Maxtor – Personal Storage 3000LE review

USB 2.0 external hard drive
Photo of Maxtor – Personal Storage 3000LE
£176 + VAT

External hard drives offer a convenient way of storing your data, but they typically transfer data a lot slower than internal IDE or SCSI drives. By using the latest USB 2.0 protocol, Maxtor has attempted to address this performance failing with the Personal Storage 3000LE.

USB has come a long way since its inception. Although USB is an efficient way to connect a wide variety of peripherals, its poor transfer rate – 12 megabits of data per second (Mbps) for the current USB 1.1 standard – makes it less attractive in the storage market. The new USB 2.0 protocol is able to transfer data 40 times faster – at 480Mbps – and is a much more attractive proposition for external storage drives.

As yet only IBM offers a USB 2.0 integrated chip as an optional extra on some of its motherboards, while VIA will offer it as standard on all its own motherboards by early 2002. This means that, for now, the only way to use the 3000LE is via a plug-in PCI card. However, the drive is backward compatible with standard USB 1.1 ports; it just won’t work as fast.

The drive itself is a Maxtor D540X, 5,400-rpm 40GB hard drive connected by a USB 2.0-to-ATA/33 interface, and because it’s so power hungry it requires an external power source. Strangely there isn’t a power switch, so to stop the drive, you have to unplug it. Its rugged transparent case is both a strength and a weakness – it can withstand some bumps and bangs but it’s big, bulky, and weighs in at just under 1kg, so it will add a lot of weight to the frequent travellers’ briefcase.

Installing the Personal Storage 3000LE is effortless, and the drive is recognised on all Windows platforms from ME upwards. For Mac users, MacOS 9.0 and higher are also supported. For Windows 98 SE users, Maxtor provides an extra driver which can be downloaded from its Web site. Contrary to some reports, Microsoft does support USB 2.0 in Windows XP; drivers are available via the Windows Update site.

An advantage of the Personal Storage 3000LE is that you can install it on USB 1.1 ports should you not have any USB 2.0 ports, but the disadvantage is that the transfer rate dives to 900kb/s at best. But when used in conjunction with a USB 2.0 card, its speed becomes apparent. In our tests the drive achieved an average transfer data rate of 6.7MB/s, which is nearly as good as some internal hard drives.

Company: Maxtor

Contact: 01923 716105

Maxtor's Personal Storage 3000LE is one of the fastest USB hard drives available thanks to USB 2.0. Because it's backward compatible with earlier protocols, most users can take advantage of it. It offers the mobile user massive storage, but at the cost of being bulky and heavy, so it's probably best used as a second desktop drive.