Apacer AC202 External Hard Drive Page: 1
Introduction
 
Apacer are a new comer to the land of Overclock3D, having never had a published review on the site. Today all that changes though, as Apacer sent us a sample of their latest external hard drive, the AC202. Knowing very little about Apacer, I decided to have a scout around on their site to see what they were about. Here is a brief extract of what I found:
 
Apacer Technology Inc. is a global leader in memory module and digital storage hardware and software. Since the company's inception, Apacer's focus on recording, reproducing and retaining all types of digital data has been the driving force in providing customers with the best memory products and services.
 
The following information is taken from the 'Company Profile' section located here, which seems to cover most of the major points. It gives a fairly impressive overall background of the company. Unfortunately the startup date of the company is not listed anywhere, but judging by their impressive portfolio of products, it's fair to say they've been around for a good number of years.
 
Anyway, thats enough on Apacer for now, let's take a look at the specification for the AC202:
 
Available color schemes Elegant black and stylish red
HDD interface 2.5" SATA hard drive
Capacity Enclosure only/ 250GB/ 320GB/ 500GB*
Device interface USB 2.0
Device Interface Transfer Rate USB interface : up to 480 Mbps**
Rotational Speed 5400 rpm
Cache 8MB
LED Light for power on
        Blinking for data access
Bundled Software BackupManager: for data backup and security (System support: Windows 2000/ XP/ Vista)
Power USB powered, no external power needed
Operating System Supported Windows 98/ ME/ 2000/ XP/ Vista, Mac OS X 10.3 or higher
Certification CE ; FCC ; BSMI
Dimensions / Weight (L)130 x (W)81.2x (H)13.2 mm / 84 g approx. (Enclosure)
Accessories USB Y cable ;Quick guide ; CD ; Anti-Shock band    
 
The form factor of the drive is fairly small, which is further helped by the fact it requires no external power brick; just two USB ports and you're away. The bundled software and anti-shock band are a nice addition, as is the ability to purchase just the bare enclosure and choose your own drive. We'll be looking at the 320gb model today. The 'Elegant Black' and 'Stylish Red' colour descriptions are a little cliche, but acceptable.      


Apacer AC202 External Hard Drive Page: 2
Packaging and Appearance
 
The AC202 arrived in a rectangular box, with a transparent cut out on the front, allowing you to see the drive inside. The packaging is a mixture of multiple green shades, with various bits of information dotted along the bottom. Around the back there is far more in-depth information, which is also listed in an array of languages.
 
Apacer AC202 HDD Box Apacer AC202 HDD Box underneath
 
 Included in the box is a rather satisfactory bundle. There's the USB power cable, which is a mini USB  to dual USB  (two are required to power the drive). The mini CD, contains the back-up software and drivers, and the rubber band can be installed to protect the drive from knocks and drops. 
 
Apacer AC202 Bundle Apacer AC202 double USB cable
 
The drive itself is of a rectangular shape, with smooth, rounded edges. Constructed of brushed aluminium, it has a classy overall look. The front edge is blanked off with a piece of thick black plastic, whilst the rear contains all the useful stuff. Round the back (right hand image), from left to right we have; DC Input (optional), Mini USB input and the 'Smart Copy' button. Just above the ports is a small lighting strip, which shows when the drive is powered and when it is active/in use. The Apacer logo is displayed on top of the drive, within a gold stripe (John Player Special anyone?).
 
Apacer AC202 Top Front Apacer AC202 Top rear
 
Removing the two screws at the rear of the drive allows you to slide out the internals. With the internals removed, we can see that Apacer have used a Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard drive, rated at 5400rpm. There is a small PCB which attaches to the back, converting the drives SATA interface into the more user friendly USB. Changing/installing a new hard drive should be as simple as just swapping the drives over, and installing the small piece of foam padding on the underneath of the new drive. 
 
Apacer AC202 Internals Apacer AC202 HDD assembly
 
That concludes the pictorial, and so far things are looking pretty good. Aesthetically, the AC202 is a very attractive product, but how will it perform when it's really tested....   


Apacer AC202 External Hard Drive Page: 3
Software and Testing
 
Included in the box is a small disc which contains a driver for Windows 98 computers, as well as back-up software which works in conjunction with the smart copy button located on the back of the caddy. Installing the software took only a few moments, and then it's just a matter of configuring it.
 
Apacer Backup manager main 
 
The first screen is where you select files/folders which you wish to have synchronised to the drive. Highlighting folders/files in the left hand column, then clicking the arrow will add them to the backup queue.
 
Apacer backup manager options 
 
Clicking 'Settings' on the left hand column brings up the (you guessed it) settings page. Here you can change a variety of options for the backup, such as enabling or disabling the Smart Copy backup button and changing the type of backup performed.  
 
Test Results 
 
HDtach
 
Our first port of call for testing was HDtach. The program allows us to test the read speed of each of the drives, making it easy to compare the drives side by side. We ran the longer of the two tests available in the program, 32mb zones, on each drive and then compared the read speed, burst speed and latency of each drive.
 
 
 
 
 
As expected, the flash based USB drives walked all over the Apacer in terms of random access - illustrating the massive difference between solid state and mechanical drives. When it comes to burst and average reads the generic drive is well and truly left behind. The AC202 manages to outpace the Voyager by quite a margin when it comes to average reads, but the Voyager closes up a little on the burst reads. The lack of difference between the Burst and Average reads on the AC202 suggest to me that it is being bottlenecked by the USB interface (eSata would have been nice to avoid this bottleneck).
 
Windows File Write
 
Of course, reading isn't the only way to judge a drives performance - writing is also important. To test the write performance of the drives a copy of 3D Mark Vantage was transfered onto each of the drives, and the time recorded with a stop watch. 
 
 
As writing is the Achilles heel of flash memory, it probably comes as no surprise that the AC202 walked this test. This doesn't necessarily mean that flash drives are useless - they're completely different in concept and design, and have been included purely for comparison. I can't help but feel performance is a bit of a moot point for external hard drives, since the USB interface will almost certainly bottleneck any modern hard drive, and appeared to do so in today's testing. The inclusion of eSata therefore would have been nice...  


Apacer AC202 External Hard Drive Page: 4
Conclusion 
 
The AC202 seems to be a good all round performer. I like the fact that Apacer have kept things nice and simple. To remove the hard drive is just two screws, and the whole thing is encased in a simple, yet elegant curved sheet of aluminium. Then there are the ports, which are all neatly arranged with the Smart copy button on a single side. 
 
The performance of the drive was nothing outstandingly brilliant, but that's almost certainly limited by the throughput of USB 2.0. Considering it's a new product, it would have been nice to see either E-Sata on there, or support for the next big thing in connectivity: USB 3.0. 
 
The included software is a nice bonus, and something that separates the Apacer from the crowd. Making your product stand out is something that a lot of companies struggle to do. The software is simple and easy to use, perfect for a novice user, whilst also having advanced features for the tech heads amongst us. Backing up your PC is simple thereafter; just hit the smart copy button.
 
Unfortunately the AC202 isn't currently available within the UK, which is a real shame. Providing Apacer are competitive with the pricing, the AC202 has the potential to be a very attractive purchase.
 
The Good:
+ Nice Aesthetics
+ Solid build quality
+ Easy to upgrade
+ Smart Copy one touch backup
+ Bundled Software
+ Shock reducing band
 
The Mediocre:
* Requires two USB ports for power

The Bad:
- Speed is limited by the use of USB 2.0
 
  
 
Overclock3d would like to thank Apacer for providing todays review sample. Discuss in our forums here.