Vantec NST-350U2 3.5" Hard Drive Enclosure

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A detailed look at this product – Jordan Stella

Initial Comments

Having just purchased a new hard drive enclosure for the use of my ITX system, I thought I would share some opinions on it. As of the late, I have been finding the 40 GB hard drive I originally used quite limiting and am requiring more storage space. As for why I didn’t go for a new internal drive would be I am using a laptop drive and they are fairly expensive and tend to have low capacity.

So opting for a cheaper alternative (plus I can still use the original 40 GB) and portability, I went with a Vantec 3.5″ NexStar Drive enclosure and a Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 160 GB PATA 8 MB cache Drive.

After opening the box and seeing all the goodies it came with:

Vantec
  • The NexStar 3.5″ HDD Enclosure
  • Enclosure Stand
  • Power Adaptor
  • Power Cable
  • USB Cable
  • Driver CD
  • Mounting screws
  • Mini Screwdriver

Vantec states that:

  • Aluminum Covers to Reduce Heat
  • Supports High Speed USB 2.0 & USB 1.1 and (Firewire IEEE 1394 option)
  • Hot-Swappable & Plug-n-Play
  • Compatible with Notebooks & PCs
  • Easy Installation

I opted to go with the USB only version as USB is more standardized than Firewire and (2.0) has a 480 Mbits/s bandwidth (60 MB/s) vs. the 400 MBits/s (50 MB/s) for firewire… plus I saved a few bucks as well.

It looked simple to install, as Vantec claimed no drivers required for ME/2K/XP and as I am running 2K SP4 on my ITX system, I was in the clear. However, this was not the case. You must first partition the drive and then format it, as I ended up learning the hard way. So if you were planning on going the HDD enclosure route, just keep that in the back of your mind when buying. Once I got that all sorted out, it was clear sailing from that point on.

Simply open up on the enclosure and you will find this:

Open

Connect the Molex connector and the IDE cable to the HDD (I set the drive to master):

Max

Flip over the enclosure and screw in the 4 supplied screws to secure the HDD to the enclosure:

Slots

Put the Aluminum covers back on and finally, screw in the once again included cover screws using the included screwdriver. The included screw driver is nothing more than a jewelers screw driver for those of you who don’t have one lying around. The 2 screws per cover are quite small, but can still be made out on the back side of the enclosure here:

Vantec

And now you’re done – you should have one fully working external HDD.
For those of you who like numbers, here are a few quick SiSandra tests I ran to give you a basic idea of how the drive performs in an enclosure.

TEST SYSTEM

  • VIA EPIA-M Mini-ITX Motherboard
  • 1 Ghz Nehemiah CPU (7.5×133)
  • 512 MB PC3200 @ 133 FSB w/ 16 MB shared w/ onboard video
  • Toshiba 40 Gb 2.5″ HDD
  • LG 16x DVD-ROM

Vantec Model: NST-350U2 (NST-350UF)

  • Interface: IDE to USB 2.0 (& IDE to Firewire NST-350UF)
  • Dimension: 190 x 108 x 23 mm
  • Weight: 240.0 g
  • Material: Aluminum Alloy

Hard Disk Drive being tested:

  • Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 160 GB PATA 8 MB cache
  • Freshly partitioned and formatted using NTFS

Test Results CONTINUED page 2…

Test Results

Sandra Version:2004.8.9.131

File System Test:
Benchmark Results
Drive Index: 23MB/s

Performance Test Status
Run ID: C3 on Saturday, July 17, 2004 at 8:10:11 PM
SMP Test: No
Total Test Threads: 1
SMT Test: No
Dynamic MP/MT Load Balance: No
Processor Affinity: No
Operating System Disk Cache Used: No
Use Overlapped I/O: Yes
IO Queue Depth: 4 request(s)
Test File Size: 495MB
File Fragments: 1
Block Size: 1024kB
File Server Optimized: No

Benchmark Breakdown
Buffered Read: 24 MB/s
Sequential Read: 26 MB/s
Random Read: 21 MB/s
Buffered Write: 21 MB/s
Sequential Write: 21 MB/s
Random Write: 21 MB/s
Average Access Time: 10 ms (estimated)

Drive
Drive Type: Hard Disk
Total Size: 153GB
Free Space: 153GB, 100%

Removable Storage

SiSoftware Sandra

Benchmark Results
Combined Index: 17168 operation(s)/min
Endurance Factor: 1.8
512B Files Test: 33413 operation(s)/min
32kB Files Test: 7369 operation(s)/min
256kB Files Test: 3537 operation(s)/min
2MB Files Test: 573 operation(s)/min
64MB Files Test: 22 operation(s)/min

