Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 143 / AUGUST 1992 / PAGE 104

Quantum Passport XL. (Evaluation)
by Kathy Yakal

There's an old adage about not needing something until you don't have it--and then needing it real bad. That adage might well describe the Quantum Passport XL disk drive system. Not everyone needs a removable hard drive, but those who do really do. For about 1 1/2 to 2 times the cost of a nonremovable hard drive, you can have a removable one. That expense may seem like a lot, but consider the justification for it.

There are several scenarios in which a removable hard drive is necessary. Absolute data security, such as being able to lock your data in a safe--or at least take it with you upon leaving your work area--is one. Then there's convenience--the ability to have exactly the same setup at home and at your office, or simply to take massive files home. A removable hard drive would work better than a remote control program which operates your office computer. You may also need a mirrored (exact working duplicate) file system.

The Quantum Passport XL drive system takes care of those needs, and it's easy to install, as well. When it comes to hardware installation, I usually experience only one emotion: fear! This feeling was quickly alleviated when I began installing the Quantum Passport XL. As a matter of fact, within about 12 minutes I not only had the drive installed but also had my complete 40MB hard drive copied over to it. The instructions were thorough, clear, and concise.

The system I have came with a SCSI card, an external chassis, and a 240MB disk drive. The list price for the system I tried is $1,787, but I've been informed that the street price is more like $1,429. My system came with the external chassis; this was necessary because my computer lacked an open exposed drive bay. This accounts for some of the external system's cost. If you have a free exposed drive bay, you can install the internal chassis and save $110.

There are a few things worth noting about a SCSI interface. Many SCSI devices can be daisychained (each connected to the previous) without a second card. Since the SCSI interface has its own BIOS, it can coexist with other interfaces and even other disk controllers. It should also be noted that even though a SCSI interface does carry a greater cost, the cost may be offset by its ability to run devices not necessarily designed for the microcomputer industry, such as many of the very large hard drives, as well as most nine-track (reel-to-reel) tape drives.

Changing a drive controller address for the Quantum Passport XL was as simple as reading a diagram and moving one jumper. Beyond that minor adjustment, I was able to install the card without much thought or effort.

The chassis installation was actually fun. The chassis has ingenious little feet that can be configured so that it will sit up either vertically or horizontally. The instructions even explain that there is a "right side up" in both configurations. After putting the feet on, all I had left to do was connect the external SCSI cable from the back of the SCSI card to the back of the chassis and turn the disk drive on.

On the back of the disk drive are two switches. One of them is labeled BOOT, and the other PROTECT. The BOOT switch determines whether or not to boot from the removable disk, and the PROTECT switch is like the write protect tab on a floppy disk. I set them both to OFF and placed the drive in the chassis (it only fits in one way unless you really force it). I then turned on the computer, placed the installation software in my A: drive, and ran the installation program; it asked all the right questions and did all the work itself.

After the installation was through, I set the BOOT switch to ON and rebooted the computer. The only difference was a crucial one: This disk is extremely fast--perhaps crisp would be a better adjective. It's a 9-ms drive that leaves everything else I've tried in the dust.