capsule review

Avastor HDX-1500

At a Glance
  • Avastor HDX-1500 1TB

    Macworld Rating

Avastor may not have the name recognition of Western Digital or LaCie, but the company isn’t exactly new to the hard drive market. Avastor once specialized in high-end audio/visual professional drives and only recently made the leap to the consumer market. The drives reflect Avastor’s unique background: while far from stylish, users will appreciate their versatility, no-nonsense performance, and screwless design.

Avastor claims its HDX-1500 is a “portable HD drive” but that’s a bit misleading in that the HDX-1500 isn’t a portable drive as most consumers have come to think of it. You can lug the HDX-1500 around in its ominous black padded briefcase, but it’s not something you’re going to pop into your pocket and walk around with. It’s a desktop drive with a power source, on/off switch, fan, and five different connection ports. The HDX-1500 offers two FireWire 800 ports in addition to a USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and eSATA port. We tested the 1TB model with a Hitachi 7200-rpm mechanism. Though the drive type will vary from unit to unit, Avastor says they primarily use Hitachi drives for their reliability.

For a drive with a cooling fan, I found the noise level to be about average, even when handling complicated tasks. The HDX-1500 offers a 32MB cache, a 3-year warranty, and an Oxford Semiconductor chipset. It’s stackable and can be oriented both vertically or horizontally on your desktop. It’s heavy to carry around and bulky, and its black surface with gray trim isn’t exactly eye-catching. But that’s not the point. Avastor focuses on usability, and I, for one, welcome the change.

Instead of needing a screwdriver and a steady hand to remove the hard drive from the casing, Avastor utilizes a screwless design. Two gray strips can be slid from the top and bottom of the drive and voila! The hard drive is exposed and easily replaced. Best of all, this does not void the warranty—a rarity among hard drive companies.

The HDX-1500 performed decently, if not exceptionally on our lab tests. As is our policy, we did not test the Avastor with an eSATA connection without the company supplying an eSATA card.

With FireWire 800 connection enabled, the HDX-1500 finished the 1GB copy test in 25 seconds. That’s only a couple seconds behind Western Digital’s My Book Studio 2TB. The other connection types produced equally competitive times.

The duplication scores were equally strong. The HDX-1500 ran neck and neck with the My Book Studio 2TB across all connection types in this category. The HDX-1500 finished our 1GB duplication test in 35 seconds with its FireWire 800 connection enabled—that’s only 3 seconds off the My Book Studio 2TB’s time. The other connection types were similar, with the HDX-1500 besting the My Book Studio with its FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 connections.

Unfortunately, while its portable cousin, the PDX-800, proved it could handle more complicated tasks with its impressive low-memory Photoshop scores, the HDX-1500 offered comparatively disappointing times. While the My Book Studio finished our regime of tests in 43 seconds with its FireWire 800 connection enabled, the HDX-1500 was over a full minute slower, finishing at 2 minutes, 23 seconds.

The 1TB drive retails for $229 and has a price per gigabyte of $.23. Even for a desktop drive, that’s fairly affordable.

Timed trials

Copy 1GB file to USB 2.0 0:43
Copy 1GB file to FireWire 400 0:34
Copy 1GB file to FireWire 800 0:25
Duplicate 1GB file via USB 2.0 1:09
Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 400 0:52
Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 800 0:35
Low-memory Photoshop: USB 2.0 3:39
Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 400 3:07
Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 800 2:23

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

How we tested. We ran all tests with the drive connected to a Mac Pro Quad 2.66GHz Xeon with Mac OS X 10.5 installed and 1GB of RAM. We tested the drive with each available port. We copied a folder containing 1GB of data from our Mac's hard drive to the external hard drive to test the drive's write 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 CS3 Suite test. This test is a set of four tasks performed on a 150MB file, with Photoshop's memory set to 25 percent.—Macworld Lab testing by Chris Holt

AJA tests

Write Read
USB 27.6MBps 34.9MBps
FireWire 400 37.1MBps 40.1MBps
FireWire 800 61.2MBps 96.6MBps

Macworld’s buying advice

The versatility of the four connection types, ability to easily remove the hard drive, and generous warranty set the Avastor HDX-1500 apart. Unfortunately, the disappointing low-memory Photoshop test scores suggest that while the company has tried to move on from the A/V professional market to the consumer, they may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Impressive performance in our Photoshop test

    Cons

    • Comparatively slow copy/duplication scores
    • Heavy for a portable drive
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