By Jon Jacobi and E. W. Johnson

If you need another reason to upgrade to USB 2.0, we’ve found it: Maxtor’s Personal Storage 3000LE, one of the fastest external hard drives we’ve seen. Its 40-GB capacity and USB 2.0 connection make it a roomy and speedy portable backup device. It’s also both faster and cheaper (as well as 20 GB smaller) than its sibling, the Personal Storage 3000DV FireWire (IEEE 1394) drive.

External virtues
Like external USB and FireWire drives in general, the $200 Maxtor 3000LE offers some distinct advantages over an internal drive, such as easy setup, portability, and sharing between systems. If your computers are USB 2.0-ready, the 3000LE can act as a quick backup resource for small offices. It’s also ideal if you want to take large amounts of data home from the office, even if you have only USB 1.1 at home. While the 3000LE will work with the USB 1.1 ports on current computers, you’ll need a USB 2.0 adapter card (not included) or a USB 2.0-capable computer to take advantage of the new standard’s higher data-transfer rate. Maxtor offers a PCI USB 2.0 adapter for about $50 on its Web site.

Figure A
Maxtor’s Personal Storage 3000LE was rated 8 out of 10 by CNET editors.
The good: Really fast; 40-GB capacity; easy setup; good price.
The bad: USB 2.0 adapter not included.

The Maxtor Personal Storage 3000LE is a full-sized, translucent, pearl-and-red unit that measures 1.625 by 6 by 8.625 in. and weighs about two pounds. The chassis is rugged enough to withstand the rigors of moving about an office, and the drive runs both quietly and coolly. Maxtor includes a high-quality, 6-ft. USB cable and drive-enabling software for Windows XP, Me, 98 SE, and 2000, as well as Mac OS 9.0 and later. A clear installation guide and the plug-and-play simplicity of USB 2.0 make setup easy. The drive is powered with an included external AC adapter, but the unit lacks a power switch, making it difficult to turn on and off.

Fast on its feet
Although it operates at a slower 5,400 rpm, the 40-GB 3000LE easily bested the performance of its 7,200 rpm/60-GB kin, the Maxtor 3000DV, in CNET Labs’ tests. Like the Maxtor 3000DV, the 3000LE is so fast that it rivals an internal hard drive in some areas. The Maxtor 3000LE posted an average copying speed of 8.8 MB per second during CNET Labs’ 500-MB directory-copy trials; that’s faster than both the internal Maxtor DiamondMax 80’s 7.85 MB-per-second rate and the 8.1 MB-per-second rate turned in by the FireWire 3000DV. The 3000LE didn’t fare as well on our 383-MB compressed-file-copy test, averaging only 17.8 MB per second—considerably slower than the DiamondMax 80’s 26.32 MB per second. However, thanks to the faster USB 2.0 transfer rate, it was about 5 MB per second quicker than the 3000DV. (FireWire is capable of transferring data at a maximum rate of 400 Mbps vs. 480 Mbps for USB 2.0.)

The drive is under warranty for one year, and toll-free telephone support is available Monday through Friday, 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. MT. Maxtor’s Web site contains a searchable knowledge base, downloadable manuals and drivers, and information for contacting technicians via phone or e-mail. You can even find information on older drive models—a plus for people who hold onto their legacy hardware.

Quick decision
The Maxtor Personal Storage 3000LE’s fast USB 2.0 performance and easy portability make it a very tempting purchase for space-starved users. Sure, 40 GB is just average these days, but the drive’s relatively low price makes it a good choice over similar but costlier FireWire drives. And while larger-capacity, internal drives can cost less than the 3000LE, they can’t beat it for easy installation and portability. Of course, if you want more space or don’t need the portability, a larger internal drive is the smarter way to go.

Despite its slower 5,400-rpm hard-drive mechanism, the Maxtor Personal Storage 3000LE handily outperformed the 3000DV FireWire (IEEE 1394) drive, thanks largely to the higher data-transfer capacity of USB 2.0. (FireWire is capable of transferring data at a maximum rate of only 400 Mbps, compared to USB 2.0’s 480 Mbps.) (See Table A.)

Table A
Transfer rates measured in MB per second. Longer bars indicate better performance.

Complete specifications
Click here to check the latest prices on Maxtor Personal Storage 3000LE 40GB USB 2.0.
Table B


Device type Hard drive standard
Compatibility PC, Mac
Formatted capacity 40 GB
Interface type USB 2.0
Enclosure type External
Software included Drivers and utilities
Package type Retail

Average seek time 24 ms (max)
Data transfer rate 60 MBps
Spindle speed 5400 rpm
Track-to-track seek time 1 ms
Average latency 5.5 ms

Port(s)/connector(s) required 1 x serial USB 2.0 / 4 pin USB Type A male – 1

Physical characteristics
Depth 8.6 in
Height 1.6 in
Width 6 in
Weight 2 lbs
Mounting kit Not available
Voltage required AC 110/220 V ± 10% ( 50/60 Hz )

Service/support One-year warranty

Hard disk The unit “GB” represents 1,000 million bytes of hard disk capacity.
Speed of CD-ROM drive Data transfer rates and transfer speeds will vary, depending on a variety of factors.

This review was originally published by CNET on Feb. 14, 2002.