Review of the OWC Mercury On-the-Go Portable Hard Drive


I outgrew my FireLite 160 GB like a 10-year-old outgrows his jeans, and I needed a bigger portable hard drive to store my current Aperture library. I wrote about this adventure recently in the piece titled, Latest Stop on the Quest for Portable Storage.

This pursuit led me to the OWC Mercury On-The-Go FireWire 800/400 + USB 2.0 2.5 Portable Hard Drive. My big decision was between the 200 GB / 7200 RPM / 16 MB cache model for $349 or the 250 GB / 5400 RPM / 8 MB cache version for $299 US. (You can see an overview of all these models on this page.) Even though I would have loved the 7200 RPM model, I opted for the slower 5400 RPM version that had 50 GBs more storage.

I was concerned that a large, bus-powered portable drive would bog down my workflow at 5400 RPM. In other words, Aperture might run slowly. After processing a wedding in Aperture this weekend, I made the right decision going for the bigger drive. With over 300 Canon 5D Raw files from the shoot (added to an already big library of 160 GBs), everything ran just fine. I was able to sort, rate, and image edit the files without pain. (One of my tricks is to upload the images, then take a quick break while Aperture builds the previews. This makes the sorting and rating process go much faster.)

The OWC drive comes with 2 FireWire 800 ports, a FireWire 800 cable, FireWire 800 to 400 conversion cable, and a USB 2 port and cable. Even though it's bus-powered, the kit includes an AC adapter. I haven't used the adapter nor plan to unless necessary. The drive is packaged in an attractive clear case with a sizable heat sink exposed on one side. The heat sink did get rather warm while copying my 160 GB image library over to the OWC drive. But then again, that's its job.

The drive has performed well connected to my MacBook Pro's FW 800 and FW 400 ports. I used it for hours while working on the wedding shoot, and it kept up fine with my pace. The drive fits easily in my laptop bag, and boots up quickly when connected to the computer.

My only complaint? I hate the cheesy fake leather cases the OWC provides with their portable hard drives. It's a one-size-fits-all model that looks like a throw-back from the 1960s. This robust drive deserves a better home for travel.

Aside from the case, I recommend the OWC 250 GB portable drive for photographers who need lots of storage in a tough, compact package.

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I love this drive also, Derek. In fact, I have 2 of them. I use the 5400 rpm model for my photos, and I have a 7200 rpm model for my recording studio. 7200 rpm is essential for music production, but I agree that 5400 is plenty fast enough for photo work. By the way, I left the "leather" case in the shipping box - what a joke of a case.

Tony, have you used the external power supply with either drive? Is there a situation where it is needed? Couldn't agree more about the lousy case...

Removing the drive once inside the case can be painful.
Best way is to get a soft metal wire found on paper twist ties
that you get at some grocery store.

I bought just the case and hard drive from some place else.
It came a lot cheaper, even though the case cost $70.

I had a Hitachi 60GB in it, it died one month after the 3 year warranty expired.

I chose this netbook for six reasons - size, weight, price, OS, processor and hard drive type.

I need Windows for my business software that won't run on Linux. I have read that the Intel Atom processor is the one to have in these machines for speed and power efficiency.

I did not want an SSD drive. I have read repeatedly that these drives, while maybe more shock resistent than conventional hard drives, are just not as reliable as you may think. The small size of the SSD drives was also a deterrent.

This is the most inexpensive netbook of this size and weight running Windows. I just don't want to carry around a very pricy laptop (fear of theft and damage), and in this era of carry on luggage I wanted something I could easily slip into my carry on bag. No problem here.

I must admit that I do not have another netbook for direct comparison with this one. I can only compare it with the Dell, Sony and MacBook laptops I have used. That said, I cannot agree with some of the negative comments a few people have made.

The machine is exceptionally solid and well designed and put together. It is stunning to look at. An associate at work who owns an Acer said the Eee PC is more professional looking than his. Just a personal opinion here, but the shiny finish is especially good looking.

The screen is very bright and clear. No trouble reading any websites despite the 8.9" size. It is comparable in appearance to the screens on my Sony and MacBook, side by side.

I expected to find the keyboard to be a problem. Some people have complained about the size and key placement. I was pleasanly surprised here. Of course the keyboard is smaller than standard size. What do you expect in this size machine? A larger keyboard means a larger footprint, and I specifically didn't want that.

The keys are well spaced. The key action is very smooth. Unlike some I have had no problem touch typing, and have found the right shift key no problem. Admittedly my hands are not overly large - I wear a medium golf glove. If you have really big paws such a small keyboard might not be for you.

The touchpad is a real treat. It is smooth and responsive, and the two finger scroll function makes internet navigation a snap.

Battery life has been a wonderful 4.5 to 5 hours on the clock. The four cell battery is a great compromise between size/weight and life.

Compromise is what a netbook is supposed to be all about, but this has become my treasured companion. I prefer it to my MacBook for travel (besides, the Windows OS allows me to do my office work on the go). It is a jewel and I wouldn't trade this in for anything.

A highly recommended bargain!