by Kevin OBrien

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini Review

OWC makes the only MacBook Air SSD replacements, which offer tremendous performance improvements especially with the latest generation MacBook Air which can leverage the benefits of the SATA 6Gb/s interface. To help upgraders get some use out of their stock SSD, OWC released adaptations of two of their 2.5" drive enclosures. We tested the Mercury On-The-Go and enjoyed its sleek design, but for those who want more interface options and the benefits of an all aluminum body, the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini has a ton to offer.

Just like the Mercury OTG, the Elite Pro Mini uses OWC's innovative interposer card to get from Apple's proprietary SSD interface to standard SATA. The little adapter card opens up new life for the sluggish SATA 3Gb/s SSD Apple uses when upgrading a MacBook Air to OWC's Aura Pro Express 6G or the first generation Aura Pro Express SSD

The Mercury Elite Pro Mini is highlighted by an all aluminum body and features FireWire 400/800, USB 2.0 and eSATA interface options. The enclosure retails for $110 but there is a $40 rebate if purchased with OWC's Aura Pro Express SSD upgrades. 

Design and Build

For as cool as the clear acrylic case of the Mercury to Go is, there's still something that's especially desirable about the rigid and good looking design of the aluminum Elite Pro Mini. The case is rock solid, you could probably stand on it and not compress the enclosure one bit. 

The minimalist design adds to the overall look, with simple OWC branding on the top of the enclosure. The back of the unit features the connectivity options, working left to right there are eSATA, USB 2.0, and dual FireWire ports. OWC also includes an optional power adapter jack, though that certainly won't be needed with the SSD on board, and an on/off switch, which we absolutely love.

Installing the stock SSD into the enclosure is simple and takes just a minute or two. Two Philips head screws need to be removed, letting the tray slide out of the enclosure. The SSD then needs to be inserted into the interposer card. On the other end there's support pier for the SSD, along with a screw hole that aligns with the hole in the SSD's PCB.

Performance

We used our 128GB Toshiba-powered Apple MacBook Air SSD in the Mercury Elite Pro Mini and tested its speeds over a FireWire-800 interface. Our OWC enclosure review with this drive inside the Mercury On-The-Go USB 3.0 saw speeds of 184MB/s read and 154MB/s write. With no Apple devices currently supporting USB3.0 natively, this review will focus on the FW-800 and eSATA speeds.

Using CrystalDiskMark we were able to quickly saturate the FW-800 interface, getting sequential speeds of 89MB/s read and 80MB/s write. Random 512K transfers topped at  86MB/s read and 78MB/s write, while even smaller 4K random transfers peaked at 12.06MB/s read and 22.82MB/s write. The eSATA interface proved to be much faster with more available bandwidth with a connection speed of 3Gb/s. In this setup sequential transfer speeds topped at 196.3MB/s read and 196MB/s write. 512K random speeds measured 194MB/s read and 143.2MB/s read while smaller 4K random transfers were 19.12MB/s read and 35.47MB/s write.

For extra scratch space after an upgrade to the Aura Pro Express 6G, the leftover Apple SSD is put to great use inside the Elite Pro Mini.

Conclusion

OWC has always done a great job bringing form and function to their product offerings. The Mercury Elite Pro Mini is a well designed all-metal external enclosure with a stylish aluminum cover that fits 2.5-inch hard drives and SSDs, as well as the gumstick SSD found inside the Apple MacBook Air with OWC's own custom adapter. In our testing it proved to be very simple to assemble and was rugged enough to not worry about moderate abuse in normal daily transport.

The OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini proved to be very versatile when paired with the proprietary gumstick Apple MacBook Air SSD. Offering a wide range of connections including FW-800, USB 2.0, and SATA 3Gb/s eSATA the Elite Pro Mini managed speeds of up to 196MB/s in our tests. The main interface leveraged with this platform is FW-800 for Apple notebook and desktop users, since that is included standard on many systems. Using this interface the enclosure topped at roughly 90MB/s, while the faster eSATA connection peaked at 196MB/s. For the enthusiast on the go there is really no better way to utilize the gumstick MacBook Air SSD for secondary storage.

Pros

  • Attractive brushed aluminum body
  • Very sturdy all-metal design
  • Great speed and compatibility with USB 2.0, FW-800, and eSATA connections

Cons

  • A tad large for just the Apple gumstick SSD

Bottom Line

With the increasing popularity of the Aura Pro Express 6G/3G SSDs from OWC, users are left with few options to utilize their leftover Apple gumstick SSDs. The Mercury Elite Pro Mini gives upgraders a nicely designed and high performance option to make use of their otherwise unused old SSD.

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