Direct-attached external storage just doesn't get any better than Maxtor's OneTouch III Turbo Edition. This dual-drive unit is not only capacious, it's also fast and quiet and runs cool. It offers RAID capability and backs up with a single touch of the front-panel button/power light. It comes in three flavours: a 600GB, RAID 0 unit; a 600GB, RAID 0/1 unit; and a 1TB, RAID 0/1 unit, which we tested (RAID 0 employs striping for speed; RAID 1 uses mirroring for redundancy).
The unit is also a UPnP, DLNA-compliant media server that can stream files to PCs and Digital Media Adapters for display on your TV and stereo. At AU$1199, the 1TB Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition is less expensive than the LaCie Biggest F800, another terabyte desktop drive, which makes it a great deal, especially with the media-server capabilities and backup software.
The OneTouch III family departs from Maxtor's traditional silver-box design. The OneTouch III Turbo Edition is a rectangular box (think half-size toaster), with light grey sides and a dark platinum centre. Measuring 99.06 x 215.9 x 137.16 mm, it follows a minimalist-styling creed, with clean lines and a single button on the front to invoke the one-touch backup from which the drive derives its name. The back is far busier, supplying a USB 2.0 port, two IEEE 1394.b (FireWire 800) ports, a FireWire 400 port, a Kensington lock port, and an on/off switch.
The box's side panels protrude slightly beyond the bottom (and top) of the unit and pull double duty as feet (the drive somewhat resembles a thick, sturdy I beam). Said panels are covered with a slightly rubbery coating, which makes for a sure grip while transporting or moving the drive. Because the side panels aren't as tacky as some footpads on the bottoms of other drives, the drive is less likely to stick to the surface it's sitting on after a long stationary period or in a particularly hot environment -- an appreciated design flourish.
The Maxtor Manager is a helpful utility for managing the OneTouch III Turbo Edition (RAID setup and so on), but we do have one complaint. When you first install the software and the drive under Windows, you'll be asked if you want to format the drive. (The drive comes formatted for Mac OS X.) What this really means is to partition and format it -- an attempt to shield the end user from complexity. That's not the gripe, however.
What we didn't like was that the program offers no feedback concerning which of the two drives it intends to partition and format. This may not bother inexperienced users, but veterans would never give an application carte blanche to perform this kind of operation without some assurance that it truly knows what it's doing. We used Windows XP's Computer Management/Disk Management to do our own partition and format, which took about two hours for the terabyte drive. Though later testing proved that the black box app worked just fine, we still prefer more transparency.
The other half of the OneTouch III's software bundle is the EMC Dantz Retrospect Express HD 1.1. This HD version is a vast improvement over the older version formerly bundled with OneTouch drives, both in terms of learning curve and usability. Coupled with the Maxtor Manager, it's as simple and sweet a backup/recovery solution as you could ask for.
Though the OneTouch III offers RAID 1 mirroring, where the same data is written to both drives simultaneously (which reduces the devices' capacity by half), we tested it in its default RAID 0 mode, where data is split across both drives for better performance. And better it was. Connected via USB 2.0, the drive wrote our 10GB folder of data at 15.9MB per second and read it back at 20.2MB per second -- besting the Iomega Triple Interface external hard drive on both counts.
Service and support for the Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition is about as good as it gets for external hard drives. Maxtor provides a standard one-year warranty, but the setup and support docs are excellent. There's a ton of online help available in the form of drivers, manuals, FAQs, troubleshooting resources, and an online support form, though the simplicity of the product should render most of it unnecessary.
Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition