Review: 1.0TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad Interface drive - Macenstein

Review: 1.0TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad Interface drive

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

It’s pretty amazing to me to think that nowadays you can actually buy a 1.0TB (that’s TERAbytes, people) external drive for the cost of a 250GB drive about 2 years ago. What’s even more amazing, is that you can actually FILL it. I’ve been testing out OWC’s Mercury Elite-AL Pro ‘Quad Interface’ 1 TB drive for about 3 weeks now, and I must say, there is not much to complain about here. From the design of the drive, to its performance and its outstanding versatility in connections, home users and video pros alike will find much to like about the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad.


“The Quad” is styled after Apple’s PowerMac G5/Mac Pro enclosures, with an all-aluminum enclosure and grill design which nicely compliments the pro Macs. There is a bright blue LED disk light which shines through the right/bottom (depending on how you orient the drive) to indicate the drive is powered on. The light gets brighter during use, and flashes to indicate activity. There is an included matching aluminum stand that allows you to mount the drive in an upright position and create a sort of “mini Me” sidekick for your Mac Pro.

On the back of the drive you will see the wide range of ports that give the Quad its name. There is 1 FireWire 400 port, 2 FireWire 800 ports, 1 USB2 2.0 port, and 1 eSATA port. The support for eSATA is somewhat unique to the drive, and pro users will appreciate the speed benefits offered by the connection.


Inside the brushed aluminum enclosure is a 7200RPM drive with a 32MB Cache, which comes in sizes ranging from 250GB all the way up to 1.0TB (1000GB). The Mercury Quad drive utilizes a next-gen High-Speed Oxford 924 chipset capable of exceeding 80 Megabytes Per Second. I used the 1TB drive in a wide range of activities, such as a Final Cut Pro scratch disk, an iTunes Library, iPhoto Library, and Adobe After Effects Scratch disk. As no Macs yet support eSATA out of the box, I used an eSATA extender cable from NewerTech to add 2 eSATA ports to a MacPro. Response was always impressive over eSATA and FireWire 800, and FireWire 400 worked well for most tasks as well. USB 2 however was pretty much relegated to iTunes playback duties, and if you have any of the other 3 types of ports open and available, I would suggest you use them first. I can only assume USB2 is included for its shear ubiquity as opposed to any real intentions it be used in any serious capacity.

Newer Technology eSATA extender Cable eSATA is not hot-swappable. If connecting the Quad via eSATA, the drive must be powered on and connected before you power on your computer. (Above:) The same OWC Quad drive attached via USB2 (left) and eSATA (right). Notice the lack of an eject icon on the eSATA connection.

The drive was also quite quiet. Fan noise is evident when under heavy use, but less than many drives we have tested, and certainly not distractingly noticeable in a pro environment. When not in use the drive goes silent after a time, in a sleep mode.

Everyone loves graphs

For my test I created a 50.2 GB folder consisting of around 210,000 files. Included were a system folder, some music files, photos, and some larger movies (over a GB each). I figured this should give a good overall impression of how well the drive moved data. I compared the results to the time it took to copy that same folder from one of the Mac Pro’s internal SATA drives to another. The results are below. (All tests done on a Mac Pro Quad 2.66 GHz machine with 5 GB of RAM running OS X 10.4.9).

As expected, you can see that USB 2 is a joke, taking over 67 minutes to move the folder to the drive. FireWire 400 was the next slowest (although still showed quite an improvement over USB 2) with a time of 28:13, and FireWire 800 came in with a time of 22:16. The eSATA connection brought in the lowest write time 18:14, even beating the internal drive to drive transfer of 20:15. Oddly enough, on my second test, the “read from” test where I then copied that same 50.2 GB folder back OFF the drive, the FireWire 800 actually beat the eSATA by 15 seconds.


Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad Interface drive comes with a good set of extras. Unlike some drives that include only a power cable, the Quad not only comes with connection cables, it actually comes with ALL FOUR types of cables. This is very appreciated, as buying these cables (especially an eSATA cable) can add as much as $50 or more to the cost of a drive.

Additionally, the Quad comes with a disc which includes ProSoft Engineering Data Backup and Intech’s Hard Disk SpeedTools for the Mac (not the most current version), and NovaStor’s NovaBACKUP for Windows users.

The Conclusion

The Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad Interface Drive is an excellent choice for video pros looking for a fast scratch disk or even home users have a need to backup large amounts of data. Featuring USB2, FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and the cutting edge eSATA connection, the Mercury’s Quad offers us a glimpse today at what all drives will offer in the future. The drive is available in sizes ranging from 250GB all the way up to 1TB, and there is even a do-it-yourself enclosure kit ($109.99) if you are looking to add the quad interface to an existing drive of your own.

OWC’s Mercury Elite-AL Pro ‘Quad Interface’ 1 TB drive

Price: $549.99 (1.0TB model, smaller capacities available)

Pros: 4 types of connections means the drive can be used on any machine, fast, quiet operation, all cables included, nice set of included backup/diagnostic utilities

Cons: No Macs come standard with eSATA yet, so utilizing the connection will require the purchase of an eSATA card/cable for your Mac.

4 Responses to “Review: 1.0TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Quad Interface drive”
  1. Hindsight says:

    Too expensive for a one drive system without RAID. End of story, really. Sure it’s pretty, but when you start putting a TB of data on one drive without redundancy you’re asking for misery. Love the design though. They ought to make it wider, put in another 1TB drive and a raid controller all for the same price.

  2. OWC Larry says:

    The NewerTech Guardian Maximus solutions do the whole RAID-1 thing you’re asking for with a 2nd drive… but not for the same price. 🙂

    When 1.0TB drives come down in price, these 1.0TB drive based solutions will of course come down. Right now the best value spots are in the 500GB and 750GB models.

    There is definitely a premium for the per GB cost on the 1.0TB HD mechanisms.

  3. Tim says:

    Dear Hindsight,
    Another consideration, though, is whether RAID mirroring is really the best solution for backup/redundancy at all. I’m concerned not only about drive failure, but also fire, flood, theft, etc. So, instead of backing up via RAID mirroring, I now backup to a separate drive and store that drive in a separate physical location.

  4. Brett Kosmider says:

    I’ve used these drives in professional video editing applications for years and not one has failed beyond repair. A few have gone south within warranty but OWC fixes them no questions asked. SUPER service and prices that are outstanding. I am not a schill, I truly believe in this product.

    One item of note – these drives are passively cooled and do not have fans in them – the dual drive RAIDs have fans.

    If you think the 1TB drive at OWC is expensive just compare to what G-TECH has and you’ll see the value in OWC.


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