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April 23rd, 2001


EasiExpansion T35
Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: Mobility Electronics, Inc.
Product Home Page: EasiExpansion T35
Description: PCI, USB and Drive Bay Expansion
Address: Mobility Electronics, Inc.
7955 East Redfield Road
Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260

Price: US$249.95 Retail
Telephone: 480-596-0061
Fax: 480-596-0349

Requirements: Mac or PC with PCI Slot
System Used
For Testing:
Apple Power Mac G4/450
Mac OS 9.1
[Review]
Add 2 PCI Slots, 2 USB Ports, & 5 Drive Bays With The EasiExpansion T35 (Review)

EasiExpansion T35 Review
by John F. Braun

Introduction

Despite the introduction of new Macs with 4 usable PCI slots, some Mac users may want more expansion than even the new G4 machines offer. Fortunately, the good folks at Mobility Electronics have a solution that can ease your expansion woes. The EasiExpansion T35 offers several expansion options for Mac users who just can't fit all their stuff in one box.


Documentation

The review unit we received came with software for the PC, and documentation geared towards PC users. This was during the introduction of the Mac product, so new documentation should hopefully be on the way. The good news is that you can download the Mac software from their web site, and the hardware setup instructions are suitable for any platform.


Hardware

When the unit arrived, we thought someone had pulled a prank and shipped a PC to The Mac Observer. Fortunately, when we examined the box further, we realized this was the EasiExpansion unit.

Out of the box, it looks like a PC in a mini tower case, but with a little more flair. Despite the boxy underpinnings, the case has contrasting charcoal and silver colors, and several curves. On the lower part of the front is a power switch, plus power and drive activity lights. The switch and light on the upper part of the front don't seem to be used at this time.

The rear of the unit has a power connector, with a voltage switch for US (115 VAC) and other countries (220/240 VAC). There are also 2 USB ports, a socket for the Split Bridge cable, and rear ports for the 3 PCI slots inside the unit.


Installation

One must install the included Split Bridge PCI card in an available PCI slot in your main computer. Since this occupies a slot in your main computer, the net result is that you will have 2 more PCI slots available. The included documentation, geared towards the PC, covers common sense facts, like making sure everything is off before attempting installation of the Split Bridge PCI card in your main computer.

To put the T35 through its paces, we installed an ATI XClaim VR video board, and an Adaptec 2930UW SCSI interface board in the T35. A Seagate ST39175LW SCSI drive was connected to the Adaptec board.

Inside the T35
(Click for a larger image (600 x 450))
(We also have a huge 1280 x 960 version)

We also checked the Mobility web site and found driver software for the Mac, and then downloaded and installed it. The installer places two files on your Mac, an EasiExpansion Initializer extension, and an EasiExpansion Control control panel.


Operation

We first turned on the T35, and then turned on our Mac. We then examined the EasiExpansion Control control panel. It had two options. There was a check box for "Green" Mode, and it was unchecked. There was another check box for Burst Mode, and it was checked. As we discovered, once the T35 is turned on, it won't turn off. This is really for the user's benefit, since if you could turn it off, you'd lock up your main machine. If "Green" Mode is enabled, the T35 will shut off when you turn off your Mac.

System Profiler Report Before and After Adding T35
(Click on an image for a larger view)

To verify that our additional peripherals were recognized, we checked out the Devices and Volumes section of Apple System Profiler. Things had definitely changed. For one, we noted a new USB hub. Next, we saw our new SCSI card represented. Finally, there was a new PCI card entry, which of course was the Split Bridge card. We then moved to the next phase of testing; to make sure the attached devices functioned as expected.

We used the Monitors control panel to verify the presence of a second display. Sure enough, two monitors were detected. We could move items from one monitor to the other (something your author doesn't usually do) and it worked as expected. To test our new SCSI card, we fired up Drive Setup, and the drive was listed with all others. Formatting and subsequent use of the drive was as expected.


Performance

System performance with the T35 felt snappy enough, but we wanted to quantify any performance issues. We decided to use Norton System Info and perform the Display (for graphics) and Volume (for hard drive) tests. Note that these tests required specific system settings (most notably, having a 128K disk cache) that may be unrealistic, but we wanted to stick to the rules.

T35 Performance Result
Performance Test G4 Results T35 Results
.
Overall Volume 436 360
256K Read (K/sec) 5,842 5,816
Random Read (K/sec) 311 304
256K Write (K/sec) 5,825 2,403
Random Write (K/sec) 281 267
.
Overall Graphics 450 309

Although not on the level of a card being in the same machine, the above results are acceptable, except for the notable reduction in disk write performance. Mobility does warn that their solution is "For use with applications other than professional audio/video editing." With a high-speed interface and drive, we're sure that results would improve. Based on our experience, we think most users won't know the difference.

Users with high performance requirements will need to make sure they can use those high-end cards in the two available slots in your machine, and the less intensive cards in the three slots available in the T35 chasis. The same thing goes with hard drive use; if you are buying the T35 for more hard drive bays, make sure that you can put all your high-performance drives in your main system, leaving the T35 for less performance-intensive drives. If you can do this, and you need the expansion that the T35 offers, it is a near-ideal solution.


Conclusion

If you are looking into expanding your current Mac beyond the limits that Apple has imposed, then the T35 is definitely worth a look. It not only offers additional slots, but the space in which to store various types of drives or other devices. There is space for three 3.5" drives and two 5.25" drives. At US$399.95, it is an economical way to add more peripherals to your existing Mac.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Thumbs Up)
4 1/2 Thumbs Up
Pros
  • Easy Setup
  • Net Gain Of 2 Extra PCI Slots
  • 5 Extra Drive Bays
  • 2 Additional USB Ports
Cons
  • Slightly degraded performance when
    compared to same card in host machine



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