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Recommendation for external USB 2.0 or USB 2.0/FireWire case

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Recommendation for external USB 2.0 or USB 2.0/FireWire case

Postby cfitz on Tue Aug 12, 2003 6:10 pm

This question has come up before, but the product that was recommended doesn't seem to be for sale anymore, so I would like to ask again.

I am thinking about taking advantage of the sale on the Maxtor 160 GByte listed in the Hot Deals forum, and would like to put the drive in an external enclosure. I want a 5.25" enclosure that can house either an optical drive or a hard drive rather than a 3.5" enclosure for a hard drive only. Someday I might want to use it for an optical drive as well.

I would like an enclosure with a fan, since these bigger, faster drives can generate some heat and I would like to prolong the lifespan by keeping things cool. A metal enclosure would also be nice, although it isn't a requirement. I definitely want a USB 2.0 interface, since that is more prevalent than FireWire and I already have a USB interface on my computer, but I would consider a combo enclosure as well.

I was looking at these enclosures specifically:

http://www.meritline.com/meritline/usb20dealex5.html
http://www.meritline.com/meritline/fi13oxandusb.html

Those pages don't specifically mention that the enclosures can house hard drives, but the manufacturer's spec sheet does:

http://www.mapower.com.tw/dm/y51.pdf

Here are my questions:

1. Is there any advantage to having a FireWire interface as well? I don't currently own a FireWire adapter for my computer, and don't anticipate buying a camcorder that might prompt me to get a FireWire adapter. I know that USB 2.0 bit rates are theoretically faster than FireWire (at least in versions used in typical enclosures) and either should be fast enough for the drive, but sometimes real-world concerns such as drivers, interface cards, concurrency issues, etc can make a seemingly "slower" standard superior in practice.

2. Would there be any problem with the enclosure recognizing a 160 GByte drive? I know that there were some issues with older motherboards recognizing 48-bit LBA drives with capacities greater than 137 GBytes and wonder if the same issue might apply here.

3. Does anyone have any experience with these particular enclosures or would recommend another?

Thanks,

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Postby tazdevl on Tue Aug 12, 2003 7:49 pm

Firewire = much lower CPU utilization than USB 2.0. Both take the same amount of time to burn a disc. You can daisy chain devices together with firewire as well.

Burning never takes up the full bandwidth of either interface. Most of the newer enclosures have no problems recognizing larger drives, just be sure to check the specs.

In terms of using a HD with the enclosure, there will be some degradation in HD performance using the drive in an external enclosure, nothing huge though.

Newegg has a Coolmax combo enclosure available... has a 510 in the model#.

Benefit of having both interfaces is apparent if you plan on moving it around a lot. It's nice to have both for the Forrest Gump Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates factor. Never know, might run into a device that only has a FW port clear. Otherwise just sticking to USB is fine since it's backwards compatible with USB 1.1.
Last edited by tazdevl on Tue Aug 12, 2003 11:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby tazdevl on Tue Aug 12, 2003 7:54 pm

FYI all those enclosures can't be used with HDs. They aren't compatible with 3.5" devices.

Try looking at the bottom of this page. (bah link keeps breaking)
"http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproduct.asp?DEPA=&submit=Go&description=coolmax+510"

But if you're going to use it with a burner, why bother... I've got a DRX510UL for sale. :D
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Postby cfitz on Wed Aug 13, 2003 12:15 am

tazdevl wrote:Firewire = much lower CPU utilization than USB 2.0.

That's one of the things I was wondering about. I had read suggestions that this was the case in the past. Thanks for the confirmation.

tazdevl wrote:Burning never takes up the full bandwidth of either interface.

Yes, I wasn't worried about that at all. Hard drives would have a better chance of stressing the overall bandwidth, but even that wasn't my concern. I was thinking more about things like CPU utilization and latency.

tazdevl wrote:Most of the newer enclosures have no problems recognizing larger drives, just be sure to check the specs.

