The Vantec USB3 Dual HDD Dock Review (NST-D400S3)
As technology progresses and we move into the lightning fast world of SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3, several questions become apparent with respect to the possibilities that this new speedy interface may bring. The reality of transfer speeds is that SATA can reach a data transfer rate of 1.5GB/s, SATA 2.0 can reach 3GB/s and now with SATA 3.0, we technically should start to find rates in the area of 6GB/s.
Even now with our SSD evaluations we are seeing SATA II SSDs near their bandwidth limit of 285MB/s and, in our recent review, we were ecstatic to see our system working properly with the Crucial RealSSD reaching its specified sequential read transfer speed of 355MB/s in SATA 3.0.
A typical SSD review can take as little as a week and up to a month or more depending on the testing criteria. Naturally, any technology that might assist in reducing this time would be a welcome upgrade and the introduction of USB 3 brought forward an idea that we immediately recognized might do just that. If we have a SATA3/USB3 motherboard with a USB3 hard drive dock connected via the USB3 ports, could we not simply then throw a SSD into the dock and conduct testing in that fashion? After all, as the mobo is SATA3/USB3 and the dock is USB3 and the drive is SATA3, should we technically get top speeds?
We started to check around because, technically, the answer should be relatively simple and naturally, we would first approach the manufacturers who should have the answer. Were we surprised? The SSD Review had the opportunity to speak with 4 different manufacturers, none of who could provide an answer to the question, until we spoke with Vantec who took interest in the situation and stated they would call us back the next day. They called us back 3 hours later and provided a response but also suggest they loan us an exact dock for which they had just finished testing. We gladly accepted and were on our way a few days later on receipt of our Vantec Nexstar USB3 2.5″/3.5″ Hard Drive Dock (NST-400S3).
PACKAGING AND APPEARANCE
The product arrived in an attractive blue and black exterior box which clearly described its features, specifications, system requirements and package contents. Inside was a very well constructed dual hard drive enclosure along with a power cord, USB 3 cable and instructions. It was a simple plug and play hook up at which time we observed the attractive blue lighting on the front of the unit as shown in the feature photo.
SSD AND HARD DRIVE TESTING
Our testing was a simple process of putting the drives into the dock and conducting ATTO and Crystal Disk Mark tests. The 4 drives tested consisted of the Crucial C300 SATA 3 64Gb RealSSD, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 100Gb, Intel X25M 160Gb SSD and the Samsung Spinpoint F2 1.5Tb HDD. Our main focus was on the high sequential reads and writes as this is of consumer interest in purchase along with the 4Kb random writes that we have realized are so important to the visible improvement you will see in your system. Our results are as such:
As a reviewer who thought my job just might get easier, I was a bit disappointed knowing the the specified results could not be reached in the SSDs. This was the same result that Vantec engineers obtained and they are worthy of our appreciation for working with The SSD Review on this little project when others had respectfully declined. There are alot of positives from this review however and it would not be fair if we didn’t mention them:
The transfer speeds we are seeing from both the hard drive and the SSDs are a huge jump from that in which we were seeing of the typical docks utilizing USB 2.0;
From the SSDs, the high sequential read speeds seem to be the most obvious transfer method affected which are utilized less than 1% of the time, if ever by the typical user. In other words, one would not know the difference between the SSD being utilized in the dock or as part of the system; and
The hard drive result was a bit of a surprise because it was nice to see the hard drive perform at the top of its ability in an external dock. Here is the ATTO scoring for review:
All in all, our workload stays the same but the product has shown very good results. Most importantly though, we are no longer seeing the bottleneck of USB 2.0 which results in typical hard drive speeds of around 30MB/s while in a dock. This also starts to raise some questions about how fast we are actually moving with technology. Once USB 3.0 becomes native in Q2 2012, technically, we would be able to simply throw a hard drive or SSD into a dock, boot from the dock in any computer and your entire computer environment starts rather than a simple file or program. The possibilities become endless. Could we see a student in the future simply bringing a drive to school, throwing it in a dock and booting their own system right from that computer?