Mac Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPad, Displays
OWC Mercury Elite Pro (2011 model)
The OWC Mercury Elite Pro™ external drive enclosure has been around for a while, but the July 2011 model now sports the higher performance and lower power draw Oxford 944SE chipset.
Although it is a “full size” enclosure, it is quite compact for a full-size unit. Install any 3.5" hard drive from 250GB to 3TB.
Although it is available in a Firewire 400 + USB 2 option, I strongly recommend the “quad interface” model, which means that it can be connected with USB (slow), Firewire 400 (slow), Firewire 800 (reasonably fast), or eSATA (fastest by about 2-3X).
The case is robust aluminum, and the only noise you’ll hear is the drive itself (drives do make some noise), but there is no fan to add to the drive noise.
The Mercury Elite Pro can be used vertically or horizontally.
The case bottom has four soft rubber feet, which means it stays put on your desk, won’t scratch, and units can be stacked with an adequate air gap.
There are two Firewire 800 ports, so you can connect the Mercury Elite Pro to your computer, yet still attach another device, such as a Firewire 800 flash card reader. That’s important on the iMac and Macbook Pro and MacMini, which have a single Firewire 800 port.
The Mercury Elite Pro has an internal blue LED to indicate that it’s powered on, visible through the ventilation holes at front. I would have preferred a small LED through one hole, over which I could easily place black tape, because this LED is very bright at night with the lights off.
Actual performance depends on the drive mechanism, the computer and operating system, and how the drive is connected. Hard drive performance also varies with how full the drive is, see Why You need More Space Than You Need.
The new Oxford 944SE chipset offers very high performance for a quad-interface drive, exploiting the full drive speed of the fastest hard drives.
To explore the maximum speed of the Mercury Elite Pro for this test, I installed a hand-picked unit of the Hitachi 7K3000 3TB hard drive, one I know is the fastest of about 10 units I tried.
Read speed was a little faster than write speed using both eSATA and Firewire 800. Also, write speed showed some variability, whereas read speed ran at one consistent rate.
The Firewire 800 numbers are about as fast as you’re likely to see with any enclosure. While the Firewire 800 results look dismal compared to eSATA, the ~84 MB/sec read speed is about as fast as Firewire 800 can go. Since many Macs do not have an eSATA option, it is good news that Firewire 800 runs at high speed.
The OWC Mercury Elite Pro™ offers outstanding performance, and is well worth considering for any Mac user looking for a compact and quiet full-size external drive. I bought one for myself after reviewing it.
I recommend that those looking for a solid backup strategy get three of these drives, and cycle through them on a regular basis.