I see that the links you provided explicitly say they support 200 GB on FireWire, up to 1 TB ( :o ) on USB. And the links I listed are for new models, so they ought to be okay too. I feel less worried about this now.

tazdevl wrote:In terms of using a HD with the enclosure, there will be some degradation in HD performance using the drive in an external enclosure, nothing huge though.

I expect some degradation, but as long as it isn't significant I will be happy. I would consider the threshold for "significant" to be something like a degradation to around 80% of the internal speed when the drive is installed in the external enclosure. How does that square with your idea of "huge"?

tazdevl wrote:Newegg has a Coolmax combo enclosure available... has a 510 in the model#.

It's funny. I had gone to the Coolmax site and the NewEgg site before I posted because I was also considering Coolmax. But I didn't list them for two reasons. First, when I searched on NewEgg I just entered "Coolmax" and could only find the 3.5" hard-drive-only enclosures, some of which didn't get very good user comments on NewEgg. As it turns out, I didn't notice that there was a link to a second page of Coolmax search results at the bottom of the page, and that is where the 5.25" versions and their better user comments showed up. That's what I get for trying to operate on 3 hours of sleep. :oops: Thanks for giving the direct link to the 510 models.

The second reason was that I couldn't find the +5 V current specification for the Coolmax enclosure and wanted to be sure it would support the .9 Amperes peak current required by the Maxtor hard drive I plan to install. I guess I can send NewEgg an email and see if they know, or just try it and see.

<edit>
After having purchased, tested, and returned the Coolmax unit, I have to make the following warning: Don't buy Coolmax enclosures. They don't work as advertised. Despite claims to the contrary, the enclosures don't support large hard disk drives on the Firewire interface. Additionally, Coolmax's customer and technical support is completely non-existent. They simply ignore all attempts to contact them.
</edit>

By the way, I like the fact that the Coolmax uses screws to hold it together. The MAP enclosures tout their screwless design, but I happen to prefer screws to snap-on designs.

tazdevl wrote:Benefit of having both interfaces is apparent if you plan on moving it around a lot. It's nice to have both for the Forrest Gump Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates factor. Never know, might run into a device that only has a FW port clear. Otherwise just sticking to USB is fine since it's backwards compatible with USB 1.1.

True, and I was certainly considering that. But I was trying to balance it against the extra price and looking for some other reasons (like lower CPU utilization) that might tip the balance.

tazdevl wrote:FYI all those enclosures can't be used with HDs. They aren't compatible with 3.5" devices.

The enclosures in the links I provided? Did you base this on the Meritline links? Or did you have another source of information upon which you based this statement? I know the Meritline pages don't mention HDD compatibility, but the MAP site does:

http://www.mapower.com.tw/map-y51.htm
http://www.mapower.com.tw/dm/y51.pdf

tazdevl wrote:But if you're going to use it with a burner, why bother... I've got a DRX510UL for sale.

Good sales pitch, but sorry, my main intention is to put a hard drive in it, and I'm not yet ready to get a DVD burner. :wink:

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Last edited by cfitz on Tue Nov 18, 2003 11:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby cfitz on Wed Aug 13, 2003 12:26 am

Interesting page from one vendor regarding the MAP products:

http://www.cooldrives.com/maprpr.html

Looks like the Coolmax from NewEgg just went up another notch.

<edit>
After having purchased, tested, and returned the Coolmax unit, I have to make the following warning: Don't buy Coolmax enclosures. They don't work as advertised. Despite claims to the contrary, the enclosures don't support large hard disk drives on the Firewire interface. Additionally, Coolmax's customer and technical support is completely non-existent. They simply ignore all attempts to contact them.
</edit>

cfitz
Last edited by cfitz on Tue Nov 18, 2003 11:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby tazdevl on Wed Aug 13, 2003 2:54 am

It's also $10-15 cheaper than the ones you found.

I could swear that I noticed in the meritline product descriptions that they were 5.25" compatible, HD is 3.5". I guess you could use HD rails, but seems to me, especially given the current issue you mentioned, want to be sure you have an enclosure that was specifically designed to work with 3.5" devices or 3.5" and 5.25".

