Founded in 2005, Avastor is a hardware development company that’s relatively new to the Mac hard drive market. Its PDX-800 500GB hard drive is a portable storage device targeted at the audio/visual professional. Equipped with an extensive warranty and the ability to handle tougher tasks than your typical portable drive, the PDX is an encouraging sign of things to come from Avastor.
The PDX-800 has a black aluminum exterior with a silver perforated front and four-connection port back. The triple interface drive has two FireWire 800 ports, one USB 2.0 port, and one FireWire 400 port. The perforated silver front hides a blue LED light that turns on when the drive is connected.
The drive is a compact 5-by-3-by-.62 inches but weights nearly half a pound. It’s still plenty light and easy to put in your pants pocket, but it’s a bit heavier than your typical portable drive. The PDX-800 we tested offered 500GB of storage; the 2.5-inch SATA II Seagate Momentus hard drive mechanism inside the PDX-800 has a speed of 7200 rpm. Though our PDX-800 came with a Seagate Momentus drive, Avastor uses a variety of drives in their products.
The 500GB PDX-800 has a retail price of $180; the price per gigabyte is about 36 cents. That’s comparatively superior to OWC’s Mercury Pro Elite-AL mini ( ) and the CI Design’s iStoragePro Pocket ( ), but slightly more expensive than USB-only portable drives such as LaCie’s Starck Mobile Hard Drive ( ).
The PDX-800 comes with a three-year limited warranty with a replacement policy that is more robust than your average drive. If the customer says a drive is defective, the company will ship you a new one immediately and then the customer ships back the defective drive. You can also access the interior of the drive without breaking the warranty. Despite the strong warranty, Avastor claims that they have a very low failure rate.
In our lab tests, we’ve looked at many portable drives that post impressive copy and duplication scores only to falter with our low-memory Photoshop tests. While many companies claim that their drive is designed for audio/visual professionals, the fact of the matter is that desktop drives are simply better at the complex tasks required for that line of work. Yet, the PDX-800 is the first drive that is actually better at our low-memory Photoshop tests than the simple copy and duplication tests. They still are nowhere near as fast as a desktop drives, but for a portable drive, the Avastor is nonetheless impressive.
The PDX-800 lagged behind Buffalo’s Dualie ( ) in all of our copy tests. The PDX-800 finished its 1GB copy test in 47 seconds while using its FireWire 800 connection. That’s a full 40 percent behind the Dualie, which finished the same test in 28 seconds.
The duplication tests were slightly better, with the PDX-800 finishing the test in 41 seconds, only marginally behind the 46 seconds posted by the Dualie. The FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 times were similarly competitive with the Dualie’s scores, if only off by a couple seconds.
Surprisingly, where the PDX-800 shined is in the low-memory Photoshop tests. Often, we find portable hard drives that post strong copy and duplication scores, only to struggle with the more complicated tasks associated with using the drive as a scratch disc. The PDX-800 finished the low-memory Photoshop tests in 2 minutes, 49 seconds with its FireWire800 connection enabled-the best time achieved by a portable drive thus far with our latest benchmark suite. The Avastor bested the Dualie by a full 40 seconds on average with FireWire 800, though that margin narrowed when FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 were narrowed.
Avastor’s AJA tests were competitive with the Dualie, though offered surprisingly better read and write speeds with FireWire 800.
Macworld’s buying advice
Buyers might be wary of taking the plunge with a company they’ve heard so little about, but while Avastor products haven’t received the attention of some bigger-name companies, their products have been around for years in high-end studio environments. In contrast to their peers, Avastor has a really complete warranty and a hard drive that is surprisingly strong at complicated tasks. The casual consumer will likely prefer a drive that is consistently fast in straight read/write tests, but pro users who are serious about bringing storage with them when they travel should give the PDX-800 a look.
[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]