Benchmark: VST Technologies FW1280 8GB FireWire Hard Drive

Hot Storage

by Larry Lemm

When Apple introduced FireWire, people predicted that there would be a spate of devices to use the new interface. With its high-speed capability and ability to transfer power to devices, FireWire has been much more than a way to transfer video from a digital camcorder to a computer. Now FireWire is coming of age with a host of new peripherals. One of these devices is VST Technologies external FireWire hard drive.
This comes in two styles. There is a full-size drive and a smaller, thinner drive that can fit in a pocket. We tested the smaller 8GB drive that seems like it was designed primarily for owners of notebook computers. However, you can also easily plug it into a desktop computer too. For our test, we used the VST hard drive with an Apple PowerMac G3 300MHz with 192MB RAM.

Installation

Installing the VST Tech FireWire Hard Drive couldn’t be easier. When compared with configuring a SCSI drive, this installation was child’s play. We simply placed the installation CD that comes with the hard drive into our CD-ROM drive, ran the install program and reset our computer. When it rebooted, we were ready for the big show. After we completed the installation routine, we just plugged the drive into our FireWire port using a six-pin cable. A few seconds later, the drive mounted itself on the computer’s desktop and we were ready to go.
There’s no need to plug in an external power source, since the power for the drive comes through the six-pin FireWire cable. However, if your computer uses a four-pin FireWire (i.LINK) port, you ll have to use an AC adapter to power the drive. This is because four-pin FireWire cables do not transfer power, only data. This is something to keep in mind if you re planning to use this drive with a laptop.
Once your hard drive mounts itself on the desktop, you can use it like you would use any other drive, with the exception that it cannot be used as a boot drive. After we installed the drive, we captured some video to the drive for editing.

Spinning Platters

Since you can not daisy chain your camcorder directly to your FireWire hard drive, when you are ready to capture video you will need to connect your camcorder directly to a FireWire port in your computer. Since most FireWire adapters come with two ports, you could use one to control the hard drive and the other to communicate with your camcorder.
The best use of the VST hard drive may be for archiving or transferring finished projects, rather than actually editing video. The FW1280 drive was fast enough to play digital video, but we experienced coughs and stutters when attempting to edit from the drive – not what most video editors are looking for in a hard drive. The slim VST FireWire drive spins at 4800rpm, while most larger external drives spin at 7200rpm. The slow platter speed translates into slow access times, making it difficult for the drive to handle a series of video edits.


Pocket Pal

The VST slim FireWire hard drive is a boon to people who need to quickly share data from a laptop and a desktop computer. Users can simply swap the drive between the two. It makes adding another 8GB of storage to a computer a snap, but it isn’t for editing full-motion, full-screen video. If you have a need for an external drive for archiving or transferring files, including video files though, you won’t find a drive that is easier to install or that takes up less room than the VST Technologies slim FireWire hard drive.

TECH SPECS

VST Technologies FW1280 8GB FireWire Hard Drive

Type External

Interface FireWire (six pin)

Storage Capacity 8GB

Rotational Speed (Typical) 4200rpm

Average Seek 12mS

Typical Transfer Rate 9.5MB/Sec

Maximum Transfer Rate 10MB/Sec

Dimensions 3 (w) x 5.6 (d) x .78 (h)

Weight 8.25 ounces

TEST RESULTS

strengths

  • easy to install
  • portable
  • doesn’t always need AC power

weaknesses

  • pricey
  • too slow for video editing

summary

  • Excellent portability for archiving, but not a good choice for video editing.

FW1280 8GB FireWire Hard Drive
($630)
VST Technologies, Inc.
125 Nagog Park
Acton, MA 01720
(978) 263-9700
www.vsttech.com

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