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June 2nd, 2000


VST Full Height Hard Drives
Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: VST Technologies
Product Home Page: 27GB Full Height Drive
37GB Full Height Drive

Description: Full height external FireWire hard drives
Address: VST Technologies, Inc.
125 Nagog Park
Acton, MA 01720
Price: 27GB - US$649
37GB - US$749
Phone: 978.263.9700
Fax: 978.263.9876
Requirements: FireWire equipped Mac or PC
System Used For Testing: Mac OS 9.0.4
PowerBook (FireWire) 400 MHz
Stock 6GB IDE internal drive used for file copies
192 MB RAM
Virtual Memory off
[Review]
VST Full Height FireWire Hard Drives - Sexy & Solid!

VST 27GB Full Height Drive
VST 37GB Full Height Drive
by Dave Hamilton & Bryan Chaffin

Introduction

FireWire has taken off since Apple first introduced it as an IEEE standard (IEEE 1394) in 1995. The DV market in particular has really grabbed on to the technology as a great vehicle for transferring data between the camera and computer. Since then we have seen printers, scanners, testing equipment for welding seals (seriously), and all manner of removable drives. The biggest segment of the FireWire market though, has to be the hard drives. A host of companies have introduced FireWire hard drives, and one of the first was VST. Today we are reviewing VST's 27GB and 37GB full size hard drives.

All of the FireWire drives on the market, as of this writing, are external drives. These are drives that are designed to work outside of your Mac. In the past, the only way to run an external drive was through a SCSI bus, certainly a viable alternative. FireWire offers performance equal to all but the fastest SCSI busses, but adds to this the ability to hot swap the drives. This is ideal for people needing to exchange large chunks of data between computers, or who need to transport data to and from different locations.

Description

The VST Full Height FireWire hard drive is red, with a hard plastic case. The drive includes two FireWire ports so that additional drives can be daisy chained together. Included with the package is a power supply, documentation, and software for both Mac and Windows.

Design (Looks)

Thanks to Apple and the iMac, looks have become a big part of many users' buying decision. VST is frankly making the sexiest and most attractive hard drives on the market. In particular, the company's full height drives are the king of the crop in that category. The design is not only attractive, but functional. They are designed to be easily stackable, and still look good.

Documentation & Bundled Software

The documentation included with these drives was complete on the Mac side. The Windows software points users to an online PDF file. The Mac documentation told us everything we needed to know for operating the drives.

VST's bundled software handles formatting and benchmarking for FireWire drives. In addition to supporting the VST branded drives, the software will support other FireWire drives as well.

Testing and Benchmarks

We put both drives to work for several weeks of real-word use, including MP3 serving, regular backups, and a host of file transfers. VST includes bundled software that handles formatting, as well as benchmarking. For our testing we used FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 4.0, which now supports FireWire. We also ran 3 standardized file transfers; a 15MB single file, 15MB of small files, and a 100MB single file test.

Important Note: One thing we would like to make clear: Though the FireWire bus allows for data transfer speeds around 50MB/sec, none of the current FireWire drives on the market are "native" drives. This means that they use IDE drives and include a FireWire bridge to make them work with FireWire. Currently, the FireWire bridges on the market max out at 13MB/sec to 14MB/sec, a limitation of the bridge itself, and not FireWire or individual drives.


Tested with FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 4.0

Use

In all our testing, the drives performed solidly. The drives were fully hot swappable, though it is necessary to dismount the drive (dragging it to the trash can) before disconnecting the drive on the Mac. This is a side effect of the fact that hard drives are automatically mounted in the Mac OS. This is true with FireWire drives when they are connected, so having to dismount them before swapping them is not a deficiency of the drive. These drives come equipped with internal fans to keep them cool, but we found that this did make them somewhat noisier than we would have liked.


Conclusion

These drives may be large, but they sure are sexy! They work well, and we found them to be very solid and dependable. Full size drives are less expensive than their smaller slimline cousins, but not particularly portable. That said, VST does not advertise these drives as being portable, but many people buying FireWire drives are also interested in portability. This is largely, though not entirely, a limitation of full height drives in general and not a specific limitation of the VST models.

If you need storage, and either don't have a free internal bay or want the convenience of FireWire, you should seriously consider the VST Full Height hard drive line.

 


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
4 Gadgies
Pros Great looking, sexy design.
2 FireWire ports for FireWire daisychaining
Full Mac documentation
Software supports other vendor's drives
Cons Noisy fans
Not very portable (see note in the conclusion)



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