SimpleTech Duo Pro Hard Drive Offers Do-All Quad I/O Interface

Whatever system hardware you’re using, including the port-impoverished new 13″ MacBooks, SimpleTech’s new Duo Pro Drive should have you covered.

The Duo Pro supports a variety of different backup options, including Apple’s OS X 10.5 Time Machine as well as SimpleTech’s own Fabrik Ultimate Backup, and its aluminum and grey colored plastic case harmonizes with Apple’s array of aluminum enclosures.

With its 1 Terabyte capacity (pre-formatting, 500 GB and 750 GB are also offered), the Duo Pro drive has ample capacity to accommodate Time Machine backups for a long time for most users. The 500 GB drive I’ve been using with Time Machine for the past year still has more than 200 GB free space.

However, that drive, a SimpleDrive Pininfarina unit, has a couple of shortcomings: first mine is USB 2 only (a USB/FireWire version is optionally available) — real-world slower than FireWire 400, and not conveniently and dependably bootable like a FireWire drive would be, and secondly the Maxtor 3.5″ drive inside it does a passable impression of a 767’s fanjets throttling up for takeoff. Not a problem for occasional backups, but tiresome when you keep it plugged in.

This Duo Pro Drive addresses both these issues satisfactorily. First, the Quad interface supports USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and 3Gb/sec eSATA connectivity. Most Macs built over the past eight years have FireWire 400, and many higher-end models support FireWire 800 as well. FireWire is the no-hassle speedy choice for these machines. USB 2 is slower, and bootability is an iffy proposition, but evidently it’s the protocol Apple has chosen for going forward. USB 3, which will be backward compatible for connectivity, will hopefully address at least some of USB’s deficiencies compared with FireWire.

The Pro Drive is quiet, not inaudible but definitely subdued and no hardship to live with. The internal drive is reportedly a Seagate FreeAgent XTreme 3.5″ unit, although I didn’t open the case to verify that visually. Build quality appears to be excellent, and the drive is backed by a three-year warranty.

The front of the Pro Drive Housing, which is designed to be used in either upright or horizontal (stackable) orientation, is simple, with just a product logo and a power-on/read/write activity light. The back panel is busier, with a power switch, ventilation ports, the AC power adapter jack, a Kensington lock, plus USB 2.0, FireWire 1394a, FireWire 1394b and eSATA ports.

In use, I found the Pro Drive a bit slow to mount over the FireWire 400 interface on my G4 PowerBooks, but speedy copying flies once up and running. FireWire 800 offers even faster throughput, and desktop users with PCI expansion slots can take advantage of Pro Drive’s eSATA interface, which delivers up to 3X the speed of USB 2.0. If your desktop computer doesn’t already have an eSATA port, you can add support with an eSATA PCI ExpressCard such as Fabrik’s SimpleTech ProSpeed eSATA card.

The Pro Drive comes formatted NFTS, which is read-only on the Mac, so Mac-users will, in most instances, want to reformat the drive before using it. Illustrated, “Getting Started” walk-you-through instructions for drive formatting are included on the drive, but of course must be backed up elsewhere if you don’t want to lose them when you reinitialize the drive.

The Pro Drive comes with bundled USB and FireWire 400 cables, a power adapter, and 2 GB of free online Fabrik Ultimate Backup space (more capacity available for a fee), and free unlimited tech support. FireWire 400 and/or eSATA connection cabling must be purchased separately.

The SimpleTech Pro Drive is available from most major computer peripherals resellers. Prices at Amazon.com are $200.99 for the 1 TB unit, $153.18 for the 750 GB model, and a relatively modest $117.02 for the 500 GB variant.

Disclosure: SimpleTech provided a sample unit for this review.

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