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When we were considering how we would test and review these two external hard drives from Maxtor and WD had to make a fundamental decision about what sort of device they are and how they would be tested.

Obviously they are regular drives in housings that have USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces, and that means that most tests are stressing the interface more than the drive itself. In terms of performance an external hard drive is almost certain to perform slower than its internal counterpart, so if we're comparing an external drive with an internal drive the external unit is bound to suffer by comparison.

The thing is that the whole point of an external hard drive is that you use it to backup data and transport large files between computers. It probably makes for a fairer comparison if we check performance against a tape drive system, except that tape is a niche product and you'll rarely find it in a home or small office environment. In many ways an external drive is most similar to DVD, except that DVD has a capacity of less than 5GB.

Then we realised, that we were agonising over the interface as the limiting part of the drive, yet Gigabyte has solved this dilemma for us. It supplies an adapter bracket with many of its Serial ATA motherboards to allow you to use the drive as either an internal or external unit, with the bracket handling the Serial ATA connection and also the new type of power connector that some drives require yet no power supplies seem to have.

That means that an external Serial ATA drive can be just as fast as an internal drive, so it's right and proper for us to compare these two drives from Maxtor and WD to internal units.

Well that's how we see it anyway, but we'd be happy to hear your views on this matter.

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