by Rory Buszka on July 29, 2008 in External Storage
Maxtor’s diminutive OneTouch 4 Mini pushes the capacity envelope again, packing a positively huge 320 gigabytes of storage into a tiny enclosure. It’s also one of the sexiest mini external drives we’ve seen. Is the OneTouch 4 Mini 320GB a portable storage slam-dunk?
Maxtor’s OneTouch 4 Mini isn’t designed to appeal to the performance crowd, being a 5400RPM drive that’s further speed-limited by its USB 2.0 connection. Its primary virtue is its size, though it also offers additional convenience by not requiring an external power adapter to operate, like many 3.5″ form factor drives do. For this article, we’ll compare it to the powerhouse Seagate FreeAgent Pro 750GB, one of the best external hard drives we’ve tested thus far.
The testing for this article provided the perfect opportunity to break in the newest addition to our fleet of hardware test rigs, based on a 45nm Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 and running Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x64. The test machine is not connected to a network during testing, and no virus scanning, firewall, or disk optimization software is used while testing is being conducted.
To test external storage, we use Simpli Software’s HD Tach to test drive throughput and random access times, and then manually test the time it takes to copy a 4GB folder from the machine’s internal hard drive to each external drive under test. In this review, there’s only one connection type to be worried about, so we’ll only test the OneTouch 4 Mini and the Seagate FreeAgent Pro using the USB 2.0 interface, despite the FreeAgent Pro’s eSATA capability.
In the synthetic HD Tach benchmark, you’ll notice that the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini eked out three-megabyte-per-second lead over the FreeAgent Pro in average read performance, though both managed similar burst transfer rates. The FreeAgent Pro took a marginal lead in access time, turning the tables where random access operation is concerned.
When we conducted our real-world folder copying benchmark, however, the FreeAgent Pro pulled out a 4-second lead, as if from nowhere. The OneTouch 4 Mini was still surprisingly speedy, and is certainly in the same league as the FreeAgent when it comes to its ability to transfer large amounts of data quickly.
Maxtor pushes the capacity and value envelopes once again with the OneTouch 4 Mini, thanks to a fast 2.5″ drive platform and the ability of the drive to operate independently of an external power source. The OneTouch 4 Mini provides a stylish, compelling alternative to flash-based storage when large amounts of data (like HD video or an entire music collection) need to be moved that make flash drives impractical. Yet its ability to draw all its power from the host machine’s USB bus means it’s the perfect storage companion to laptop PCs.
The OneTouch 4 Mini 320GB model kept up with our 750GB Seagate FreeAgent Pro in performance testing, to within an extremely small margin. And its single-button backup/sync feature makes it easy to protect your data whenever you want, or ensure that your files are up-to-date, though we see more usefulness in programming the OneTouch button to sync files, and simply letting the backup routine run automatically.
Our initial enthusiasm for the drive was somewhat damped by the fact that we had to request a second sample from Maxtor after our initial sample fell victim to USB controller issues. After about five minutes, our first drive would simply stop transmitting data to the host machine, and the drive’s custom icon would be replaced by a generic fixed-disk icon. Our second sample worked flawlessly through all testing, but all the same, it’s still disconcerting to ever receive a product sample that’s a dud.
Our issue appears to have been an isolated one, thankfully, and the replacement drive didn’t suffer from the same problem. The OneTouch 4 Mini carries the same 5-year limited warranty as the other OneTouch products, so you’ll be well cared-for if you should experience a similar issue with your drive. However, be aware that there is a fee for data recovery, even with warranty service. Depending on how much that turns out to be, you might be better off prying the case open and liberating the drive inside, then plugging it directly into a PC to recover the data.
The Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini 320GB is a great-looking 2.5″ form factor external drive that offers excellent performance and flexibility, and plenty of available storage capacity as well. We’re in love with the product concept, but the sketchy USB connection in the first test sample we received nevertheless introduces some uncertainty. For that reason, we’re only awarding the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini 320GB a Techgage score of 8/10.
- Plenty of storage space
- Speedy file transfer performance via USB 2.0
- USB bus-powered convenience
- Stylish enclosure fits easily into a pocket
- Single-button backup/sync function
- No Firewire or eSATA support
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