I doubt Newegg would know. Coolmax is pretty responsive, send an email to support, you'll probably get a response in 24-48 hours. I do know someone who's using the enclosure in question with a 200GB WD Special Ed, zero issues.

In terms of performance... info is not specifically about Coolmax, but they all pretty much use the same chipset.
http://www17.tomshardware.com/storage/2 ... hd-09.html

Looks like based on the article @ Toms, FW gives substantially better performance.

FYI other nice thing about the Coolmax 510 is that it has active cooling, definitely a nice to have with a 7200 RPM HD.
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Postby cfitz on Wed Aug 13, 2003 1:25 pm

tazdevl wrote:In terms of performance... info is not specifically about Coolmax, but they all pretty much use the same chipset.
http://www17.tomshardware.com/storage/2 ... hd-09.html

Interesting. Thanks for the link.

tazdevl wrote:FYI other nice thing about the Coolmax 510 is that it has active cooling, definitely a nice to have with a 7200 RPM HD.

Yes, I noticed. In fact I thought that was one of the reasons you suggeted that particular model - I had requested enclosures with fans specifically to address the heat issues associated with 7200 RPM drives. The MAP enclosures I linked in my first post have fans as well.

I've pretty much ruled out the MAP enclosures at this point due to their higher cost and questionable quality control (even though I like the looks of them). That leaves the Coolmax and two new contenders in my short list right now:

http://www.dealsonic.com/bymecoidetof.html
http://www.dealsonic.com/plcoideusb2i.html

Both are plastic rather than aluminum and rather ugly looking, but the are cheaper still, and they have built-in power supplies rather than external DC converter bricks. That makes for one less thing to tote around, break and/or lose.

I wish I could find a web site for Plumax.

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Postby David on Wed Aug 13, 2003 2:53 pm

Hello cfitz, I am using the firewire version of the ME-320 the one thing you might want to know is the cooling fan is some what on the loud side compared to the ADS Tech enclosure I also use since the ME-320 dosn't use an external power adaptor.
Benscustomcases.com did a review of it which is here

Edit: here are some pics of the ME-320 usb/firewire enclosure from newegg.
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Postby cfitz on Wed Aug 13, 2003 11:41 pm

David wrote:Hello cfitz, I am using the firewire version fo the ME-320 the one thing you might want to know is the cooling fan is some what on the loud side compared to other enclosures since it dosn't use an external power adaptor.

Well, I don't think it will bother me too much, since the computer I am using is pretty noisy to begin with. :( And I wanted a fan to keep down temperatures in the hard drive whether or not the enclosure's power supply is integrated or separated.

By the way, having an external power supply doesn't necessarily remove all the heat of the power conversion process from the enclosure. Most enclosures with external power supplies that I have seen only supply 12 V to the enclosure. That means that within the enclosure additional conversion must be done to generate the 5 V rail, and the inevitable losses result in heat within the enclosure that must be dissipated. Thus, while an external supply removes some of the heat from the enclosure, it typically doesn't remove all of it. One exception (there may be others) is CompuCable's FireXpress 525DX. Based on the multi-pin power connector in the picture on NewEgg's site, I would say it does all the conversion to both 5 and 12 V in the external power brick:

http://www.newegg.com/app/Showimage.asp ... 544-04.JPG

(link to product itself at http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproduct.a ... tion=525dx )

I take it you are happy with your enclosure?

David wrote:Benscustomcases.com did a review of it which is here

Thanks for the link. It really shows a big difference between the actual transfer rates achievable with USB 2.0 and FireWire.

I've not yet made my final decision, but right now I am leaning back towards the CoolMax 510 suggested by tazdevl, even though it uses an external supply.

<edit>
After having purchased, tested, and returned the Coolmax unit, I have to make the following warning: Don't buy Coolmax enclosures. They don't work as advertised. Despite claims to the contrary, the enclosures don't support large hard disk drives on the Firewire interface. Additionally, Coolmax's customer and technical support is completely non-existent. They simply ignore all attempts to contact them.
</edit>

cfitz
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Postby cfitz on Thu Aug 14, 2003 12:02 am

By the way, David, where did you get your ADS Tech enclosure? The DLX185 looks pretty nice too, but it seems to be significantly more expensive than other enclosures:

http://cdrlabs.pricegrabber.com/search_ ... rch=DLX185

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Postby David on Thu Aug 14, 2003 12:59 am

My ADS is the Firewire only version which I picked up at Circuit City A while back when they were on sale. The construction compared to the ME-320 is better metal case with a plastic screw on cover.

