Breaking News

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?

BACKGROUND

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:

OBSERVATIONS

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:

FINAL THOUGHTS

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?

  • Paul

    Interface for SATA III would help to get full use of USB 3.0.This test is dominated by SATA II so when can we expect to see SATA III on these docks.The possibilities of having high speed external drive via USB 3.0 or eSATA 6Gbs ports.

  • Oliver

    There are performance problems with this device. Vantec will release an updated version with different chips in August 2011, according to their tech support

  • Dfgdgdg

    Just bought one of these docks. VERY disappointing experience. Only one bay recognizes a drive, if you put a second drive in the other bay device refuses to see either drive.

    Vantec has firmware revision available which does not see device at all. Tried device/firmware on three separate computers and the firmware cannot see device on any of them.

    As I said, a very disappointing experience.

    • Yes this would be a disappointing experience even though we never experienced such and have been using ours sporadically for several months now without issue.

      • Tesselator Tess

        I had this problem too. By mistake the Hong Kong EBay seller sent me two different $10 (4-port) USB 3.0 cards. (Neither one was the one they showed in the image BTW). The first one I installed did this with my Marshal (MAL-4535SBKU3) dual USB3 Drive Dock. Only one drive showed up and even that was not showing up 100% of the time.

        Then I installed the other card and the dual dock showed both drives and either drive individually if I inserted only one. And so far it’s never not shown whatever I placed in the dock.

        I know this thread is going on 2 years old but if someone lands here as I did looking for information, I would suggest updating the firmware, driver, or try a different $10 USB3 card. 😉

    • Adgum

      I am having the EXACT same problem.. very regretful purchase.

  • Adgum

    I Just purchased one and got it in the mail today. Wont pick up normal drives unless i format them, and then if i put the drive in a different dock or in my computer via SATA it asks to format the drive again. Tried updating the firmware from the VANTEC website, but it cannot find the drive to update.. Tried on MANY different computers, very disappointing purchase.

SSD QUICK SEARCH