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Vantec NexStar USB 3.0 Dual Drive Dock

[ Review Comments | Screenshots ]

Vantec NexStar NST-D400S3 HDD Dock Review

box shot
thumb
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Product Info:

Category:
Storage & NAS
Type:
Hard Drive Dock NST-D400S3HD
Developer:
Vantec
Interface:
SATA I/II Internal, USB 3.0 External
MSRP (US):
$59.99 (Can be found for $39.99)
Website:
http://www.vantecusa.com/en/product/view_detail/420

Minimum Requirements:

System:
- Microsoft Windows® XP/Vista/7 (32/64-bit)
- Mac OS X 10.4 & Greater
- For USB 3.0 speeds, the system must support USB 3.0 specifications.

Our Thoughts:

Rating: 4 out of 5

thumbToday we bring you an in-depth look at a product that I myself have used for several years, the Hard Drive Dock. While external drives and enclosures have become the norm for many gamers and home users alike, enclosures require tools and external drives with built in disks are not serviceable. A dock system solves both of these problems, and allows you to swap out drives with ease. I use these quite often for supporting others, or my own back-ups.

We focus on a unique product from Vantec in this article, a Dual Bay dock with integrated USB 3.0 technology. The need of opening up your computer case or installing the hard drive into an enclosure is now a distant memory, and performance over USB 2.0 is increased up to 5 GB per second. I have ran several benchmarks for your reading, and also give you my honest thoughts on the product.

Features

  • Install and access Hard Drives in seconds, without tools or screws
  • Supports two 2.5" or 3.5" SATA I/II Hard Drive(s)
  • Maximum transfer rates up to 5 Gbps w/USB 3.0 (Backwards-compatible with USB2.0/1.1)
  • High quality shielded USB 3.0 cable
  • Hot Swappable: Plug & Play without rebooting your system
  • Blue LED Power and HDD activity indicators

Specifications

Model: NST-D400S3
Device Support: SATA I/II Hard Drive
Device Size: 2.5" or 3.5" Hard Drive
Internal Interface: SATA
External Interface: USB 3.0 (Backwards Compatible with USB 2.0 & 1.1)
HD Capacity: Up to 4.0 TB*
Power Supply: AC Adapter
Material: Plastic
Dimensions: 137 x 115 x 88mm
OS Support: Windows® XP, Vista & 7

 

Packaging and Setup

packagingThe dock ships in the typical blue and black color scheme from Vantec. On the front of the box is a picture of the device itself, in the appropriate color (The dock is available in a glossy white or black color). The rear of the box highlights requirements, functionality, and device specifications.

The dock is very well packaged, with black foam cradling the dock, and a separate box for the cables and power supply. Damage during transportation is very unlikely as a result. The device is simple and lightweight, with a very small footprint. While this makes it easy to find space on your desk, the device is so light because it is made out of plastic. As a result, you should be careful to place it somewhere safe so it does not get knocked over easily by you or that pesky cat!

Setup could not be easier, as there are no drivers to install, and only two connections to worry about. Along with the dock itself you will receive a USB 3.0 cable, a compact power brick, and the manual. Simply plug in the USB cable to the dock and your PC, attach the power, and slide your SATA I or II drive(s) into the dock ports. The guides on the top of the dock make it easy to insert a drive, and smaller 2.5" drives are guided in place with a small cutout on the top of the dock covers.

Once inserted, there are eject buttons on the side that pop-up for easy removal later with the push of a button. As with all USB devices, you should safely remove them from your operating system before hitting the power button and removing or changing a disk from the dock unit.

Performance

I used several benchmarking tools for this review to give you an idea of the performance. The machine used for testing used Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit), an internal SIIG USB 3.0 controller card, 8GB ram, and a Quad-Core 3.0Ghz Intel processor. Drive testing was completed with a fairly standard Seagate 1TB SATA II drive with 7,200 RPM and 8MB cache. It should be noted that traditional drives like this can by no means utilize the available bandwidth this device offers. One can expect higher speeds than depicted here with 10k-15k RPM drives and newer SSD drives.

Before running any benchmarks, I decided to take a few files and move them around from my machine, to the drive dock. Between two SATA II drives at 7,200 RPM, I was able to transfer a 5GB movie file in under 2 minutes.

Benchmark Tools:

  • CrystalDiskMark - A fairly simple benchmark tool designed to measure sequential read/write speeds. You can download their free tool here.
  • HD Tune Pro - A hard disk utility with many functions. For this review we used the File Benchmark test. You can try the tool here.

USB 3.0

CD usb3
HDPro usb3

As you can see, the device blows USB 2.0 out of the water using the 3.0 interface, offering more than 4 times the speed on a fairly standard SATA II HDD. You will be more than satisfied when transferring large files or media over traditional USB 2.0 speeds. If your machine does not have USB 3.0 ports, you can easily add in a 2-port card for less than $30-$40 like I was able to do.

USB 2.0

CD usb3
HDPro usb3

The NexStar dock is also impressive at USB 2.0 speeds, with an excellent average read/write speed in the 30Mbps.

With great speeds in both setups, this is a rock solid and future proof investment. As I stated earlier, faster drives would benefit even more from the USB 3.0 speeds. The traditional drive used in this review is only meant to show you a comparison, but when I put in my 10k Raptor drive and an SSD, the benchmarks shot up significantly. The drives will get fairly hot while docked and used, so be safe and turn off the dock when not in use. Also be aware that your drives will be exposed to the elements in the dock, so watch that Mountain Dew mister!

Wrap-Up:

Editor's ChoiceWith an affordable price point, excellent performance, and surprisingly silent operation, I would be happy to recommend this to any of you looking for a hot-swap solution for those old drives you have laying around. MY only wish was that the design of the plastic doors at the top of the unit were more robust. After taking drives in and out many times, I managed to break part of the plastic holding the door in place. The unit was still functional, and I was able to repair the door with super glue, but this is worth mentioning. The large on/off button and ease of drive installation makes this device a breeze to use, and the blue LED indicator for drive activity is a nice feature compared to some other docks I have used.

Due to the value and performance, I am awarding this hardware my Editor's Choice award for the month. If you need a dock, or want to buy one for a family member, you have my sincerest recommendation of both this model, and the company support model.

bioMarty`Smaug Reinhart - December 2010

Screenshots: 0
Author: `Smaug
Review Score: 9.0

Comments

[ Add a comment ]

Posted by busybusy on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 (07:37:34)

This is a great product. I have the upgrade version which is the dual-slot version. The only thing I would like is if it had an integrated cooling fan. If you use it for a long period of time the drive does tend to get hot.

Cheers!

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