Buyer's Guide: FireWire hard drives

The bottom line

An external FireWire hard drive is an easy way to increase your Mac’s storage capacity. Whether the right drive for you is a portable or a desktop depends on your individual needs. But in short, you can never really have too much drive space or too many connectors.

Our picks

Of the approximately 30 hard drives I’ve tested recently, three stand out as Macworld Top Products (see the tables in this review). The Iomega Black Series Triple Interface drive is our winner in desktop hard drives, thanks to its various connection options, very quick speed (especially in copying data to the drive) and low cost per gigabyte. Our runner-up in that category, by just a hair, is Other World Computing’s Mercury Elite-AL Pro 7,200 rpm FireWire 800/400+USB2.

For a portable drive, you just can’t go wrong with the LaCie Mobile Hard Drive, Design by F.A. Porsche 7,200 rpm USB and FireWire. Its only flaw is that it doesn’t have a FireWire 800 port, but in some cases, it’s faster than drives with such a port. Other World Computing’s Mercury On-the-Go 7,200 rpm 8MB drive is the runner-up in the portable-drive category.

And as for a drive that goes perfectly with your Mac mini, you just can’t beat Newer Technology’s miniStack 7,200 rpm, with its FireWire- and USB-hub-like attributes and low cost per gigabyte.

Hard drives for Mac mini

Company Product Rating Price¹ Pros Cons
LaCie mini FireWire 400 Companion Hard Drive, 250GB 4.0 mice $200 Fast; can boot OS X using FireWire; very low price per gigabyte. No USB 2.0 ports.
MicroNet miniMate 7,200 rpm FireWire + USB 2.0 Hard Drive & Integrated FireWire and USB Hub, 80GB 4.0 mice $135 Can boot OS X using FireWire; integrated USB 2.0 and FireWire hub. Modest capacity, though other capacities are available; high cost per gigabyte.
Newer Technology miniStack 7,200 rpm, 320GB * 4.0 mice $260 Can boot OS X using FireWire; integrated USB 2.0 and FireWire hub; large capacity; includes Retrospect Express; low cost per gigabyte. None significant.

* = Top Product. ¹All prices shown are the manufacturers’ suggested retail prices.

How We Tested —All speeds are in minutes:seconds. We ran all tests with the FireWire drives connected to a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 with Mac OS X 10.3.7 installed and 512MB of RAM. All drives were tested using FireWire 800, unless it was unavailable; in those cases, we used FireWire 400. We copied a folder containing 1GB of data from our Mac’s hard drive to the external hard drive to test the drive’s read speed. We then duplicated that file on the external drive to test both read and write speeds. We also used the drive as a scratch disk when running our low-memory Adobe Photoshop CS Suite test. This test is a set of four tasks performed on a 150MB file, with Photoshop’s memory set to 50 percent.—Macworld Lab Testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung

•  Complete Mac mini drive specifications

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