With Serial ATA (SATA) hard disks now being used exclusively inside the entire Mac product line, it was only a matter of time before an external 2.5-inch SATA drive was offered in a FireWire enclosure for use alongside the Mac. The miniXpress 825 portable FireWire hard drive brings the benefits of the speedy SATA interface to portable storage, and it is priced competitively when compared to other triple-interface portable drives with similar performance. Just don’t expect any extras in the form of backup software, which is commonly bundled with drives.
The miniXpress 825 160GB is housed in a small, attractive aluminum case with an anodized finish. Although we tested the 160GB, 5,400-rpm configuration, this enclosure is also available with either a 100GB 7,200-rpm or 120GB 5,400-rpm drive installed.
Setting up the drive was easy. Simply cable your Mac to the drive using one of the two available FireWire 800 ports or the lone FireWire 400 port, and the drive quietly powers up and appears on the Mac desktop. Connecting via the USB 2.0 port requires using the supplied external power adapter.
While the included wall-mount power adapter is fine for plugging directly into a wall outlet, its bulk will crowd out neighboring outlets when used in a multi-outlet strip. This complaint is minor, considering that the only time you will use the power adapter is during USB operation or when connecting the drive to older PowerBooks that can’t supply enough power through the USB cable.
The miniXpress 825 fared well in Macworld’s standard test suite. In one test, it beat out all other portable drives we’ve looked at recently, including some equipped with a faster 7,200-rpm mechanism. In another test, the miniXpress drive was only 9 percent slower than the two fastest performers, the pricier LaCie
Rugged All Terrain
and the LaCie
Little Big Disk
|Copy 1GB to Drive
|Duplicate 1GB on Drive
|Low Memory Photoshop CS Suite
Scale = Minutes: Seconds
How We Tested: We ran all tests with the FireWire drives connected to a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 with Mac OS X 10.3.9 installed and 512MB of RAM. We tested the drive using FireWire 800. (In cases where a drive does not have FireWire 800, we use 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 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 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
|Price per gigabyte
||FireWire 800 (2), FireWire 400, USB 2.0
||120GB ($220), 100GB ($279)
Macworld’s buying advice
If you’re looking for a sleek and speedy drive for toting your files from home to office, the miniXpress 825 160GB hard drive is an admirable performer among 5,400-rpm portables. The drive is a good choice and offers excellent value—provided you overlook the lack of USB bus power operation and the outlet-gobbling wall-mounted power supply. Its favorable cost-per-gigabyte ratio might be attributed in part to the absence of backup software, which ships with most other drives we’ve tested. But, we don’t consider this a serious drawback.
Jeffy Milstead is a Macworld Lab alumnus and writer living in San Francisco.
miniXpress 825 160GB portable FireWire