Hers a pic I forgot the flash so I just increaced the britness. I also left the plastic front attached.
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Postby cfitz on Thu Aug 14, 2003 10:17 am

Thanks David. Looks like the fan can blow air on the drive pretty well.

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Postby Inertia on Sat Aug 16, 2003 3:39 am

A quick search found another USB 2.0 vs. Firewire comparison that corroborates the superior hard drive throughput of Fireware. This is in spite of Firewire being specified at 400 Mb/sec compared to 480 Mb/sec for USB 2.0. In this case Firewire was about 14% faster when tested at Best Ways to Connect: Hard Drives.

I like the idea of a combo enclosure even though you currently have USB 2.0. You can buy a 2 port Firewire card starting at $11.00 at PriceWatch Firewire and have the flexibility and portability of using either protocol, while not giving up any CPU % or throughput performance at home.

I especially like the CoolmaxModel#: CD-510B-COMBO BLACK model. As we technogeeks know, black radiates heat more efficiently (even if it isn't significant enough to make a difference), and besides it looks cool (pun intended). :D

The external power supplies are sort of klunky, but I suspect that they are an economical way of designing a product. The size of the product package is more straightforward and efficient with the absence of a large internal power supply consideration. There are many external OEM varieties available and it may enhance a product's price competition (while maintaining quality) to include a proven off-the-shelf supply whose development costs have long ago been covered. As far as the voltage requirements, Newegg is perhaps the best in the business for handling returns if required. I doubt very much that this will be necessary, as the standard power supply has a 1.7 amp output at 12V, or about 20 watts. Hard drive power requirements have not noticeably increased with huge capacity gains, and if anything seem to have gone down over time. 5V maximum requirements should be at or under about 4.5 watts with 12V requirements about 8 watts. Even allowing for heat losses in the inefficient 12 to 5V conversion, there should be enough power at 12V to carry the loads. (I enjoy making a fool of myself propounding these simplistic ideas and reassuring an electrical engineer). :D
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Postby cfitz on Sun Aug 17, 2003 12:16 am

Thanks Inertia. With all the evidence supporting Firewire being faster in practice despite USB 2.0's higher specification for maximum throughput, I will definitely get a combo enclosure. I still want USB due to its greater prevalence, but having both interfaces will give me both maximum performance when using the drive on my home computer along with maximum compatibility when carrying it to other computers.

Inertia wrote:I especially like the CoolmaxModel#: CD-510B-COMBO BLACK model. As we technogeeks know, black radiates heat more efficiently (even if it isn't significant enough to make a difference), and besides it looks cool (pun intended). :D

You bet. I had already decided that if I go for a Coolmax enclosure I would definitely spend the couple of dollars more for the black model for both of the reasons you listed. :wink:

<edit>
After having purchased, tested, and returned the Coolmax unit, I have to make the following warning: Don't buy Coolmax enclosures. They don't work as advertised. Despite claims to the contrary, the enclosures don't support large hard disk drives on the Firewire interface. Additionally, Coolmax's customer and technical support is completely non-existent. They simply ignore all attempts to contact them.
</edit>

Inertia wrote:The external power supplies are sort of klunky...<snip>... Even allowing for heat losses in the inefficient 12 to 5V conversion, there should be enough power at 12V to carry the loads.

Yes, you are right. I shouldn't worry so much. The figures you have presented are reasonable. I guess I just like to have the full specs. But, as you point out, a return is not likely to be required, and not impossible if it is required.[/quote]

Inertia wrote: (I enjoy making a fool of myself propounding these simplistic ideas and reassuring an electrical engineer). :D

I don't know about you, but I didn't see anyone making a fool of himself. :)

Thanks tazdevl, David and Inertia. I appreciate your inputs. I think I will order the Coolmax next week. I'll let you know how it works out.

