Review: TEAC External USB 2.0 3.5" 160GB Hard Disk Drive
Posted Aug 8, 2003

TEAC's new 160GB external hard drive, model #HD3U-160 ($284.99), is a lightweight, compact, preformatted 5400RPM drive offering up to 480MB/sec data transfer, which is more than ample for the sort of video capture, storage, staging, and archiving that digital studio pros demand of their desktop peripherals. In testing, the drive plugged-and-played (PC running) without a hitch on the Compaq testbed (see specs above) running Windows XP Home and using Compaq's the factory-installed USB 2 port.

Although billed as a 160GB drive, the TEAC actually registers 149GB (and shows up as a Samsung product) when first installed. This disparity may be explained by the usual marketing/techie gap in how you define a gigabyte (beginning with the issue of 1MB=1024 bytes or 1000 bytes), or space allotted for pre-formatting. Then again, no hard drive ever shows quite the capacity you expect it to.

The TEAC HDD stood up in its nifty stand and tested like a champ, as I captured DV-AVI video clips of varying lengths to the drive using a JVC GR-DVL315 MiniDV camera and Pinnacle Studio 8. I also loaded it up with a dozen or so ripped DVDs (personal archiving use only, of course) and burned the video files and ripped DVDs to the Verbatim DVD Recorder reviewed earlier directly from the TEAC drive, with impeccable results (the ripped and burned DVDs were summarily destroyed, naturally, after playback testing). The recorder, a 4X unit, rarely rose above 2X when recording from the TEAC, but results were comparable to those achieved when recording from the testbed's factory-installed internal hard drive.

The TEAC hard drive also supports the Mac platform (naturally, you'll need to install a USB 2 PCI card in your Mac to attach it), but was not tested on a Macintosh system.

Upcoming installments of the Driving Range will look at a number of desktop external hard drives (USB 2, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800), including 200GB+ units from TEAC and a desktop RAID unit as well. Naturally, video—as its most demanding application and media type— continues to drive the growth and expansion of desktop computing technology, and storage is no exception. The move toward faster (7200RPM) and bigger (250GB) desktop hard drives, with ever-lower cost-per-megabyte, is one illustration of the process. Another is the arrival of FireWire 800, which will eventually prove important for HD video capture, but in the meantime will arguably make its greatest impact on external HDD performance, particularly in increasing one FW port's ability to serve multiple devices simultaneously (like, perhaps, a hard drive and DV camcorder). Yet another sign of the times is the emergence of desktop RAID solutions that plug into now-standard desktop PC interfaces like USB 2, bringing RAID's power and flexibility to simpler computing environments.

Minimum System Requirements: Windows: 300mHz Pentium 2 PC running Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP; CD-ROM drive; 64MB RAM; USB 1.1 or 2.0 port (USB 2 required for up-to-spec performance) Mac: G3 processor running OS X; 32MB RAM; USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 port (USB 2 required for up-to-spec performance); CD-ROM drive