40GB OWC Mercury On-The-Go External Hard Drive

Other World Computing 40GB OWC Mercury On-The-Go Oxford911 FireWire+USB 2.0/1.1 Combo 2.5″ External Hard Drive
Company: Other World Computing
Price: $200 US
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Model number: OWCMOFWU40GB54T

Our friends at Other World Computing (OWC) were caught off guard when Rocstor’s Rocport 4 Portable FireWire/USB 2.0 Hard Drive received our highest rating a couple of months ago. The OWC rep had never heard of Rocstor, and wanted to see how OWC’s Mercury On-The-Go (MOTG) portable drives compare. The news is good, and they can be proud of their versatile, peculiar little wonder.

Take a look at this MOTG’s web site for its specs, because they are impressive, especially at such an affordable price, including:

Oxford911 chip set, two FireWire plus one USB 2.0/1.1 ports, 2.5″ 5400RPM Toshiba drive, and 16MB data buffer (that’s the largest we’ve seen in any drive to date). In addition, purchasers receive: FireWire Cable, Carrying Case, Dantz Retrospect and Intech SpeedTools software included, with a one-year warranty.

The physical drive is approximately the size of a small adult male hand, and its weight is light, at just under 10 ounces. Unlike the ultraslim Rocport, MOTG creates a rectangular bulge in a pants pocket (“Is that a hard drive in your pocket, or did you just get a pacemaker installed in your thigh?”), but it’s not uncomfortable to carry that way. I throw mine into a day pack, where its size and weight are insignificant alongside my other computer supplies.

The 5400RPM drive speed and extra-large buffer translate into quickness. Desktop mounting (both FireWire and USB) is almost instantaneous, and data transfers are as fast as we’ve experienced for any drive reviewed. I did a side-by-side comparison of MOTG versus Rocport, and with a couple of exceptions, MOTG was as quick or faster than Rocport in all FireWire copying operations. (Tech specs are not definitive, because my computers are not recent enough to provide G5 benchmarks. When I have an opportunity to audition this drive at our local Tucson Apple Store, I can perform side-by-side comparisons. Is this something you are interested in?)

A friendly blue light glows when MOTG is mounted and running, with some gentle pulsing and an almost imperceptible drive noise and vibration during data transfer. From left to right, the rear connection ports are 4-pin FireWire, 6-pin FireWire, USB, power, and on/off. Its rectangular case has rounded long sides and straight ends, so the unit can reside lying flat or standing on end.

A generous software package is thrown in, with Apple Movies and Updaters, Desktop Pictures, abundant shareware and freeware for both OS 9 and X, plus specific NewerTech and OWC software and commercial backup and disk enhancement applications. This is not a software review, but it’s nice to have so many goodies included at this low price.

Aside from speed and software, what sets OWC’s Mercury On-The-Go apart from the competition is its bizarre, ultra-techy design and construction. Simply put, it’s a bare drive, circuitry, and a few port connectors encased in a sturdy, clear plastic shell. Weird and wonderful, if you like post-postmodern objects, and weird and whybother, if you prefer the sleek looks of Rocport. It’s nice to have such a choice, since portable combo drives are essentially more similar than different under the skin.

My friend JJ, an art collector and lecturer, saw me using MOTG, and she was immediately drawn to its appearance, telling MyMac.com:

Nemo! Your readers should see this high-tech beauty. Its circuit board has an attractive teal color under all the silver and black chips. Too bad the bright blue of its light isn’t more compatible with the teal. Can I get one with a teal or dark red light?

I like the mild vibration, indicating that the thing is functioning. If left running long enough, it appears it could double as a hand warmer, a very nice additional feature for people who don’t live here in hot, dry, southern Arizona.
Don’t let JJ scare you, because heat buildup in this fan-free drive is barely to the warm stage.

If the aforementioned Rocport received a perfect score and this Mercury On-The-Go unit is at least as good (if not as sexy or as slim), can MyMac.com rate MOTG at 5 out of 5, our highest rating? Yes, indeed. To prove my point, I rotate my active data archives back and forth, day to day (you should consider something similar!), between Rocport and MOTG, and I will stop doing so only when both drives are forcibly removed from my clutching fingers.


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