OWC’s Tiny Mercury Elite Pro Mini Portable Drive is Blazing Fast and Reliable: Our REVIEW

Need a portable drive for those massive files you’re making as a content creator? Or perhaps a reliable backup drive to sidestep disaster when your computer melts like a Marshmallow Peep in a 1500W microwave? Two or three big names dominate the external hard drive offerings at online retailers, and it’s tempting to just pick one with the size and price that appeals the most.

Here’s a better plan: the Mercury Elite Pro Mini Portable Drive from OWC, a company that’s been providing computer gear for professionals for 33 years.

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini Highlights
Compatible: Works with old and new Macs, PCs, iPad Pros, Chromebooks and Andriod tablets
Portable: Compact, durable and bus-powered
Connections: Any USB or Thunderbolt device (includes USB-C cable and USB-A adapter)
Easy Backups: Works with Apple Time Machine and Windows File History
Fast: Read and Write speeds up to 542MB/s real-world performance
Quiet: Made of heat-dissipating aircraft-grade aluminum, no noisy fan
Formats: Available as conventional spinning media or SSD
Sizes: Up to 4TB
Convenient: Available without drive (add your own)
Bootable: Startup and launch apps (Mac only)
Operating Systems (Mac): OS X 10.6.8 or later; macOS 10.12 or later
Operating Systems (PC): Windows 7 or later
Operating Systems (Other): Linux, Chrome, Android; OSes that support USB 3.1 or later
Dimensions: 5.5 x 3.8 x 1.1 inches (14 x 9.6 x 2.8 cm)
Weight: Empty 11.2 ounces (0.3kg)
Warranty: 3-Year OWC Limited Warranty; Complimentary 1 Year Level 1 Data Recovery
Bonus: 1-year comp subscription of Acronis Cyber Protect
Price: OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini SSD, 1TB as reviewed costs $229
Price: OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini spinning media, 1TB costs $94

Visit the OWC Store on Amazon

Estimated (Approximate) Capacity
Each 1TB of Mercury Elite Pro Mini storage capacity can hold roughly:
• 250,000 photos
• 250,000 standard quality songs
• 38,000 high quality songs
• 10,000 really lousy songs if you have any stinkers
• 200 high-definition movies
• 41.6 hours of GoPro 4K footage
• 4.3 million MS Office documents
• 24+ PS4/Xbox games
• Obviously, not all of the above at the same time

But Who is OWC?
If you’ve never heard of OWC (Other World Computing), here’s an introduction. OWC is a premier zero-emissions Mac and PC technology company, and a respected provider of memory, external drives, SSDs, Mac and PC docking solutions, NAS (Network Attached Storage) and performance upgrade kits.

Headquartered in friendly Woodstock, Illinois, OWC been around for a long while—since 1988, the year that CDs outsold vinyl records in the US for the first time. (It was also the year that NASA scientist James Hansen warned congress of the dangers of the global warming and the greenhouse effect—for what good that did.)

Hands On Review
When the package arrived, the box was so small and light that I thought there had been a mistake. Inside, a paper insert reminded me to format the drive before use. While some drives come preformatted, be careful with that. A drive that’s formatted specifically for a PC or for a Mac will perform better, long term, than one that’s ambidextrous. We don’t need to get into the nitty-gritty now, but external drives that are formatted in the bilingual (Mac and PC) exFAT format can be corrupted when the volume is not properly ejected or dismounted. You can lose data if your PC frequently crashes or if you forget to eject.

The Mercury Elite Pro Mini Portable Drive sample that arrived is a 1TB SSD. SSD stands for Solid State Drive, so there are no moving parts whatsoever. Advantage? Moving things eventually wear out and stop moving. SSD is also light years faster, because it reads data from a chip, not a spinning platter.

This drive is bus powered. No power supply necessary; bus powered means that it receives power via the USB cable. And that means you can use it anywhere without being tethered to a wall socket.

I’m starting to see some advantages over conventional external drives, aren’t you?

The Mercury Elite Pro Mini is small; it can hide beneath a 4x6 print. Made of durable aluminum, the housing is at once attractive and highly conductive, so it can shed heat without a noisy fan and look good while doing so.

Included is a cable roughly 24-inches long. On either end is a USB-C connector. Connected to the cord is a USB-C to USB-A adapter. Right now, USB-A is more common on existing machines. But almost every new computer from about 2020 onward has a USB-C socket. And of course, Mac users know all about Thunderbolt, which uses the same size plug. This is truly the best of all possible worlds; this thing can be connected to just about anything that you could possible own and certainly anything you can buy today or in the foreseeable future.

Plug the cable into the drive and into your computer (I connected to a new Win PC via USB-C) and the drive appears on the list with all of your other drives. Access the poorly-named Drive Guide app and a series of clearly understandable instructions appears. I declined the 1-year of free Acronis Cyber Protect and began the format process. I began counting, and before I got from 1 to 3 the drive was ready to use. Really. It’s formatted in NTFS (New Technology File System) which is the optimum choice for Windows users.

Although I declined the free one-year subscription of Acronis Cyber Protect, you should strongly consider accepting it.  It has received numerous awards and has been reviewed very highly. Check it out—it’s free, after all, and may be just what you need.

The Mercury Elite Pro Mini Portable Drive appears in my file structure (Drive F: in my case, but yours will be different) and offers me 894GB of virgin storage space. During the setup process I requested the User Guide (owners manual) be installed. Now you understand why I say that Drive Guide (the install app) is poorly named.

From there I loaded files, deleted them, lather-rinse-repeat. I can’t give you exact Read or Write times because I do not own adequate equipment to measure them. But I can tell you that the new Mercury is faster than any of the six (6) other external drives I use on a daily basis, based on empirical evidence (i.e., it seems faster to me).

This is a great little drive. It’s super-quick, silent and runs cool. It makes my older drives seem slow, loud and clumsy. This drive slips easily into any pocket on my M65 Field Jacket and weighs almost nothing. Great value and outstanding performance.

If you want a dazzling drive that has a science fiction look to it, consider the OWC Mercury On-The-Go Pro. The 2TB, USB-3.0 version with 5400 RPM spinning media is available from Amazon for just $99.

It comes as no surprise that the Mercury Elite Pro Mini Portable Drive is a gem. The OWC Mercury Elite Pro line has a long, sterling track record and includes storage solutions ranging from rock-solid enterprise archive solutions to tiny ultra portables even smaller than the Mini reviewed here.  

The Mercury Elite Pro Mini Portable Drive is ideal for content creators and videographers who need massive storage that must also be very fast and easily transportable.

Don’t practice unprotected photography. If your digital images and videos are not backed up, you’re bleeped. Ask anyone who’s played fast-and-loose with their pictures.

You don’t have to backup all of your images—only the ones you don’t want to lose someday. Visit the OWC Store on Amazon

—Jon Sienkiewicz


(As an Amazon Associate, Shutterbug earns from qualifying purchases linked in this story.)