AMCC 3Ware Sidecar full review

The sturdy metal unit comprises four bays that enable you to slot up to 3 terabytes of storage space. The test unit we were supplied with contained WD Raptor 150GB drives for a total of 600MB, slightly more than the average external FireWire drive but we expect most users to slot in larger drives.

Installation couldn’t be easier. The front of each bay sports a reassuringly solid catch and the drive bay slides out. Simply screw in the drive and slide it back in (fixed connections sit at the back of the drive bay).

The 3Ware Sidecar incorporates SATA II technology, which provides up to 3Gbps throughput via the direct connection. Knocking the 800Mbps speed of FireWire 800 for six; not to mention the 480Mps of USB 2 and 400Mbps of regular FireWire.

This functionality comes by means of a SATA II PCI Express card (included in the box), which slots into a PCI-X slot on Mac Pros and the later generation of Power Mac G5s. If using a G5 ensure that you have a corresponding PCI-X slot free. At present there is no ExpressCard/34 adaptor included for MacBook Pro users, but then this is hardly the device for portable use. If you are looking for a portable RAID solution we will point you towards the FirmTek SeriTek/2eEN4.

The big advantage the AMCC Sidecar offers over FirmTek’s recent offerings is hardware RAID support (compared to the Software solution FirmTek provides). This offers faster performance. Hardware RAID also enables hot swapping, where drives can be removed and replaced without restarting the system. This makes it more suitable for a professional environment than other software-based offerings on the market. However, it’s a good £600 more expensive than the equivalent FirmTek 4-bay drive – so this is clearly an industrial product.

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