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NewerTech Guardian MAXimus RAID-1 Drive

Review - NewerTech Guardian MAXimus RAID-1 Drive

by , 9:00 AM EDT, July 23rd, 2007

The NewerTech Guardian MAXimus Drive, distributed by Other World Computing, is a desktop RAID Level 1 storage system suitable for home and small business. It is available in several sizes from 150 GB to 1 TB. I found it to be extremely well engineered, fast, and well worth the price as a high reliability backup drive.

RAID Level 1 "mirrored" means that, in this unit, there are two matched drives of equal size, and data is written redundantly to both drives simultaneously. If one drive fails softly, the data structures can be rebuilt from the other drive. On a hard failure, the bad drive can be physically replaced, then rebuilt from the good data on the other drive. This process promotes a high level of data redundancy.

These hard disk systems are available in 150, 250, 320, 400, 500, 750 GB and 1 TB sizes. The 150 GB system is unique in that it operates at 10,000 RPM while all the others operate at 7,200 RPM. I reviewed a 500 GB unit*.

Specifications

Here are the important specifications of the MAXimus. They will put the system into quick perspective.

  • Two matched Seagate Barracuda* SATA drives, 7,200 RPM
  • Chipset: Oxford 924 bridge, SATA to FireWire and USB
  • Interface: FireWire 400, 800 and USB 2.0
  • 32 MB Data buffer (16 MB x 2)
  • Estimated MTBF: 300,000 power-on hours
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 2.8 x 5.6 inches (24 x 7.2 x 14 cm.)
  • Weight: 5.8 lbs (2.6 kg)
* The 500 GB unit I tested had Barracuda drives. Other capacities, according to OWC, may have different drives such as Hitachi or Western Digital.

The MAXimus has a two year warranty. However, according to NewerTech, "the internal hard drive mechanism(s) may be covered by up to an additional three year warranty direct with the drive manufacturer. Drive replacement is handled by NewerTechs primary distributor, OWC."


Operation and Features

With a Macintosh, the operation is as simple as connecting any other hard disk. Cables for every interface are included, so one can just plug it in, pick the interface, connect, and power up the unit. It will appear on the desktop as a single volume.

On the front face, there are four small LEDs. One for power, one for data activity on each drive, and a light to indicate that there is a rebuild in progress. An automatic rebuild of a corrupted drive is a feature of this drive If the system detects that there is a problem with one of the drives, a rebuild is initiated which copies the intact data exactly from the good drive to the faulty drive. However, if the failure is severe enough, and a rebuild cannot take place, the defective drive will be replaced with an identical unit under warranty by Other World Computing.

If the unit is out of warranty, OWC still recommends that they be allowed to replace the defective drive rather than the user. The reason is that the replacement drive must be an exact match in every way, since the rebuild is done storage block by block. If the customer is concerned about the privacy of data when returned for repair, it is recommended that a third identical drive be purchased initially, and it is possible for a careful, experienced user to replace a bad drive.


There is a security slot on the back of the drive which reflects the manufacturer's mindfulness of both the operational and physical security of the customer's data.

User Experience

My first experience upon unpacking and starting up the drive was just like any other external hard disk I have ever used. The unit is on the heavy side, but that's expected with two internal drives. There's also a certain sense of gravitas, in a good sense, associated with this kind of heft. The external fit and finish are superb. Accordingly, there are excellent neoprene-like feet on the bottom, that feel as if they're on to stay, to avoid scratches on your desk. Also, the black case, even though its merely skin deep, tends to reinforce the seriousness of a RAID-1 system. Good marketing, I'd say.

A few days after I received the unit, the drive stopped responding to the backup software's attempt to access it. It also locked up after a secure empty trash. In time, I found that after being left unattended for several hours or over night, the unit would freeze the MacBook Pro. I spoke with a technician at OWC and finally settled on reformatting the drive. The drive was initially formatted as HFS Extended. I used the Mac OS X Disk Utility to write all zeros to the drive (2 hours) and reformatted as HFS Extended, Journaled. Ever since that reformat on June 26th, the drive has been performing flawlessly.

I don't believe switching to Journaled had anything to do with fixing the problem. Rather, OWC's technician suggested that there was a bad sector that was fixed by the reformat. In any case, the drive has been running day and night without a hitch since then, and I don't consider the event a significant issue.


1) Power switch 2) Power receptacle 3) FW800 (2) 4) FW400 5) USB2 6) Security slot

I have been using the unit, in test mode, to back up my MacBook Pro with Apple's Backup 3 for nearly a month. (With an eye towards switching to Time Machine as soon as possible.) The unit runs cool and quiet when the drive spins down. It does make slightly more noise than my OWC Mercury Elite Pro as it spins up, but the noise is not objectionable.

I transferred a 3.367 GB video file from the MBP to the MAXimus in 74 seconds, using FireWire 800, which amounts to about 45 MB/s (megabytes/second). As everyone knows, the theoretical peak of 100 MB/s for FW800 is not achievable in practice, but 45 MB/s is very good indeed. The technician I spoke with at OWC said that this speed can be attributed to the updated Oxford Chipset, SATA drives, and the quality of the SATA hard drives that they use.

What's Included, System Requirements

Items included are: the drive unit, a USB2 cable, FW400 and FW800 cables, a power cord and external power supply brick, a copy of ProSoft Engineering Data Backup 3 for Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, a copy of NovaStor BACKUP 8 for Windows and a copy of Intech's Speed Tools for Mac OS X, a package of performance and maintenance tools for hard disks.

Windows 2000 or later is required for FireWire 800 operation. Otherwise Windows ME. On the Mac side, Mac OS X 10.1.x or later is required.

Availability

All capacities are immediately available as of this writing. A pricing chart is on the MAXimus main page at OWC. Prices range from US$319.99 for 250 GB to US$429.99 for the 500 GB unit I tested to US$1139.99 for 1.0 TB. The drive comes with a two year warranty from NewerTech and, depending on the drive, may be covered longer by the manufacturer.

Other World Computing is located at 1004 Courtaulds Drive, Woodstock, IL 60098.

  • Sales: 800.275.4576
  • Customer Service: 800.275.4576
  • Technical Support: 815-338-8685

The Bottom Line

I found this system to be easy to set up and use. No intervention is required if there is a data problem since the rebuild is auto-detected and a rebuild is automatic -- though I did not experience that process.

Of course, there is no substitute for an off-site backup. After all, if something were to happen to your Mac and the MAXimus sitting right next to it, say, a meteorite impact, the redundancy factor would be of no use. Off-site backup is essential for valuable music, videos, photos, production work, and personal data these days. However, in everyday use, the redundancy of a RAID Level 1 system, used to back up a Mac's main drive, will provide a very high level of data security and confidence. What must be decided is whether a conventional single drive system is satisfactory for that task, or whether the added security of a RAID-1/mirrored drive is desired.

In summary, I give a very strong recommendation to the Guardian MAXimus. The case design, fit and finish, the engineering, the price/storage ratio, speed, and the simple operation make for a great user experience, great value, and high confidence that you'll never, ever lose any data in routine, daily work -- assuming good backup software.

One more thing. This reviewer has purchased several other drives from OWC. The ordering system online is beautifully done and is designed with care and attention to customer security. Every item I've previously ordered has been delivered as promised, on time, and worked perfectly.


Product: Guardian MAXimus

Company: Newer Technology, Inc.

List Price: $429.99

5 out of 5 stars

Pros: High reliability, fast, excellent price to storage ratio for RAID-1, automatic RAID-1 rebuild, fairly quiet, security slot, terrific customer service.
Cons: None

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