External Firewire 800 Hard Drive Comparison

To extend the disk space of my late-2007 iMac, I am currently looking for an external hard drive. To achieve acceptable speed and latency, it has to be a Firewire 800 drive. Furthermore, it has to be reasonable quite since it will sit on my disk at home. The most important metric however is speed, since the stock iMac harddrive (a Seagate ST3750640AS) is a piece of junk in that regard. Also, the size should be 2 – 3 TB to be ready for the next couple of years.

With these requirements, the choice of drives essentially comes down to the following choices:

  • Freecom Hard Drive Quattro 3.0 2000GB, eSATA/USB 3.0/FireWire 400/800
  • Western Digital My Book Studio Edition 2000GB, USB 2.0/FireWire 400/800
  • Iomega MAC Companion 2000GB, USB 2.0/2x FireWire 800
  • Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II 2000GB, eSATA/USB 2.0/FireWire 400/800
  • G-Technology G-Drive 2000GB, eSATA/USB 2.0/FireWire 400/800
  • Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 2000GB, eSATA/USB 2.0/FireWire 400/800
  • LaCie 2big Quadra 3000GB, eSATA/USB 2.0/FireWire 400/800

After reading several reviews suggesting the one or the other drive to be best, I decided to go with the My Book Studio Edition II. Fortunately, a colleague of mine ordered exactly this drive and found it to be quite noise. Nothing for me obviously.

My second choice was the normal Studio Edition. I borrowed it and tested its performance. Is it slow and therefore not acceptable for me.

Next up was the LaCie 2big Quadra. Although LaCie claims it to have a “heat dissipation design”, it appears that the design may not dissipate enough heat. In any case, the 2big Quadra has a temperature controlled internal fan which is rather quite for idle use. However, when you start to do something more demanding with the drive (say video editing), the fan spins up to remarkable loudness and annoys me day in and day out. Not acceptable.

The next competitor that I want to try is the Iomega MAC Companion. It has a sleek design and fits nicely below my iMac. It is also quite and fast – BUT: I was unable to use the MAC Companion as a boot device for the iMac via FW 800. It worked great via USB 2.0, bus this in turn is way too slow to be used for the system drive. I was unable to dig up any related information to this problem. Apart from this, the MAC Companion is a great device.

Performance Measurements

To determine the performance of the different drives, I have used xBench on Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2. I have run all tests two times whereas the second run is stated in the following figures. xBench states points for each drive, whereas I cannot say how this points are calculated. The tests were performed on an 2.4 GHz Core2Duo late-2007 iMac 7,1 and on an 13,3″ Core2Duo mid-2010 MacBookPro 7,1. In addition, I have provided the RAW throughput values for all drives on the iMac 7,1. Only the ADATA SSD was measured in the MacBook Pro.


Sequential Random
Write 4K Write 256K Read 4K Read 256K Write 4K Write 256K Read 4K Read 256K
ADATA SSD SATA 45,82 MByte/s 35,35 MByte/s 11,27 MByte/s 104,77 MByte/s 59,74 MByte/s 67,33 MByte/s 5,11 MByte/s 67,63 MByte/s
Iomega MAC Companion 84,16 MByte/s 53,20 MByte/s 17,79 MByte/s 70,50 MByte/s 1,86 MByte/s 39,88 MByte/s 1,13 MByte/s 33,98 MByte/s
LaCie 2big Quadro 67,10 MByte/s 49,73 MByte/s 15,44 MByte/s 70,43 MByte/s 1,82 MByte/s 29,14 MByte/s 0,84 MByte/s 33,13 MByte/s
WD My Book 48,34 MByte/s 37,53 MByte/s 14,84 MByte/s 61,08 MByte/s 0,54 MByte/s 25,74 MByte/s 0,53 MByte/s 22,85 MByte/s
Internal ST3750640AS SATA 63,39 MByte/s 52,14 MByte/s 26,51 MByte/s 30,20 MByte/s 0,71 MByte/s 22,14 MByte/s 0,49 MByte/s 18,88 MByte/s
SAMSUNG HD400LD USB 2.0 27,65 MByte/s 21,40 MByte/s 4,06 MByte/s 25,69 MByte/s 1,14 MByte/s 22,98 MByte/s 0,38 MByte/s 14,23 MByte/s

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