Vantec NexStar3 Superspeed USB 3.0 Enclosure Review

There are lots of USB 3 enclosures and docking stations popping up lately, and if you’re in the market for one, it can be hard to know exactly where to start sorting the nice ones from the less desirable units.  I’ll go ahead and say the Vantec NexStar3 looks to be in the former category.

First Look

The box is compact, with a clear picture of the unit so you know exactly what you’re getting.  The full list of specifications and features can be found around back:

Specs

  • Model: NST-380S3-BK
  • Device Support: SATA I/II Hard Drive
  • Device Size: 3.5″ (you can probably use a 2.5″ drive if you don’t care about it being mounted)
  • Internal Interface: SATA
  • External Interface: USB 3.0 backwards compatible with USB 2.0 or 1.1
  • HDD Capactiy: Up to 2.0TB
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Dimension: 206x123x33mm

Features

  • Attractive Mirror Finish Design
  • Aluminum Casing Cools Down Your Hard Drive
  • Maximum Transfer Rates Up To 5Gbps w/ USB 3.0
  • Maximum Transfer Rates Up To 48Mbps w/ USB 2.0
  • Easily Add Storage To Any System w/ USB 1.1/2.0 or USB 3.0
  • High-Quality Shielded USB 3.0 Cable Ensures Data Integrity and Speed
  • Hot-Swappable
  • Blue LED for Power and HDD Activity
Vantec NexStar3 Box Front

Vantec NexStar3 Box Front

Vantec NexStar3 Box Back

Vantec NexStar3 Box Back

Inside, along with the NexStar3 unit, we find a black USB 3.0 cable, user manual, power adapter, stand, and HDD mounting screws.

Vantec NexStar3 Accessories

Vantec NexStar3 Accessories

When Vantec says “mirror finish” they aren’t kidding.  I had to constantly wipe this thing down while taking pictures to keep my finger prints off of it.

Vantec NexStar3  Side

Vantec NexStar3 Side

Vantec NexStar3 Back

Vantec NexStar3 Back

Vantec NexStar3 Controller Board and HDD Mounting

Vantec NexStar3 Controller Board and HDD Mounting

Vantec NexStar3 HDD Mounting Holes

Vantec NexStar3 HDD Mounting Holes

Vantec NexStar3 HDD Mounted

Vantec NexStar3 HDD Mounted

The Power/HDD Activity LED on the front of the unit connects to the HDD as seen here.  There has to be a better way of doing this.  The length and orientation of the cable can make it kind of tricky to get plugged in.  When pulling the unit apart, it’s also easy to forget the cable needs to be unplugged and yank on it too hard.  When closing the unit, you have to move the cable out of the way to keep it from getting pinched.  I would call this only a slight disadvantage, but if you swap drives out a lot, it could turn into quite a pain.  Then again, if you swap drives a lot, you should go with a docking station instead of an enclosure, in which case Vantec has another product for you.   One of the product features is “Aluminum Casing Cools Down Your Hard Drive.”  The drive really doesn’t make much contact with the case, and with zero airflow (this is a pretty sealed unit) I was worried about hard drive temperature.  After testing the enclosure for a few hours, the case was warm, but not near what I’d call “hot.”

Vantec NexStar3 LED Cable

Vantec NexStar3 LED Cable

Vantec NexStar3 LED Cable

Vantec NexStar3 LED Cable Attached

Once it’s all put together, the NexStar3 is a pretty sleek unit, with a small footprint, and multiple orientation options.

Vantec NexStar3

Vantec NexStar3 In Stand

I was planning on laying the NexStar3 on it’s side on top of my computer, but found the stand to come in quite handy.  It’s a perfect fit between my case and monitor.

Vantec NexStar3 Ready For Action

Vantec NexStar3 Ready For Action

Vantec NexStar3 LED

Vantec NexStar3 LED

Testing

I decided to use a 1TB Samsung SATA II hard drive for testing the NexStar3.

Testing Setup

  • MSI 890GXM-G65
  • AMD Athlon II 245
  • 2x2gb Corsair DDR3
  • Samsung 1TB System Drive
  • Antec Aria Case/PSU
  • Windows 7 Professional X64

The 890GXM-G65 was not the best motherboard choice for this review.  While it’s a fantastic board, it’s USB 3.0 performance just isn’t quite what we’d see on something like Gigabyte’s X58A or P55A line of motherboards.

Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark 2.2

CrystalDiskMark 2.2

HD Tune Read

HD Tune Read

HD Tach Short

HD Tach Short

HD Tach Long

HD Tach Long

Everest Read Suite

Everest Read Suite

Everest Linear Read

Everest Linear Read

Everest Random Read

Everest Random Read

Everest Buffered Read

Everest Buffered Read

Everest Average Read Access

Everest Average Read Access

Everest Buffered Write

Everest Buffered Write

ATTO Test

ATTO Test

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

If you do a fair amount of external data transfer, USB 3.0 is an absolute necessity.  Even with the sub-par USB 3.0 performance of the motherboard used in testing, transfer rates are still faster than USB 2.0 by leaps and bounds.  The only bad thing I have to say about his unit is the issue with the cable for the front LED.  But like I said, depending on how often you change out hard drives, this can be just a small inconvenience. If you want a high quality, stylish means of fast external data storage, Vantec’s NexStar3 is for you.

I’d like to thank Vantec and Overclockers.com for making this review possible.

-sno.lcn

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