capsule review

FireMax 500GB Quad

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The introduction of the quad-port drive represents the latest trend in the evolution of the external hard drive. In addition to the three standard types of ports found on current Macs—USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800—these drives give you an eSATA port, a connection that’s a tad faster than the FireWire 800 ports you’re already using. To realize those faster speeds, though, you’ll need to buy an expansion card. ProMax charges a premium for the new technology in its FireMax 500GB Quad drive, and that high price is one of several reasons why you’ll find better values elsewhere.

The FireMax Quad is one of the smaller 3.5-inch desktop drives we’ve looked at recently. We reviewed the 500GB model; it also comes in capacities from 160GB up to 750GB. The tight fit of the FireMax’s enclosure around the hard drive mechanism leaves little room for error during assembly; the back panel of the unit we reviewed was slightly misaligned with the miniature USB port.

While this defect was solely cosmetic—it didn’t hinder me from plugging in a USB cable—it focused my attention on other fit-and-finish issues. For example, the FireWire 800 connectors lacked a tactile clicking sound when I plugged in a cable. Though this, again, has no bearing on operation, it’s another missed detail. To the drive maker’s credit, the FireMax does manage to squeeze in an antitheft slot among the four ports on the back panel. However, the on/off switch is located near the center of the back panel, close to the cables, rather than toward the edge and out of harm’s way.

To install the drive, simply plug in the slightly bulky 13-ounce AC power adapter and connect the unit to your Mac via one of the four types of ports. The drive provides two FireWire 800 connectors, which you can daisy-chain to other FireWire devices if you like. Although the unit includes a tiny built-in fan, the drive’s operation was very quiet. The FireMax was relatively speedy, but didn’t stand out among the drives we’ve recently reviewed. It doesn’t come bundled with any software or other extras, so speediness is its main virtue.

timed trials

Copy 1GB File via FireWire 800 0:32
Copy 1GB File via eSATA 0:30
Duplicate 1GB File via FireWire 800 0:48
Duplicate 1GB File via eSATA 0:47
Low-Memory Adobe Photoshop CS Test 1:18

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

How We Tested: We ran all tests with the drive connected to a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 with Mac OS X 10.4.8 installed and 1GB of RAM. We tested the drive using FireWire 800 and eSATA. 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 CS 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 James Galbraith and Jerry Jung


Price per Gigabyte $0.80
Connectors eSATA, FireWire 400, FireWire 800 (2), USB 2.0
Rotational Speed 7,200 rpm
Other Capacities 160GB ($199); 250GB ($199); 400GB ($349); 750GB ($699)

Macworld’s buying advice

Although it’s small and quiet, and it turns in a decent performance, the FireMax 500GB Quad’s high price and lack of extras—such as bundled software—makes it hard to recommend wholeheartedly. You may want to look elsewhere for your storage needs; for instance, the LaCie 500GB d2 Quadra (   ) is a good option.

[ Jeffy K. Milstead is a Macworld Lab alumnus and a writer living in San Francisco. ]

FireMax 500GB Quad
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