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Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad 500GB

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A few years ago, 500GB of storage space may have sounded like a lot. But after collecting several years’ worth of digital photos and compiling a vast and meticulously assembled music library, you may be singing a different tune. If you need a half-terabyte of new storage to hold all your digital memories, OWC’s Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad 500GB will ably fit your needs—and give you some room to spare.

Featuring the latest trend in hard-disk enclosures, this drive offers, in addition to the three ports traditionally found on Macs (USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800), another port you might not use immediately: a speedy eSATA (external SATA) connector.

The drive is housed in a sleek, silver enclosure and features a perforated grill faceplate and a snugly fitting stand that allows you to position it vertically. The drive includes a full-size USB port on the back, though it lacks an antitheft slot. The drive did not come with a manual or any other documentation.

The drive is preformatted for the Mac, so getting up and running is as simple as connecting the provided AC power adapter, plugging in to one of the four ports on the drive (an eSATA interface card is not included, but OWC sells several types), and turning on the power. The drive has a fanless construction, which contributes to a hardly noticeable noise level. The drive comes bundled with ProSoft Engineering’s Data Backup (   ) and Intech’s Hard Disk SpeedTools.

In our tests, the drive turned in respectable performance numbers. To give you an idea of the performance gains eSATA can provide, our tests showed that eSATA was about 10 percent faster than FireWire 800.

timed trials

Copy 1GB file to FireWire 800 0:33
Copy 1GB file to eSATA 0:29
Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 800 0:46
Duplicate 1GB file via eSATA 0:42
Low-Memory Photoshop: FireWire 800 1:21
Low-Memory Photoshop: eSATA 1:17

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 $0.54
Connectors eSATA, FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 2.0
Rotational speed 7,200 rpm
Other capacities 250GB ($175), 320GB ($215), 400GB ($230), 750GB ($440)

Macworld’s buying advice

If you’ve outgrown your current storage and need to expand, consider the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad 500GB. Its quiet operation, good performance, and software bundle will make it a welcome addition to your desktop. If 500GB is too big or too small for you, the drive is also available in other capacities, from 250GB to 750GB.

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

Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad 500GB
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