Vantec Nexstar HX2R HDD External Hard Drive Enclosure

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It’s a motherboard, it’s a video card, it’s an SSD…it’s an external HDD enclosure?!! That is right folks, today we have an opportunity to review another external HDD enclosure from Vantec. Instead of the HX4R I reviewed a couple months ago, we have its little brother, the HX2R to look at this time around. About the only difference is how many drives the enclosure holds, two with this model, versus four. I do not expect there to be too much of a difference in anything, but we will put it through its paces anyway and see what’s shaking!

Specifications and Features

Listed below are the specifications from the Vantec website for this device:

 Model: NST-620S3R-BK
 Device Support: SATA I/II/III Hard Drivers
 Device Size: 3.5″
 Internal Interface: SATA
 External Interface: USB 3.0 (Backwards Compatible With USB 2.0 & 1.1)
eSATA
 HD Capacity: Up to 8 TB*
 Material: Aluminum & Plastic
 Fan: 80 mm
 Dimension: 209 x 170 x 119 mm

Next we have a list of features listed from the Vantec website.

Features:

  • Aluminum Casing Cools Down Your Hard Drive
  • Vents To Intake Cool Air
  • Maximum Transfer Rates Up to 5 Gbps w/USB 3.0
  • Maximum Transfer Rates Up to 3Gbps w/eSATA
  • Active Large 80mm Fan To Exhaust Heat
  • Easily Add Storage to Any System with USB 2.0, 3.0 or eSATA
  • Backwards-Compatible with USB 2.0 or 1.1
  • Hot-Swappable: Plug & Play Without Rebooting
  • Attractive LED Indicates Power & HDD Activity
  • Supports Individual, JBOD, RAID 0/1 Modes
  • 1 Year Warranty

System Requirements:

  • Microsoft® Windows Vista/7/8
  • Mac® OS X v10.6
  • For USB 3.0 Speeds, the System Must Support USB 3.0 Specification eSATA Equipped System
  • For eSATA Speeds, the System Must Support eSATA Specifications
  • Port Multiplier Is Required For eSATA

Package Contents

  • NexStar HX2R Enclosure
  • Power Adapter
  • USB 3.0 Cable /eSATA Cable
  • User’s Manual

Meet the Vantec Nexstar HX2R

Retail Packaging

Taking a look at the retail packaging, we see its the exact same as its big brother, except 2/3 the height. We see the name of the product, NexStar HX2R, on the front along with a picture of the device and suggested uses to store music, movies, etc.

The back shows some of the high level features such as the 80 mm fan that sits on top pulling cool air from the bottom of the enclosure, past the drives, and out the top. It also mentions the aluminum enclosure, a total of 8TB of storage space, and shows the DIP switched for another way to setup RAID on the HX2R.

The sides show more features, system requirements, and the package contents on one. While on the other side, we see a picture of the enclosure along with some strategically placed points and descriptions.

Vantec NexStar HX2R External HDD Enclosure

Vantec NexStar HX2R External HDD Enclosure

Rear

Rear

First side

First side

Other side

Other side

When we open the package, you can see the HX2R is sitting snug in some form fitting Styrofoam inserts. The the left of the device are the included accessories, the power plug, USB3 and eSATA cables. The next picture shows the complete accessory stack.

Open up!

Open up!

Accessories

Accessories

The Enclosure

Moving on to what we all want to see is the HX2R itself. We can see that it is basically a pint-sized version of its bigger brother, the HX4R. Makes sense since it has space for two drives instead of four. But it is the same shape, same black aluminum chassis. There are some LED’s on the device in the front display. Power (green) and then the HDD lights (Blue).

Moving on the backside we can see the drive caddy’s in place, and the I/O area for your power and data connectivity. Also pictures is the power button and DIP switches for hardware based RAID setup. Last is the power switch and of course the variable speed fan adjustment rounding things out.

The last picture shows the quiet 80mm fan to help whisk away the heat that HDD’s can make, keeping them nice and cool.

Front

Front

The Back Side

The Back Side

A Little Closer Please

A Little Closer Please

80mm Fan to Keep Things Cool

80mm Fan to Keep Things Cool

These photos show the drive caddys alone and then the caddy attached to the HDD used. Just slide the caddy on the front of the HDD and use the included screws to secure it to the drive, then insert it into the HX2R…viola!

Drive Caddys

Drive Caddys

Drive Caddy's attached to the drive (Hitachi 7.2K RPM 500GB)

Drive Caddy’s attached to the drive (Hitachi 7.2K RPM 500GB)

Drive Seated Part Way in the Enclosure

Drive Seated Part Way in the Enclosure

DIP Sswitches to Selected RAID Mode

DIP Switches to Selected RAID Mode

The last picture I wanted to show you all is of HX2/4R family.

HX2R(L) and HX4R(R)

HX2R(L) and HX4R(R)

Included Software

Vantec has included software, JMicron HW RAID Manager to help get you going on this device. It is very simple to use in both ‘basic’, and ‘advanced’ modes. Basically you have your choice to select which RAID modes, none/JBOD/RAID0/RAID1/RAID3/RAID5/RAID10, and which disks to use in the array, press the button and GO!

Basic Setup 1

Basic Setup 1

Basic - 2

Basic – 2

Results on USB3

Results on USB3

Results on SATA

Results on SATA

Below are some thumbnails of other screens from this software. Just a note, I used the images from the HX4R as there are no apparent differences in the software. A couple of features I would like to mention are that this software still offers an email notification from several thresholds/events to notify the owner, and you’re also able to update the firmware in the advanced section. All in all, simple to use and effective in its uses.

HDDsoftwbasicraidtab HDDmakingraid2 HDDsoftwadvemail HDDsoftwadvfirmw HDDsoftwadvothr

Benchmarks

With the HX2R, like the HX4R, I chose the K.I.S.S method here as in this day and age of SSDs, I’m not sure anyone wants to see IO tests and things broken down as detailed as say ATTO/Crystal Disk Mark with its multiple file sizes. This device is for storage so to be that granular just adds a level of ‘fluff’ to it, that in my opinion can only serve to confuse readers with extraneous information that really doesn’t matter much for the enclosure. To that end, I have chosen to use HDTune (latest) exclusively with the HDDs.

HD Tune

Next up is the performance. When looking at the results below, we can see that using the SATA interface is the best for throughput coming in with an average of 95MB/s versus 32MB for USB3. In the USB3 screenshot, we can see that it is quite limited by the interface by the telltale sign of the platters not losing any performance throughout the length of the test. Alternatively, the eSATA interface clearly shows a more typical of HDD decline through the testing.

Results on USB3 interface (drives in R0)

Results on USB3 interface (drives in R0)

SATA

SATA

Conclusion

Wrapping things up, the Vantec Nexstar HX2R enclosure does what it says on the box and does it well. The included software helps one setup the supported RAID modes in just a few easy steps. The fan when turned low is dead silent but still manages to keep the drives cool. Turning it up however, will make itself known, but isn’t too bad.

If I had to nitpick a bit, I wish for a faster backplane as we are hitting low throughput for the setup even on the eSATA interface. Those two drives in RAID 0 should easily be beating the values listed above on a normal SATA2/3 controller. Perhaps a bit more than a one year warranty as well.

The Vantec HX2R can be found at Newegg for $79.99 at this time. I still do not have enough information on this market to approve, MEH, or Fail the drive, but the part is seemingly priced right among its peers and works as it should so I think you have a good option here for a dual HDD USB3/eSATA external enclosure that supports RAID.

~ Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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