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Maximum PC Staff

Aug 18, 2009

OWC Mercury Pro 8x Blu-ray External

At A Glance

Mercury

Attractive; includes cables for all the ports; excellent DVD rips.

Uranus

OWC doesn't seem to care as much about QA as it does about product design.

Blu-ray has enough troubles without products like this

On the surface, OWC’s Mercury Pro Blu-ray external drive could seem appealing. The cabinet is attractive and sturdy; it offers FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, and eSATA interfaces—including all the requisite cables; and it holds a Pioneer BDR-203 drive, which is rated at 8x for BD-R writes—the highest rating available—and 16x for DVD+/-R. Yet, after using the device, we’re unimpressed.

We first tried to test the drive with the eSATA interface but it failed to work with any of our test beds, which use the nForce 680i SLI chipset. It was recognized by motherboards using Intel’s P45 and X58 chipsets as well as those boards’ auxiliary Marvell controllers. However, we benchmarked using USB 2.0 on our standard test bed for continuity.


We're not sure whether this product's flaws are the fault of the Mercury Pro enclosure or the Pioneer BDR-203 within it, or both.

Standard DVD testing went well, with the OWC Mercury Pro writing 4.38GB of data to a single-layer disc in 6:15 (min:sec)—a decent time, but not as good as LG’s GBW-H20L, which took 5:43. On a brighter note, the Mercury Pro was able to rip a dual-layer DVD movie to the hard drive in 10:49 (min:sec)—a time that rivals the best standard DVD drives and far outstrips the Blu-ray drives we’ve tested (the GBW-H20L took almost twice as long, for example).

But problems arose again when we moved to our Blu-ray tests. We simply could not write data to either BD or BD-RE media when using Nero DiscSpeed—the app we use for all our optical drive tests. Whether we used Verbatim, TDK, Memorex, or Panasonic media, we were met with an error message almost instantly. Tech support at OWC said they were able to use the app with no problem, but that wasn’t our experience. Since the version of the Mercury Pro we reviewed doesn’t come with software, we used the latest version of Nero 8 to test the drive’s Blu-ray skills. Like we said, the Pioneer drive inside the unit is rated for 8x BD-R writes—yet it took 52:17 (min:sec) to write 22.5GB of data to disc. Compare that with the 6x-rated LG GBW-H20L’s time of 22:16. A second test produced a similar result (52:26). Oddly, the drive performed more predictably when writing to BD-RE, taking 45:19 to fill a rewriteable disc, compared with the LG drive’s 39:35 (both drives are rated at 2x for BD-RE media).

We’re not sure what to make of this mish-mash of issues; we just know that $400 is a lot to spend on a really good drive—we wouldn’t even consider spending a fraction of that on this product.

Benchmarks

OWC Mercury
LG GBW-H20L
DVD Write Speed Average
11.52x 12.07x
DVD Read Speed Average
11.96x
9.10x
Access Times (random/full) 169/357ms 100/175ms
DVD Ripping
10:49
15:19
Time to burn 22.5GB to BD-R (min:sec) 52:17*
22:16
Time to burn 22.5GB to BD-RE (min:sec)
45:19*
39:35
Best scores are bolded. All tests were conducted using Nero CD DVD Speed and Verbatim media, except OWC Blu-ray tests (*), which were performed using Nero Burning ROM. Our test bed is a Windows XP SP2 machine using a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard, one EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS card, a Western Digital 500GB Caviar hard drive, and a PC Power and Cooling Turbo Cool PSU.
THE VERDICT

OWC Mercury Pro 8x Blu-ray External

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