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Postby dodecahedron on Sun Aug 17, 2003 2:32 pm

cfitz,
what made you choose the coolmax over the other options:
Bytecc ME-320U2F
Plumax IDE USB 2.0 & FireWire 1394
ADS Tech DLX185
CompuCable FireXpress 525DX
?
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Postby cfitz on Sun Aug 17, 2003 4:44 pm

MAPower Map-Y51C1G:
pros = looks nice, aluminum case, fan
cons = expensive ($96), reliability issues, external power supply
deciding factors against = the expense and reliability issues

Bytecc ME-320U2F:
pros = fan, internal power supply, price ($57)
cons = plastic case (which is a minus by itself, but this particular case appears to be a little flimsier than others and, IMO is ugly), poor USB performance*
deciding factors against = plastic case, usb performance
*All tests I have seen show USB doing worse than Firewire, but this particular one showed a more dramatic degradation with USB. Now, it might have been that the degradation was due to the tester's computer/USB chipset/drivers and not the enclosure, so I didn't weight this factor 100% when making my decision, but I did give it some consideration.

Plumax IDE USB 2.0 & FireWire 1394
pros = fan, internal power supply, price ($56)
cons = plastic case, lack of information (e.g. couldn't find manufacturer's web site)
deciding factor against = lack of information

ADS Tech DLX185
pros = quiet fan, metal case, good-looking
cons = external power supply, expensive ($87+)
deciding factor against = expense

CompuCable FireXpress 525DX
pros = fan, metal case
cons = fan on side rather than back, probably reducing effectiveness since air must make right angle turn to get out of case, proprietary external power supply*
deciding factor against = proprietary external powersupply
*Most external power supplies provide a single voltage of +12 V through a standard barrel connector, and thus could be easily replaced with a generic supply if they failed. The Compucable supply, however, supplies both +12 V and +5 V through a 3-pin DIN connector, so it would be harder to replace if it failed.

Coolmax CD-510B-U2F
pros = aluminum case, fan, looks nice, moderate price ($67)
cons = external power supply
deciding factors for = aluminum case and fan for a moderate price

<edit>
After having purchased, tested, and returned the Coolmax unit, I have to make the following warning: Don't buy Coolmax enclosures. They don't work as advertised. Despite claims to the contrary, the enclosures don't support large hard disk drives on the Firewire interface. Additionally, Coolmax's customer and technical support is completely non-existent. They simply ignore all attempts to contact them.
</edit>

These are, of course, based on my own criteria and others' would differ. For example, I put external power suppies on the con side, beause I feel that they are an extra hassle to cart about and more likely to fail (e.g. cord breaks) than an internal supply. On the other hand, they are easily replaced if they fail, and, as Inertia rightfully pointed out, they have other advantages as well. Thus, others might view external suppies as a plus. And opinions about what cases look good and what look ugly are purely personal preferences.

I haven't yet placed my order, so if you see something that I have missed or disagree with my evaluation, let me know! It might help me make a better decision. :)

By the way, the runners-up in my evaluation were the Bytecc ME-320U2F and the CompuCable FireXpress 525DX.

cfitz

<edit>fixed broken links</edit>
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Postby dodecahedron on Sun Aug 17, 2003 7:23 pm

WOW!
i expected a 1 paragraph explanation, and got a chapter and verse! :D

thanks for the detailed explanations.
i think i would prefer an external power supply, but that's me.
i also don't think the Coolmax looks very nice, but some of the ones that look nicer to me are plastic and that's no good...
the ADS looks good but is expensive...the MAPower looks good but unreliable...
seems like you made a good choice.
i would prefer the ADS but the price :(

(by the way where did you see that the ADS one is a metal case? couldn't see it on the link you gave...did i miss it?
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Postby cfitz on Sun Aug 17, 2003 7:44 pm

dodecahedron wrote:by the way where did you see that the ADS one is a metal case? couldn't see it on the link you gave...did i miss it?