Performance Test Status
Run ID: C3 on Saturday, July 17, 2004 at 8:14:36 PM
SMP Test: No
Total Test Threads: 1
SMT Test: No
Dynamic MP/MT Load Balance: No
Processor Affinity: No

512B Files Test
Read Performance: 250832 operation(s)/min (2090 kB/sec, 11x)
Write Performance: 14526 operation(s)/min (121 kB/sec, 0x)
Combined Index: 33413 operation(s)/min

32kB Files Test
Read Performance: 7052 operation(s)/min (3761 kB/sec, 21x)
Write Performance: 7902 operation(s)/min (4214 kB/sec, 23x)
File Fragments: 1.0
Combined Index: 7369 operation(s)/min

256kB Files Test
Read Performance: 4019 operation(s)/min (17148 kB/sec, 97x)
Write Performance: 2997 operation(s)/min (12787 kB/sec, 72x)
File Fragments: 1.0
Combined Index: 3537 operation(s)/min

2MB Files Test
Read Performance: 646 operation(s)/min (22050 kB/sec, 125x)
Write Performance: 489 operation(s)/min (16691 kB/sec, 94x)
File Fragments: 1.0
Combined Index: 573 operation(s)/min

64MB Files Test
Read Performance: 22 operation(s)/min (24030 kB/sec, 136x)
Write Performance: 16 operation(s)/min (17476 kB/sec, 99x)
Delete Performance: 116471 operation(s)/min
File Fragments: 1.0
Combined Index: 22 operation(s)/min

Endurance Test Status
Operating System Disk Cache Used: No
Use Overlapped I/O: No
Test File Size: 32MB
Block Size: 512bytes
File Fragments: 1

Endurance Benchmark Breakdown
Repeated Sector Rewrite: 782 kB/s
Sequential Sector Write: 769 kB/s
Random Sector Write: 360 kB/s

Drive
Total Size: 153GB
Free Space: 153GB, 100%
Cluster Size: 4kB

Speed was a little slower than what I expected, but it could very well be due to the ITX system and the fact that disk cache was not on by default. I am sure I would get slightly faster scores if using a Modern desktop system/disk cache, but as my use was the ITX system, they are really the only scores I was concerned with. Regarding Disk Cache, it is recommended to leave off on a removable disk, as if you do not stop the removable device prior to removing it, you can in fact damage the disk.

Overall, the drive is still fast enough for my use and doesn’t have any problems playing music or watching movies from the drive. So I give it a passing grade. Lastly, I wouldn’t read too deeply into the 256 KB tests and smaller- also remember these are just synthetic tests, so always take them with a grain of salt.

Final Comments

Bottom line: Just Add Hardrive

Overall I would say this is a good product and here are a few things I did like about it:

  • Clean look and seems to be made of quality materials
  • Works as advertised ( This one is really important to me, and often is not the case)
  • No drivers required for ME/2K/XP (didn’t test ME myself)
  • Small Portable Unit that is fast enough for my uses
  • Came with all required materials to get working (unlike many other peripherals that don’t come w/ cables/ all required items)
  • Aprox 5min (minus format and boot time) to get have fully working

Although it does come with its faults and their are a few things that I did not like about the product:

  • Can not partition/format an un-partitioned hard drive in the Enclosure and Vantec does not state the HDD must already be partitioned prior to use¹

    Vantec Responds:

    “You most certainly can partition the hard drive in the enclosure. If you couldn’t what would be the point? People get external enclosures so they wouldn’t have to open up their systems and mess with the internal connectors. I doubt any would install a hard drive only to partition and then remove it. To partition the drive, you have a few options:

    1. Use the software that comes with the new hard drive to partition the HDD
    2. In Windows 98SE, you can use FDISK
    3. Otherwise, you can use Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> Disk Management

    Any of the above three will allow you to format or partition the drives any way you’d like.

    Regards,

    William Tiu – Vantec Thermal Technologies”

  • Unit runs hot. If they used plastic apposed to Aluminum, I am sure the enclosure would melt (discolour anyways), so make sure you keep it in a well ventilated place. Room Temp was 29C when I 1st started using this, but I still thing long term reliability could be an issue if enclosure is not in a well ventilated area

One final comment:

I tested it using the USB 1.1 standard of 12 Mbits/s (1.5 MB/s), and all I can say is it was painfully slow. And if I did not have USB 2.0 for the main computer I was planning to use this with, I would not even consider this an option. So if you have USB 2.0 and need some extra external storage, I would not hesitate to get this product.

If you have questions or comments, I can be contacted at the Overclockers.com Forum anytime; I can also be reached by email
HERE, but I may not get to it right away.

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