Vantec NexStar 3 NTS-360SU

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Very nice USB/eSATA Enclosure – Jordan Stella

You can see what you get in the pic below:

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Enclosure, Stand, USB and eSATA Cable and Power Brick
Note: Stand not required if you want to lay the enclosure flat.

You also get:

  • Driver Disk:
    Only usefully for Win98 and ME (not needed for 2k and up)
    Also has a PDF with install instruction if you lose the User Manual

  • User Manual:
    It’s strait forward, just like installing a HDD is so 99.9% of you can skip that.

  • SATA to eSATA Bracket:
    This allows you to use your external HDD by directly connection to a SATA port.

This unit not only has USB2 but eSATA. eSATA is something YOU WANT very much.
As the HD Tach Screen Shots, you will soon see clearly show why.

Some more shots of the Enclosure and installing the Drive:

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This is what slides out of the aluminum enclose:

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You simply slide the HDD into position…

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then flip it over and secure 4 screws:

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Slide it back into the enclosure.
Don’t forget to plug in the Activity LED
And as you can see, you might want to wipe off your finger prints now.

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Two Screws secure it all together.
You can also see the connectors on the back of the unit.

I had Zero Problems installing this drive and getting it up and running.
Windows found the drive just fine it no issues getting it formatted.
FYI the 1 TB drive gives you 931 GB of usable space.
Very Well Vantec – much better than some of the other solutions I have used in the past.

Test System:

  • Intel Core2 Duo CPU E4600
  • Gigabyte P35-DS3L (rev. 2.0)
  • North Bridge : P35
  • South Bridge : ICH9
  • 2 GB OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400
  • WD 500 GB HDD
  • nVidia 8600GT
  • Sound Blaster X-FI
  • Antec Sonata III 500 Case
  • XP MCE 2005
  • Vantec NTS-360SU
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1000 GB

I will be using the Antec Front Panel connectors for the eSATA and USB tests.
But once again, an eSATA bracket is supplied for the rear of your case if it does not come with one.

Just to give a baseline of the enclosure and the HDD, here are some HD Tach scores of the drive directly connected to the motherboard – this is a blank Drive never been used.

Here is the Short Test

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Here is the Long Test

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This gives you a baseline of what the drive can do.
The Raptor WD1500 (150 GB) gets about 77 MB/S just for another reference, but I am sure it has better seek times 😀

So now that we know what the drive can do, let’s see how well Vantec’s NexStar 3 performs.

Having a look at HD Tach using the eSATA short test

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Now the Long Test

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Clearly as the results show, it’s as if (performance wise) this is just a normal SATA drive installed in the case. I must say I am impressed.

Let’s see how USB holds up to eSATA.

Sort Test

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Long Test

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Clearly eSATA is the winner here.

It appears the USB bandwidth is maxed out, as the most you can ever in theory get out of USB 2.0 is 60 MB/s.
Also since it is a shared bus among all devices, the more USB devices consuming bandwidth you have, the less available for the external HDD. The Results clearly show that we do not have much bandwidth to share either.

Just to make sure my USB results were not off, I also tested this on my laptop (Core 2 Duo T7500 Santa Rose Platform) and see very similar speeds with USB.
Sorry USB, but until your new USB 3.0 Spec comes out (2009 at the earliest we will see that), eSATA is the way to go.

Final Comments on the Vantec NexStar 3

Vantec Enclosure

  • Bang on product
  • Does exactly what it claims to do and a Very Good job at that at the same time
  • Build quality is great and made of a nicely polished aluminum
  • Install was very pleasant and would recommend it to anyone looking for an external drive enclosure

However like all products I think there is room to improve.

  • Vantec got cheap with cable lengths, IMHO
  • I owned the original NexStar and find that USB cable was nicer and longer
  • I really wish they didn’t shorten the cable – it’s about 35 cm shorter now
  • The old cable was about 1.52 m and the new 1.17 m

We also lose some length on the power cable too.
Its nice to see the new power cable is one single cable now – however, it’s much shorter now.

Call me old fashioned but I like longer cables.

Just to give an idea on cable Lengths

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You can see the OLD NexStar cable on the outside and the newer NexStar 3 cables inside – the eSATA cable in the center.

Ending on a positive note, the eSATA cable is 1 M. Yes it’s shorter than the USB Cable, but I do think it’s an acceptable length as the spec is only 2 M max for eSATA. Two thumbs up for that cable. And it is nice to see the included bracket if your case doesn’t have one in the front.

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Simple things like this help make a good product, as many cases will not have this on the front.

Last Pic You can see the Activity light (it dims with Activity) Is the Vantec Logo

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Final Comment/Warning on Hot Swapping with eSATA

As for the hot swapping that makes the eSATA so great:

Well, I was unable to test it as my ICH9 south Bridge would not support hot swapping, or so I thought. Upon further reading, it appears you need to enable AHCI in order for hot swapping to work. So my only option to get that to work would be to re-install my OS with AHCI enabled in the BIOS.

AHCI hasn’t been kind to me in the past, as my laptop would not detect my HDD when attempting to install XP with AHCI enabled – only Vista would. So for you 2K/XP lovers out there, be warned you might need a reboot to get the drive detected for you. Vista users – if your OS came pre-installed, as far as I have seen AHCI should be on by default.

For small Files, USB will have to be what we use if you don’t want that reboot, but for larger files you will want that extra Speed eSATA provides.

Jordan Stella

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