Hard drives with Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics (EIDE) connections are popular in the PC market, but the EIDE standard never caught on in the Mac market. Now, thanks to a new PCI card from ProMax Technology, Mac users can take advantage of inexpensive EIDE drives just like their PC counterparts.
The TurboMax/ATA-33 PCI card, combined with a pair of 16GB hard drives, gives you 32GB of storage for less than half the cost of a comparable SCSI setup. ProMax is targeting the system at price-sensitive digital-video producers, but it’s a great deal for many other Macintosh users as well. ProMax offers the card separately or as part of an $825 configuration that includes two IBM 16GB Ultra ATA DMA drives and Adaptec’s Remus Lite software (the price varies slightly from computer to computer due to differences in cables).
EIDE hard drives are much less expensive than SCSI drives, but the technology has some limitations. The two Ultra ATA connectors on the TurboMax card support only two devices each, for a total of four drives. In a four-drive configuration, two drives must be set up as masters and the other two as slaves. As you add slave devices, the system slows down. In our tests, a configuration with two master drives was generally 10 percent faster than a master-and-slave configuration.
The card connects only to internal drives, and does not work with all EIDE drives. However, you can ensure compatibility by ordering drives through ProMax.
The TurboMax proves that EIDE is plenty fast in a two-drive array. The card’s 24-MBps sustained throughput won’t match the 80 MBps of the fastest SCSI, Ultra 2 LVD, but it’s faster than the built-in SCSI on most Macintoshes. When writing data, the two-master array was twice as fast as the built-in 4GB Wide Ultra SCSI drive in our original Power Mac G3/300. When reading data, the array’s performance was close to that of the built-in SCSI drive. The array did particularly well in the MacBench 1MB sequential write test, indicating that it would be good for digital-video applications and for moving large files.
Installing internal drives takes a steady hand and nimble fingers. Luckily, ProMax provides good printed instructions. The drives come preconfigured as master devices. Changing them to slaves requires moving tiny jumpers. Drives attached to the card appear as SCSI devices. You can use the drives with such Macintosh utilities as Norton Utilities and Apple’s Disk First Aid.
Macworld’s Buying Advice While EIDE is not as versatile or expandable as SCSI, it offers a great price/performance ratio. If you need extra storage and don’t mind the delicate work of installing internal drives, the TurboMax card and a couple of inexpensive Ultra ATA drives represent a deal that’s hard to beat.