boy. I decided I wanted speed and redundancy and went with RAID5 which stripes all four drives with data. This way, your data will not bottle neck on one drives performance when writing and you retain the safety of the data since all of your eggs do not lie in one basket. Seems OWC agrees with my thinking as it was the default setting when shipped. OWC lets you select every thing under the sun from RAID0 to RAID5 to even NRAID (span). The latter allows you to place various sized hard drives in the Mercury to combine for one large drive. Start off with two drives and add more as you need the data. No need to reformat when you add to the density but the disadvantage of this setup is the N in NRAID which means Non. So if your drive dies, your data does, too. Thankfully, OWC offers a great overview of each RAID type and which setting is best suited for each application such as video. If you desire detail, then OWC even offers a PDF download for each on its web site (link below).
OWC went all out with this unit and spared no expense or took any shortcuts. To insure your transfer is nice and fast, OWC put in up to 128MB total data buffer. You can add drives with speeds flying at 10,000RPM to really push that eSATA connector! The Oxford 936QSE chipset keeps everything in order and makes sure your data is safely read and written during transit. The front panel allows you to select your RAID configuration with an easy turn of a flat-blade screw driver. You’ll find LEDs shinning your RAID Mode along with power, access, and rebuild status. For good measure, a front panel key lock keeps your drives safe and in place. When the cover is off, you’ll immediately know the health of each drive by its own independent LED indicator. The Smart Fan in the rear keeps everything cool automatically and if things do get a bit too spicy for your HDDs, a warning - a very loud - warning buzzer goes off. Lastly, OWC includes every cable you could possibly need to connect your lovely brushed alumunim OWC Mercrury Elite-AL Pro Qx2. That’s the kind of quality you really do come to expect from OWC.
Everything about this unit is made simple. From mounting the hard drives into the bay to setting your RAID level to putting on the cover and getting her powered up and connected. Easy. Stupid easy. While you’re enjoying the easy, you’ll notice just how well everything is made. Never do you feel like anything was made cheaply. No glaring plastic anywhere, no tender inserts of drives to get it “just right” so it’ll fit, and no box light as a feather. Sure, it’s got some meat to reassure you there’s some hearty parts inside but it’s also no brick by any means even when filled with drives. The box sits at 5.31 inches (width) by 9.65 inches (depth) and 6.96 inches in height. Hard drive dry, it weighs under nine pounds. OWC backs its engineering with 3 years for the standard edition and 5 years for the enterprise version.
The nice thing about this box, and really any external drive, is that you may use it for both Windows and Mac. OWC reveals the limitation of Windows with it’s raw amount of the data capability, since the Windows Master Boot Record holds you to 2 TB per-volume limit. Windows XP 64-bit users can run GPT and format the drives to get around this limitation but 32-bit versions of the OS can’t. Macs running anything as far back as a G4 processor running OS 8.6 (do people still run that?) to the current OS X are good to go. No worries on the 2 TB limitation as that is only a Windows feature, er, problem.
Besides the loads of cables, OWC packs some mighty nice software in the box for your use, too. Mac users get to try out Inteach SpeedTools Utilities, which we used to bench mark the Mercury Elite (see results below), Prosoft Engineering Data Backup, and Carbon Copy Cloner. Windows users get NovaStor NovaBACKUP. There is over 2GB of freeware, shareware, and public domain software included on the accompanying disc. OS X Leopard (and higher) users will also be happy to know that this unit is fully Time Machine compatible.
If you already have drives to stuff into the shiny aluminum Mercury, the OWC device will cost you $379.99. Letting OWC stuff 8.0 TBs of yummy platters into the four bays will set you back $1,599.99. Newly released Enterprise Class drives with 5-year warranties start at $749.99 for 2.0 TB of data to $979.99 for the 4.0 TB model.
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