Thursday, September 17, 2015

Inateck UASP USB 3.0 HDD Docking Station with Dust Cover - Review

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Introduction

I originally wanted to build a NAS to store all the data but the timing did not prove to be feasible. One of the two Western Digital Green drives I recently purchased is currently installed inside the PC and the other one is kept outside. Since that drive is only used for backing up the internal drive, there is no need to have it connected to the PC all the time.

I did have a SATA to USB converter but it only supported speeds up to USB 2.0 with a maximum read speed of 40MBps. Imagine backing up GBs of data through that narrow interface, especially that initial backup. It took me more than half a day, and that’s about half a drive. It was obvious that this converter was out of place, so I decided to buy a new one. This time, not just a cable, but with an enclosure as well, especially to protect it from my kid. He is top curious about stuff.

Criteria 

Speed was essential, however I did not care much for the 400MBps transfer speeds promoted by some of the products showcased on Amazon. Realistically, I wouldn’t need more than 150MBps because that’s the peak read speed of the drive. (You can check the benchmarks of the Western Digital Green 4TB drive here.)

There was another critical requirement. 240V input voltage support. Japan uses 100V from the mains and it is irritating. Many of the electric appliances do not work out of the box if we take them with us back to Sri Lanka. So I wanted to avoid buying something that was made in Japan as there was a high probability that it would only support 100V input. That’s when I came across the company called Inateck which is an international brand. Amazon had products from them on store at reasonable price tags. I always try to buy from Amazon, because it is easy to return unsatisfactory products, and this indeed was an unexplored field.

Which one did I choose?

I debated whether to get the two drive vertical docking station or the single drive model, and finally decided to go with the  latter because it was horizontal, hence stable, and had a cover. The price difference wasn’t large though. The model I opted for was Inateck UASP USB 3.0 HDD Docking Station with Dust Cover (Horizontal)(FD1006C). I'm sure they couldn't make that name any shorter. And the power adapter indeed supported 100-240V input.

Package

The packaging was very simple. There weren’t many accessories in the package either. Since the dock works without any 3rd party drivers, a driver CD was not included. Weirdly though, a manual was missing as well. Only the dock, USB cable and the power adaptor was in the package.

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Pros

One of the pros of this unit was the availability of a power button at the back. Because of its presence, I can keep the hard drive connected at all times (hidden behind the PC, thus out of the kids hands) and power it on only when I need to backup the internal hard drive. With the previous unit, I had to plug the HDD every time I wanted to backup data. It was tedious.

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More over, there is no need to plug any cables to the HDD. All you have to do is to slide the HDD into the case. Just like a hot swap bay, it easily plugs in.

Cons

It's not without its share of flaws though. The top cover seemed flimsy and the power adapter was too bulky for the amount of power it had to deliver.

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Another thing I find inconvenient is the sheer thickness of the USB cable. It does not bend easily and I do not get why it has to be so thick. Perhaps it is to ensure that the cable doesn’t get damaged easily. For some people, it might not be that much of an issue and they probably might even think of it as a pro. However in my situation, where space is a very limiting factor, I would have loved to see a cable that can be retractable or shorter/thinner.

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Benchmarks

Now to the all important part. How does it perform? I ran the sequential read speed test of HD Tune 5.0 and full test suite of CrystalDiskMark 4.0.3.

First of all, the SATA to USB controller used in this unit is made by ASMedia. The model number of the controller is ASM1153E. This seems to be their flagship model for USB 3.0 however they also have controllers that support USB 3.1 which have to be faster.

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So how does compare if the drive was connected directly to a motherboard SATA port. Click this link to see the benchmarks of the drive natively connected to an Intel SATA port on my Asus Z97I-Plus Mini-ITX motherboard. Except for the Burst rate, it doesn’t look bad at all. Almost similar performance.

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CrystalDiskMark scores aren’t too shabby from the native results which you can find from this link either.

I do not feel bad about the performance of this enclosure at all. I hardly am this satisfied with a product. That speaks a lot about it. Inateck says the unit is capable of speeds more than 400MBps however that would require an SSD to be used as the external drive. Due to the lack of an extra SSD, I could not test the performance with an SSD.

Conclusion

I have nothing against the drive. It is fast and it works as expected. I did not expect it to do any wonders. At 10-15% drop is performance compared to when the drive is natively connected is to be expected.

It is also reasonably priced. You can find few other products in the same price range on Amazon (Japan), but they are all Japanese products hence come with the 100V power adapters, which I do not like.

The only issue one might have with this dock is the lack of a cooling fan. Since I am using a WD Green drive, it does not get the warm. According to HDTune, the drive temps stabilized at 37C while not doing anything much. Well, it is a data drive so I do not use it much. I am using the SSD for the most part now, even for downloads and temporarily saving large files such as my Crysis 3 gameplay recordings and photos from the phones and the camera. I transfer them about twice a week to the hard drive.

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All in all, this is one rare product that I had been satisfied with in the recent past. That tells a lot about it.

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