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Nov 7, 2004
Firewire drives are one of the best ways to add extra storage or backup a system. The MacAlly Firewire enclosure does just that, and brings a couple nice features to the table.
This is one item you should really follow the quick install guide or manual (included on the CD) to set up. The entire process of installing a hard drive into the enclosure took me approximately ten minutes. It involves removing a few screws, putting some shock absorbent screws into the drive itself, and connecting the drive to the controller board (via supplied cables). One note, this enclosure has been slightly modified since the manual was printed, so newer versions require two screws in the back to be removed instead of one.Usage:
Firewire drives are very nice in that the Firewire interface is fast, hot pluggable, and very easy to use. Compared to USB 2.0, Firewire has a lower theoretical maximum bandwidth. However, the overhead built into all USB communications makes real world use much slower, and thus Firewire turns out to be faster. Of course, a Firewire 800 enclosure would be able to transmit data twice as fast as this particular drive. Nonetheless, this drive's transfer speeds are adequate for my needs.
All Firewire enclosures are fast, but what sets them apart is their features. This drive has a nice array of features, which lead to my purchase. One such feature is the enclosure material. Most enclosures are made from plastic. However, the MacAlly enclosures have aluminum bodies, with plastic ends. The aluminum body has some very nice benefits. For instance, it acts as a heatsink, which means no noisy fan in the enclosure (which also translates into a smaller footprint, for those concerned with space requirements). Another benefit of the aluminum body is protection of the drive inside. A metallic casing will nearly always hold up to abuse better than a plastic casing. Finally, the aluminum body just looks sleek, matching up perfectly with the G5 and PowerBook's aluminum clad casings.
The nice looking aluminum enclosure it nicely complimented with a bright status LED. When a drive is correctly installed, and power is running to it, the LED will glow a nice shade of blue. If a drive is not correctly installed, or the drive itself is no good, that LED will shine red. Finally, when data transfer is taking place, the blue LED will stay lit, and the red LED will blink, making the whole LED look purple. It's always nice to have this type of feedback, especially if troubleshooting needs arise.
One thing I made sure to test out shortly after getting this drive, was to see if it was bootable. I installed Mac OS X 10.2.8 onto it, and booted my G5 from the Firewire drive. Boot times were not bad, and the whole procedure was quite simple. Many Firewire drives has problems booting OS X, but this one works beautifully.
A nice surprise that I got upon opening the drive packing was the presence of a power switch on the back of the drive. All of the manuals indicated that there was no power switch, which would mean unplugging the drive if you didn't want it powered up. Not all drives have a power switch, so I am glad this one does.
One thing that this enclosure never allows is the drive to spin down while the power is on. I have left the computer idle for a few hours, and while the internal drive spun down, the drive inside of this enclosure did not. It's not a major deal, and does provide the ability to more quickly access the drive, but it will eat up more power than a spun down drive.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons I went with the MacAlly brand was because of their history of great support for the Mac community. By selecting this drive over some no-name brand, I was basically guaranteed perfect operation with my Macs. Plus, these guys really listen to their customers, which is evident in the addition of the power button.Problems:
I used this drive heavily, and never had a problem with it. It always mounted quickly onto the desktop, and continuously provided speedy file transfers. Even when OS X 10.3.6 disabled many other Firewire drives, this one stood tall.
UPDATE: MacAlly has announced that some of their drives (including the PHR-100AF) have a problem with 10.3.6 if the firmware on the drive is too old. To fix this, they have released firmware version 4.70 on their Tech Support page. My drive came with firmware 4.65 and was unaffected.
Buying an enclosure and hard drive separate can save you a few dollars when purchasing Firewire drives. The drive installation is not at all difficult, plus you have the ability to easily upgrade the enclosed drive in the future. I really like this particular enclosure, and recommend it, or one of its sister enclosures from MacAlly, wholeheartedly.