The Vantec NexStar Hard Drive Dock is a complete and easy way to add or swap hard drives to your computer. It gives you the flexibility of connecting any SATA I/II hard drive to your computer via USB 2.0 or eSATA connection without opening
We've all been in this situation before: You have a HDD that you need to pull data off of but can't access because the host system won't boot for some reason. The solution is straightforward but tedious, since you have to remove the HDD and then install it into another system or drive enclosure so that you can run it. All of this is extra trouble at a time when you clearly don't need any more of that. Wouldn't it be nice if there was something that allowed you to easily and properly attach a HDD to a computer just to pull data off it?
Enter Vantec's new NexStar HDD Dock. Vantec is already well-known for their line of (among other things) drive enclosures, so perhaps it was natural for them to come up with something like this. The NexStar Dock allows you easily attach a 2.5" or 3.5" SATA drive and connects to your computer using either USB 2.0 or eSATA, just like any other drive enclosure. Let's see if it's up to par.
The NexStar is functionally no different than any other drive enclosure out there, supporting both eSATA and USB 2.0 connections. It nicely supports both 2.5" (notebook) and 3.5" SATA I/II HDDs as well as Windows/Mac/Linux OSes. It also supports HDDs up to 1 TB in size, enough for most current HDDs I'm aware of. Vantec also has included all required cables, as is usual with their products. You get a USB 2.0 cable as well as an eSATA cable, along with a SATA to eSATA bracket to use inside your PC if your motherboard lacks an eSATA port.
Full Specifications :
The biggest difference is of course, how you put the drive into the dock. There's no need to use screws or brackets of any sort; you merely slide the HDD into a slot at the top and it slides into the proper connectors at the bottom inside, sort of like a Super Nintendo cartridge. The drive protrude out from the top of the slot and to remove it, there is a convenient eject button that pushes out the drive from the bottom so you don't have to messily yank it out. (Again, like a SNES cartridge)
Looking at the Vantec HDD Dock, it sort of resembles a small single-slot toaster, perhaps something like you'd expect from Apple if they came out with the iToaster. It comes well-protected and sits in the middle of the package, which is good, since the entire unit is made of plastic. Aluminum would've been a more durable choice for the dock's exterior, as it currently feels a little lightweight and flimsy compared to other normal drive enclosures.
The rest of the package consists of a lot of cables. In fact, things are almost confusing since all the cables are white. Basically, there is an AC adapter plus power cord, USB 2.0 cable, eSATA cable and eSATA adapter bracket. As mentioned before, the eSATA adapter can convert one of your internal SATA ports into an external one that is mounted on the expansion slot bracket. You also get a small user manual and driver CD. (Drivers aren't needed for most operating systems) The eSATA cable is about 40" long and the USB 2.0 cable is around 50".
Obviously, having yet another power "brick" is undesirable, but most drive enclosures also come with something like this. The only other alternative would be to put the adapter into one cord and have the "brick" sit at the plug end, which would still be a potential problem.
Looking at the top you can clearly see the eject button and the slot that the HDD slides into. The slot cover is L-shaped and this allows it to support both 2.5" and 3.5" drives a very useful and nice feature. At the front is the on/off button, surrounded by an LED ring that indicates when there's power. An LED below this indicates activity. As expected, both are blue, since blue is the official colour of computer hardware LEDs.
I sandwiched a small Swiss-Army knife in the slot opening so that you could see the connectors on the inside. (Don't worry, it's not the blade attachment that's swung out but instead the relatively harmless nail file) You can clearly see the SATA data and power connectors at the bottom, as well as a piece of plastic protruding from the bottom next to it. This is the ejection mechanism and it's connected to the eject button, so when you push down on the bottom, this pushes the HDD out from the bottom, very much like your SNES would do to a cartridge.
At the back are the power and data connections. The bottom has rubber feet for stability. Overall there are no major complaints other than the all-plastic construction, which unfortunately makes the unit seem a little light-weight and flimsy.
Since the Hard Drive Dock is meant for quickly transferring files to and from a HDD, it's very easy to get up and running. You simply insert a 2.5" or 3.5" SATA drive into the unit, with the top of the drive facing the front. The connectors on the drive line up perfectly with the connectors in the dock, and then the dock is ready to be plugged into your computer and turned on. Removing an HDD is equally easy; just make sure the unit is off (the big on/off switch at the front is a hard switch) and then push down the eject button at the side; this pushes out the HDD.
In the above photos you can see a 500 GB Western Digital drive in place. As mentioned, the unit will also support 2.5" drive, but unfortunately I had none lying around to test with. As with all external drive enclosures, the additional power supply and cables tend to create a mess, but this is unavoidable.
As you can also see, the ring of light around the power button lights up during operation. An LED below this flashes during activity.
I tested the drive using both the eSATA interface and the USB 2.0 interface. As expected, transfer rates over eSATA were much faster and akin to an internal drive's performance, while USB 2.0 is more convenient for compatibility with almost any computer out there. It's nice to see that the Hard Drive Dock offers the best of both worlds in this respect.
USB 2.0 transfer rates averaged close to 33 MB/s, which is on par with Vantec's other enclosures that offer USB 2.0. This isn't a big surprise, as they are likely using the same chipset across all their enclosures.
With the eSATA interface, we see must faster transfer rates as well as lower CPU usage. Clearly, it's the preferred method of connecting this device, provided it's available. Access times, however, remain the same as with USB.
The Vantec NexStar Hard Drive Dock lived up to its promise. It provides a convenient method of connecting any SATA drive to your system so that you can easily access the data on it. Performance was up to par, but the real benefit is from the design. During disaster recovery, you need something that's straightforward and easy to use and won't add more trouble to your life. The NexStar Hard Drive Dock succeeds in this aspect.
As with most Vantec products you get the full deal: all required cables are included, along with an eSATA bracket that can be used should your system lack an eSATA port. This is something that's really needed to take full advantage of the device, as eSATA far surpasses USB 2.0 in every aspect. The Vantec NexStar Hard Drive Dock won't be useful to everyone, but for people who tinker with systems a lot, or computer repair shops, it can be very helpful.
*Easy to insert/remove HDDs
*USB 2.0 and eSATA connections
*All required cables included
*Body made entirely of plastic
Price : Rp.650.000.-