Analysis and Conclusion

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-02-12 Print this article Print

In summary, the 5000DV is a sweet device for backing up data from big hard drives. At somewhat under $400, its not cheap, but could serve a small office or departmental server well. Of course you wouldnt want to use a single device based on an ATA hard drive as your sole backup in a mission-critical environment. The 5000DV can also be a great drive for storing vast amounts of any type of data. You can keep your home movies or MP3 music files on it, so you can carry around your music library. You wouldnt want to use it as drive for running applications, though, due to the high CPU utilization. Since neither FireWire or USB 2.0 uses DMA transfers, the host CPU gets involved in managing data transfers. The drive is also quiet. If theres a fan, we couldnt hear it above the general PC noise. Note that the drive always on -- theres no power switch -- but since this is a secondary storage device, its mostly just spinning, not moving heads around. Overall, we were pretty impressed with the overall polish of the 5000DV.
We cant draw general conclusions about the differences of its performance between FireWire and USB 2.0 here, though. The Maxtor 5000DV uses two different microcontrollers to bridge ATA to the two different interfaces. FireWire-to-ATAPI bridge chores are handled by an Oxford OXFW911 bridge chip. A Cypress CY7C68013-56PVC is used as the core for the USB2-to-ATAPI bridge. There are substantial differences between the two controllers.
The Oxford chip uses an ARM7, 32-bit processor core, while the Cypress controller uses an older, 8051 type CPU core. The difference in computational power alone could account for differences in transfer rates. Interestingly, Oxford has recently released the OXFW922, which supports 1394b (aka "FireWire 2") at 800mb/sec and USB 2.0. It will be interesting to check out drives that use the single, combo chip. Or it could simply be that the FireWire protocol is more effective for streaming data transfers, as it was originally designed with such usage in mind. Until we have relatively equivalent controllers, its hard to make any definitive statements. Esoteric issues of embedded controllers aside, the Maxtor 5000DV provides a robust solution for backup of small office PCs and networks. Its polished, easy to use, quiet and capacious. What more could you ask from a backup device?

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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