The docking station was quite easy to take apart after removing the four screws at the bottom of the unit.

Since the unit has the tendency to become a bit top heavy due to the upright mounting of hard drives, we have some ballast at the bottom to lower the center of gravity.

JMicron's JM20330 is the PATA to SATA bridge chip for the IDE drives (PDF Specifications) mounted on the underside of the PCB. It supports up to 1.5 Gbps transfer rate which should be plenty for all IDE drives.

JMicron's JMS551 is the USB 3.0 to dual SATA 3G bridge. One of the SATA ports is connected to the JM20330, while the other is connected to the SATA connector on-board. The bridge is compliant with SATA II (3 Gbps) specifications. The chip doesn't support UASP (USB attached SCSI protocol). However, it does have some low power mode support which allows the disks to spin down after being inactive for some time.

For readers curious about how a loaded dock would look like when connected to a system, the following picture should prove helpful.

 

Introduction and Testbed Setup SATA and IDE Performance Benchmarks
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  • sheh - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    Cables running to the back? What's the idea? Reply
  • FH123 - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    Due to bad experiences with products like these, my first question would be more fundamental than the benchmarks: Does it work reliably? I've had multiple enclosures from Akasa which plain didn't. They consistently caused CRC errors when validating Ghost backups. This happened with multiple units on multiple machines with backups that were subsequently verified to be good, when the drive was put directly into a machine. As far as I recall I even tried different hard drives. In other words, I ruled out that it was anything but the enclosure as best I could. Did you validate data integrity or did you just take that as a given?

    I also own an older eSata version of the StarTech product you reviewed, but never really used it because of the pungent smell from of my particular unit, perhaps from the soldering job. Can you report on the smell of yours? No, I'm not kidding, the smell of mine is really strong and I swore off StarTech units as a result.

    A still different adapter that I own, while mostly working fine, causes backups to hang every so often.

    The common thread with many of these products seems to be JMicron chipsets. It seems impossible to avoid them. Ever since Anandtech reported on the JMicron issues with the first OCZ SSDs, of which I owned one, I've become weary of that company. My GigaByte motherboard works very reliably, except every now and then, after a boot, the mouse cursor locks up at regular intervals. This was improved, but not eliminated, by updating a JMicron driver for the PATA chipset in the machine.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    We do not take data integrity as a given. I have actually used the unit to back up a couple of IDE (40 GB) and SATA drives (256 GB SSD / 1 TB HDD) sector-by-sector using HDDGuru's Raw Copy Tool : http://hddguru.com/software/HDD-Raw-Copy-Tool/ : and I had no trouble mounting the copies as virtual drives and accessing the data as well as restoring it back to the drive using the same software / docking station.

    My review unit didn't have any specific smell, but I really can't vouch for every unit out there.

    JMicron's chipsets are cheap and quite common. SSD controllers are a different beast because there is no single right way to perform the activities of a SSD controller. SATA and USB bridges are fairly straightforward and it is just a matter of implementing the specifications. Note that the IDE bridge in this product has been around since early 2004 and the USB3 bridge has been around since late 2009. Plenty of time for customers to report issues with the chipsets and get it fixed in a new tape out / firmware update.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    I own two USB 3 HDD docks (single drive only) from Vantec, and they work rather well. However, there's one small annoyance that I have with them... the drives will sometimes vibrate. Since I have mine positioned on top of my tower, the resonance with my case makes a rather annoying buzzing noise. I usually solve this by shoving something in the slot with the drive.

    Does this enclosure suffer from the same problem?

    Also, what made you want to review this enclosure over the numerous other brands? I know when I was searching for a new USB 3 enclosure, I saw a few different brands. I'm also curious... I noticed the Apricorn self-powered USB 3 SATA adapter, and I was wondering how that compares to a powered adapter. I think Anand used one in a recent review.

    What's amusing is that I considered buying it, but I shied away because I had never heard of the brand Apricorn before. I bought a Crucial M4 SSD with the transfer kit (the normal one went OOS). I like having spare adapters, so I didn't mind too much. Well, I opened the box to find... an Apricorn adapter. It actually works rather well so far with my old SSD, which makes me rather bummed that I passed on them so quickly.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    There is no specific vibration dampening mechanism, but I really didn't encounter anything out of the ordinary. (Every dock I have seen has some amount of vibration, and it actually depends on the drive being used).

    As for why this kit was reviewed, it basically depends on what product a company pitches to us at a given point in time (whether it is relevant to our readers / current coverage) and whether the editors have time to review the product at the time of pitching :)

    If you want us to review any particular brands, let us know and we can always try to approach them for evaluation units.
    Reply
  • Lerianis - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    Even server farms have swapped them out. Sounds to me like it would have been better to have both slots SATA so you can use both of them for hard drives. Reply
  • vectorm12 - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    In Sweden you can pick one of those up but instead of StarTech it's branded deltaco. Wonder if it's just some gadget that's been labeled god knows what or if it's the same company using different names. Reply

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