Maxtor OneTouch III Mini 160GB
Company: Seagate Maxtor
Price $200 (large discounts are available, so shop with that in mind)
Seagate buys Maxtor and retains the Maxtor brand. The company provides a unit to MyMac.com reviewer during Macworld 2007 Expo. Reviewer successfully uses and evaluates hardware/software combo. The product has both strengths and weaknesses. Positive outweighs negative, and reviewer recommends unit, with some reservations. Reviewer uses product, and learns to optimize its features. End of story, or beginning? Reviewer is tempted to make this a “RSR” (really short review).
I am a sucker for lightweight, portable, external hard drives. I currently own and use (gasp) eight total models from three different companies. I’m happy with each one, having different features than its neighbors on my shelf. Maxtor’s OneTouch III Mini (abbreviated here as OT3M) is the only USB-2 unit that is exclusively USB, with no FireWire port. It’s also the only one with included backup/restore software that is designed and engineered by the same company — a comprehensive hardware/software solution (so they promise).
Software setup instructions are almost complete, meaning if you are a total newbie you’ll miss a couple of important points. Maxtor needs to rewrite their single-sheet installation guide to include those missing steps. What they intend to say is Mac users must copy all included software to their primary computer hard disks, then use Apple’s Disk Utility to erase OT3M so it’s configured as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) instead of the DOS configuration that’s inherent upon arrival. Then software is used to allow OT3M to backup and restore data from the external USB drive to any other computer that has Maxtor OneTouch Manager installed. Easier to do than explain, and it’s not difficult if you are computer savvy.
The physical drive is medium-size for a portable external unit. It is well-constructed, stylish, durable, and very light weight. You can get all the specifications from a link at the top of this page. Most important criteria are: 5400 RPM speed, works with OS 10.2.8 and higher, and NOT Universal-binary Intel Mac native, although it is fully-functional via Rosetta (if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry). The actual hard disk in this unit is a Seagate Momentus 5400.3/160GB drive. Gear-heads can learn more here at this PDF.
A custom, elongated V-shaped USB cable connects OT3M to computer. If you’re lucky, you only need one of the cable’s USB ends to power this bus-powered external unit, and all current Macintoshes should work connecting via either one or both USB-ports. OT3M beeps to alert you that you’ll need to use two, when appropriate. Again, this is much easier to do than explain, and after ten seconds you’ll be an expert on your own computer. Laptops are typically bus-power challenged, requiring both USB tips, and desktop workhorse Macs generally only require the single connection.
Software works as advertised. Note that you can NOT backup a complete hard drive. Users are not able to duplicate an entire boot volume to OT3M via OneTouch Manager software. Instead, I successfully backed up complete root folders (such as Documents, Library, and Users) from within Macintosh HD. Maxtor tells MyMac.com: “OT3 software by design does not do full images of the drive and it only backs up the user’s data as they can always reinstall the OS.” That info needs to be in bold type on all included instruction sheets.
USB-2 is not as fast as FireWire 400, and don’t let anybody convince you to the contrary. I have a TON of experience using external FW400 drives, and they are faster than this or any other USB-2 transfer device. Backing up and restoring to and from OT3M is efficient, but won’t break any speed records. I’m not going to do any supergeek benchmark testing, because real world experience confirms my hypothesis. When you need the fastest possible movement of data, FW800 is the way to go. Under typical home or office circumstances, USB-2 is adequate.
Newcomers to Maxtor software will need a few minutes to navigate the interface on the Maxtor OneTouch Manager application. It’s straightforward to use. Any familiarity with other backup utilities will help, but total strangers should not be intimidated. As backup/restore apps go, this is a clean and simple process.
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How to rate Maxtor OneTouch III Mini 160GB? Hardware and performance are good-to-very good, and software is very good, once you accept it can’t backup your complete drive. Just like in competitive aquatic diving or gymnastics, let’s toss out the top and bottom numbers, and award this innovative hardware-software product a respectable 3.5 out of 5.