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Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus 500GB External Hard Drive
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by Nate Marion on November 23, 2007 in External Storage

Choosing the right external HDD can be tough. In order to sell, products such as the OneTouch 4 rely on their robust software bundle to help move off the shelf. People should be given a solid backup suite, especially given the price. This is exactly where Maxtor fell short, with their OneTouch 4 Plus.

Introduction


It seems like external hard drives are everywhere these days, and are perpetually growing larger in capacity and smaller in size. Competition is fierce, with almost any drive on the shelf coming equipped with an array of connectivity options as well as a complete software suite for helping consumers to back up their data.

Successful products in this market must offer fast performance on a variety of interfaces, an attractive design, quiet operation, and an easy to use yet comprehensive software suite that allows users to easily and reliably back up their data and keep it secure.

With this in mind, we’re going to look at one of Seagate’s new line of external hard drives, the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus 500gb external hard drive.

Seagate’s marketing angle with this drive compares your data to your life, and offers users an easy way to ‘save your life’. While this is obviously a bit overly dramatic, I think everyone would agree that losing a couple years’ worth of data due to a hard drive failure is definitely something to be avoided. Let’s see if the OneTouch 4 Plus really is a life saver.

The Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus comes is a fairly minimalist box, advertising PC and Mac compatibility on the font, the features and system requirements on the back, and the dimensions on the side.

The system requirements are minimal, and include:

  • USB 1.1, 2.0, or Firewire port
  • Pentium III 500mhz or faster processor
  • 256mb or more of RAM (as required by your operating system)
  • A CD ROM drive for the use of the SafetyDrill CD
  • An Internet connection for software updates
  • Any version of Windows XP or Vista or Mac OS X 10.4.7-10.4.9

The feature set appears to be very robust, and includes:

  • 5 year limited warranty (a trademark of Seagate)
  • SafetyDrill software that can be used to boot and recover the contents of your entire boot drive in the event of a drive failure, virus infection, etc.
  • Optional 256-bit data encryption for files stored on the drive
  • Optional password protection for drive contents
  • Easy installation, use, and management
  • Flexible backup options
  • Ability to sync files across two or more computers

It’s important to note that not all of these features are available to all users. The box notes that the SafetyDrill recovery software is only functional with Windows operating systems, and in any case, the entire software suite can ONLY be installed on a 32 bit operating system – if you are using 64 bit versions of XP or Vista, the external drive will function, but none of the included software will be of any use to you.

Also worthy of note is the fact that there is very little difference between the Maxtor OneTouch 4 and the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus – if you don’t need the optional 256 bit software encryption or Firewire 400 support, you might as well just get the OneTouch 4.

Opening the box reveals a nice, secure packaging shell containing the drive and the cables.

Here we get our first look at the drive itself, as well as the power cord, USB and Firewire cables, manual and CD. The included CD is the SafetyDrill boot CD, the rest of the bundled software is stored on the drive itself. Maxtor recommends that the bundled software be copied to a second location to ensure that it doesn’t get deleted accidentally. If you manage to delete the bundled software, you’ll have to contact tech support in order to get it back – it’s not a free download.

At first look the drive seems pretty nice. The brushed aluminum looks clean and sleek, and also helps to dissipate heat. There are also vents on the top/bottom/rear to help with heat dissipation. The shape of the drive allows it to be laid down on most sides, and its small size and light weight makes it relatively easy to transport and position.

The rear of the drive has connections for the power cord, USB 2.0 and Firewire 400. I don’t know why there are two Firewire 400 connections, but I verified that both of them work. Only one Firewire cable was included, and that’s all the excuse I need to conveniently forget this little mystery.

The front of the drive has the one-touch button, which can be used to perform user-defined backup procedures with ‘one touch’. This button is backlit by a white LED, and this is the only aesthetic problem I have with the device. The light is not evenly distributed throughout the button, and compared to all the other colorful lights on various devices (laptops, keyboards, glowing mice, PC power buttons, etc.) the white light looks glaringly un-inspired and cheap.

If anyone argues that white fits in any color scheme equally well, I will argue that in the case of this LED, white makes any color scheme feel cheapened to an equal degree. To aggravate this, the LED cannot be turned off (although it automatically turns itself off when the drive remains idle for a user-controlled period of time), and acts as an activity LED, flashing when the drive is performing read/write operations.

Other than that, the drive looks great.