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Re-Printed From SLCentral
Mapower MAP-63C USB Hard Drive
The Quest For A Well Rounded Mobile Drive
We've all had our share of mobile drives. Zip drives are possibly the most common. They plug into the parallel port, something every PC has, and the disks are cheap. But just as floppies have become obsolete for anything short of flashing a BIOS because of their small capacity, Zips have become ineffective for most mobile storage uses because 100 MB is not enough space for most files.
Sure, Zips are now available as a 250, but they don't work as 250 MB disks in earlier Zip drives and the disks cost more. Jaz drives are faster and hold more, but the drives and disks are quite expensive.
CDs? Good idea. CDRs are cheaper then ever, can be made mobile with an enclosure and blanks are certainly cheap. But burning CDs are still a slow process, especially in an external enclosure.
How about a hard drive in a portable enclosure? Portable hard drives are not a new concept at all. Parallel port units have been around for ages. Over 6 years ago, I had a parallel enclosure for my hard drive, but now we are in the age of USB and not too soon, either. Hard drives have become very inexpensive as well.
So what do you get when you put a $70 20GB hard drive in a $100 portable USB enclosure? You get beaucoup storage space at fairly decent speed!
Introducing the Mapower MAP-63C
The unit I have here is made by Mapower and is simply called the MAP-63C. You get the plastic enclosure, with an IDE cable inside, a 6 foot USB cable outside and a little power adapter that converts 110 AC to 12V and 5V DC that plugs in anywhere using a simple power supply power cord (the same kind your PC and monitor uses for power).
Certainly, it is unfortunate that the unit has to be plugged into the wall, but keep in mind that USB only provides 5V, and a hard drive requires both 12V as well as 5V.
The drive looks pretty cool, although "blueberry" (this is the name that Mapower gives the color) is the only color it comes in. Purple and green would be cool, but blue is fairly neutral and easy on most eyes. The main part of the shell is clear and a metal shield that covers the actual hard drive can be seen inside. The edges are very well rounded making the unit very subtle and not too obtrusive.
Inside the unit, I bolted in an old Western Digital 7200 RPM 20GB drive that I had laying around. This required some mechanical inclination in itself. The instructions on the box tell us to remove the "blueberry" colored faceplate and THEN separate the halves. This doesn't work this way at all. Fact is; one needs to unscrew four screws out of the back of the drive and spread out the halves of the shell like a butterfly. This exposes the metal plate that the hard drive can be bolted to. Screws are included. I set the jumper on my drive to 'single' and bolted it in place. I plugged in the power and the IDE ribbon cable, and bolted the cover back on.
I plugged the small power supply into the wall, and the USB cable into the back of my PC, and plug and play immediately kicked in...
In Windows 98, I had to install the included CD to install drivers for the OnSpec USB adapter. In Windows ME, a native "USB Mass Storage Device" driver and the hard drive was picked up as a WD 20-5BA. In Windows XP, a native OnSpec USB adapter installed and the hard drive was picked up as a WD 20-5BA.
Couldn't be easier.
Setting Up The Hard Drive And Testing It
The hard drive I was using had data on it already, but it showed up primarily as garbage leaving a large majority of it unusable. I've been told that this was a common problem with these units, and that the best medicine is to do an FDISK and Format with the disk INSIDE of the enclosure.
FDISK ran just as it would for any drive and format went along as typical as well. I named the drive "USB" and copied 5 GB of MP3s over to it.
The first thing I did was to run Sandra's drive benchmark on the unit and see what sort of score I got. Sandra never broke a drive index of 1000 on three different PCs with three different USB controllers and three different operating systems.
To give you an idea of how slow this is; a Fast ATA 4 GB drive indexes 3500 as a Sandra reference drive, but an Iomega Zip drive only benches a 580 drive index. On the other hand, the WD ATA66 20 GB that I had inside the enclosure yielded a drive index of 15000 when used outside of the enclosure as a regular IDE drive!
But in using this drive, this speed penalty is far overshadowed by how incredibly practical this enclosure can be. I wanted to put into perspective how slow this actually is. I chose 4 MP3 files of considerable size and decided to copy them over to another hard drive (installed normally, on an IDE cable, inside the PC) and see how long it took.
The four files were Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall Disc One and Two ripped at 128kbps. Total file size was 178 MB.
With the drive in the enclosure, this feat took 2 minutes and 55 seconds. Now for us to see how we will do with the same four files, on the same WD hard drive, but with the drive OUTSIDE of the enclosure and plugged directly into the motherboard via an IDE cable.
I grabbed the same four files and dragged them to the system drive, just as I did with the drive within the enclosure. How long did it take? 15 seconds. So this means that it takes the hard drive almost 12 times longer to move files over than when it's in the enclosure.
It looks like Sandra didn't give the USB enclosure much credit. It thought the USB enclosure was 1/15th the speed of the drive connected directly to the IDE.
Another problem I had with the enclosure was the false sense of security that the enclosure gives you as far as the durability of the unit, in it's entirety, actually is. Not that I would ever forget that there's a fragile hard drive in this thing, but it's portability often can imply a degree of durability, and that degree of ruggedness just isn't there. There's still a hard drive in that case, and it's still susceptible to data loss or complete failure if you drop it. The unit certainly looks rugged with it's thick clear plastic cover and metal shielding inside, but the fact of the matter remains; it's still a hard drive.
Overall, the Mapower MAP-63C enclosure wins with me. It's VERY portable and HIGHLY compatible and pretty fast when compared with other means of external data storage. The unit even LOOKS cool. I can easily give this drive an overall SystemLogical rating of 9 out of 10 and it's likely not to get knocked out of that spot until a faster unit is brought to my attention and tested. Certainly a Firewire unit would be faster, but how many PCs do you have in your house that has Firewire?
Rating: 9/10 SystemLogistics
Re-Printed From SLCentral