Review - Wiebe Tech FireWire Portable Drive
October 11, 2004
WiebeTech ComboGB 60GB/7200RPM Portable Drive
3450 N. Rock Road Suite 703
Wichita, KS 67226
By David A. Saraceno
James Wiebe, owner and founder of WiebeTech, has been around the computer industry for nearly 25 years. After he left Mac accelerator company, Newer Technology, Wiebe founded WiebeTech in Wichita, Kansas in 2000. Since then the company has gained the well deserved reputation of building both quality and innovative products. [http://www.wiebetech.com/]
When I determined to replace my aged Western Digital/Granite Digital FW400 drive and enclosure, I looked hard at bus powered FW 800 2.5-inch based drives due to their form factor and portability. WiebeTech had just released a 7200 rpm/8 buffer Hitachi-based ComboGB drive that sported multiple ports FW400, FW800, and USB2. I elected this drive and it arrived attractively packaged a week later.
The ComboGB sports a brushed and embossed aluminum case, and three ports mentioned above. They ship either as a bare enclosure that houses any 9mm 2.5-inch drive, or configured with 40GB/4200RPM drives to a 2.5-inch 100GB/4200RPM configuration. Prices range from $119.95 for enclosure alone to $499.95 for the 100 GB configuration. I chose my drive for performance reasons 7200 rpm and 8Mb buffer. It was priced at $369.95.
The drive enclosure isn't much bigger than the drive itself, measuring 3.25x5.25x75 inches and weighing a few ounces.
On the back are USB2, FW400, and FW800 connectors.
A wide variety of cables are provided including a Firewire 400 to mini-size Firewire 400 connector adapter, although there wasn't any need for it. The drive was formatted in the FAT32 format for PCs, and mounted immediately on my G5 DP. Both the FW400 and FW800 cables worked uneventfully on the G5 and a PB867. Straight data transfers were surprisingly fast, particularly with the FW800 connection. For example, a Carbon Copy Cloner transfer of 60 Gbs of my boot drive took 43 minutes using the FW800. With USB 2.0 on a WD Cavalar 80 GB 7200 rpm drive, it was one hour and 8 minutes (68 minutes).
I tested the drive with the various cable combinations for firewire and USB 2.0. While the ComboGB includes a stock USB cable, it also provides an unusual two-headed USB cable equipped with pass-through connector and a power plug. This type of USB cable configuration is more familiar to PC users, particularly on laptops where bus-powered Firewire buses are uncommon.
The combination is necessary to pull sufficient power from a Mac's or PC's USB ports, and unfortunately is poorly implemented. The set up is confusing, and half the time, the drive did not mount on my PB 867. It mounted more consistently for some reason, while formatted in the FAT32 PC format. As with 4/pin to 6/pin connections on a PC, USB 2.0 connections are best achieved using an AC adapter, which WiebeTech sells for $24.95. For Mac users, however, the FW400/800 connections are sufficient.
I reformatted the drive HFS+, and ran three DV streams in RT full quality. A four stream sequence required rendering, as did a single 3D title. No doubt this will slow for more complicated sequences, but for cuts only and some fx/titling, the drive "seems" fast enough on my G5. However, with only one FW400 port, you'll need the supplied FW400/800 adapter to use the ComboGB on a PowerBook to daisy chain drive and camera/deck.
FW800 transfers were faster than FW400 in both data driven and video based circumstances, a fact born out by more extensive testing by Rob Morgan at barefeats.com. [http://www.barefeats.com/fire40.html]. However they were only marginally faster for data driven transfers.
There is much to applaud and little to criticize in the design, finish, and accessories provided for the ComboGB portable drives from WiebeTech. Although more pricey than those available from other sites, it is evident that company's attention to detail makes the slight price difference a minor factor. For simple data transfer needs, a FW400 5400 rpm drive and enclosure may be sufficient. For video capture and playback, you should consider a 7200 rpm FW800 configuration with an 8 Mb buffer to minimize issues with dropped frames.
copyright ©2004 David A. Saraceno
David A. Saraceno is a motion graphics artist located in Spokane, Washington. He has written for DV Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national legal technology magazines. David also moderates several forums on 2-pop.com
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