From David's post:

http://www.cdrlabs.com/phpBB/viewtopic. ... 5795#75795

:wink:

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Postby dodecahedron on Sun Aug 17, 2003 8:18 pm

right you are! :wink:
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Postby Saxtus on Mon Aug 18, 2003 4:09 pm

Cfitz you are awesome!
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Postby cfitz on Mon Aug 18, 2003 8:40 pm

Well, I wouldn't go that far, but I take it you found this thread to be useful. I'm glad it could help you also, and I thank you for your expression of gratitude.

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Postby firehawk12 on Thu Aug 28, 2003 7:34 pm

So is the Coolmax the best one to get? :)
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Postby cfitz on Tue Oct 21, 2003 10:45 pm

In the spirit of the upcoming Halloween holiday and in keeping with the recent spate of thread-necromancy here at CDRLabs, I will now raise this thread from the dead to update my findings for any interested readers.

<edit>
After having purchased, tested, and returned the Coolmax unit, I have to make the following warning: Don't buy Coolmax enclosures. They don't work as advertised. Despite claims to the contrary, the enclosures don't support large hard disk drives on the Firewire interface. Additionally, Coolmax's customer and technical support is completely non-existent. They simply ignore all attempts to contact them.
</edit>

I don't have time to go into the details right now, but the quick summary is that, after having purchased and tested the Coolmax unit, I found it to be greatly lacking and do not recommend it. It was unable to properly support large hard drives on the Firewire interface, and Coolmax' customer support was completely non-existent. I apologize to anyone who followed along with my search and, based on my research, ordered the Coolmax unit with unsatisfactory consequences. Unfortunately, pre-purchase research can only reveal a limited amount of information, and I couldn't reach my final conclusion until I actually had the unit in hand to test for myself.

On the other hand, I found that Bytecc and Dealsonic.com give excellent customer service, and I would recommend dealing with both of these firms.

In the end I exchanged the Coolmax for a EuroCom ME-350U2F USB/Firewire combo unit from Dealsonic (which at first I thought was a Bytecc product but apparently is not - more on that later when time permits). It has been completely trouble-free, and I had it installed and working within 10 minutes of opening the box, without any struggles or hassles. What a difference from the Coolmax unit! I didn't even need to configure or install any software.

The only thing I would warn you about the EuroCom unit is not to get excited about the "rainbow light bar" if that sort of thing appeals to you. I don't see any rainbow of colors coming from my unit, just a nice blue glow. And I'm not even sure you can be guaranteed of getting a blue light bar. I think the units may come with either blue, red or green light bars, and I don't know of any way to select which you get. If this matters to you, drop an email to Dealsonic and ask. As for me, I am perfectly happy with a simple blue light.

One final note: Firewire beats USB 2.0 hands down in terms of both actually achievable transfer rates and low CPU usage. The difference is like night and day. Ignore the minor and misleading theoretical transfer rate advantage of USB 2.0 (480 Mbs versus 400 Mbs). Based on Firewire's superiority, I would recommend getting a firewire unit or, if you need to use the unit on some computers that don't have Firewire interfaces, a combined unit.

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Postby MikeTR on Tue Nov 18, 2003 9:04 am

FYI:

The actual manufacturer of, amongst others, the Bytecc enclosure is a Taiwan based company named Welland (http://www.welland.com.tw).
Judging from the naming scheme, the EuroCom drive might also be made by them, although I don't see it mentioned on their site.
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MikeTR
CD-RW Player
 
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Postby cfitz on Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:26 pm

Yes, there are quite a number of brands that sell variants of these units. As you note, based on both the naming conventions and the striking physical similarities, they are all apparently made by one real (OEM) manufacturer and then sold under the different brands. That is what I intended to explain in detail when I wrote "more on that later when time permits", but since no one showed any interest by replying I didn't bother to follow up.

It is funny, I just ran across the Welland site the other day and noted that they too, sell these units. I wasn't aware that they are the original source and actually manufacture them. But, since they are based in Taiwan and China and do show pictures of actual factories, I believe you when you say they are the true manufacturer.

Thanks for the additional information.

cfitz
cfitz
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