Image courtesy of StarTech
Those of us in the IT business know that you simply can’t have enough tools to get the job done. Anything to make life easier, and give you more time to for other things is usually worth it’s weight in gold. StarTech makes some of the coolest and hard to find computing equipment on the market. Almost everything I have used from them works exactly as they said it would and stands up to the harshness of the IT worker lifestyle.
Today we are taking a look at one of my favorite products from StarTech, the 4 Bay eSATA USB 3.0 to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station. That’s quite a bit of connectivity compared to most on the market. The best part about this dock is that all 4 drives can be used at the same time through a single connection. The dock has a port multiplier so a single USB 3.0 or eSATA connection will allow you to hot swap 4 drives simultaneously all day long. For those of use who commonly image, format, deploy, or manipulate hard drives, this is great news.
Let’s take a look and see if this drive station holds up to the rigors of the IT world.
Quick Specs: (SATDOCK4U3E eSATA and USB 3.0 4-Bay SATA Hard Drive Docking Station):
- Warranty 2 Years
- Drive Size 2.5 & 3.5in
- Fan(s) 2 – 60 mm
- Interface USB 3.0 & eSATA
- LED Indicators 4 – Activity (Red)
- LED Indicators 4 – Power (Blue)
- Number of Drives 4
- Drive Type SATA II (3 Gbps)
- Chipset ID JM321 + JM539
- OS Compatibility Windows 2000/ XP(32/64-bit)/ Server 2003(32/64-bit)/ Vista(32/64-bit)/ 7(32/64-bit)/ Server 2008 R2, Mac OS X, and Linux
The dock looks very similar to the 2 bay models that were introduced some years ago, but now with the added two slots. All 4 bays accept any form of SATA drive in both 3.5″ and 2.5″ formats. (they also an adapter for IDE drives if you require it but it’s not included). The casing is made of a solid hard plastic, and has a textured finish that works well in resisting scratches and fingerprints. The quality of the product can be told simply by feeling the rigidness of the shell and the weight of the entire unit. The trap doors fold down easily when inserting the drive and make it pretty simple to feel that the drive has docked with the connectors. Even the 2.5″ drives were not hard to guide into the slot and felt solid when docked. The build quality and feel of the quad dock is exactly as I expected from StarTech, it’s good to know that the build quality of their products is the same as it’s always been. In the box they also include a eSATA and USB 3.0 cable, so everything you need comes in the box.
All the connectors for the dock are on the back panel. There you will find a single USB 3.0/2.0 port, eSATA (II) port, power connector, and two fan speed dials. StarTech also built-in two 60mm fans that are independently controlled. This is a great feature because we all know that drives can get pretty hot once they are spun up for a while, and this helps keep things cool and running smoothly. The fans were relatively quiet even running at full speed, so I didn’t really feel the need to slow them down. Considering that most IT offices, cubicles, tech benches, or server rooms really are not all that quite anyway so it didn’t really matter to me anyway. I do appreciate that they left them user adjustable, it’s just another nice feature commonly left out by some of the competitor’s product offerings.
Each bay has an individual power switch and eject button. This is a nice feature because you can quickly and easily control each drive bay independently from the rest which makes hot swapping very simple, even while another drive is currently in use. The power buttons are backlit by a red and blue LED. The blue LED’s indicate that the drive is powered up while the red indicates that the drive is in use. I had zero issues turning drives on and off, and swapping out while others were still being read or written to. Both the eSATA and USB 3.0 connections worked for me as intended. My Dell workstation supported port replication, so either single connection detected all 4 drive independently and I was able to image them all at once. This was probably the key feature when testing this device. I often build and deploy images to dozens of machines at a time, so when a non network image is taking place, this saved a ton of time and effort. The drive speeds were equivalent to speed of the device mounted internally. Each drive obviously is different based on its core specifications, but compared to the USB 2.0 docks I was using it was night and day difference.
The quad dock is very simple to use and very effective. I tested it and have been using to complete my daily chores which includes imaging, data recovery, and data destruction without any issues whatsoever. The device never skipped a beat and even allowed me to recovery some data from a drive that would not read in the laptop it came from. There are many drive docks out on the market that really don’t offer the features and trusted performance of this drive bay. Everything is included so nothing else was needed and it worked 100% as advertised. The MSRP for this dock is $190 which is on the higher side of similar products, but nothing I’ve tested has even come close to the build quality or performance of this device. The built-in port replicator works great and frees up the need for multiple ports while allowing you access to 4 drive all from one controller. Acronis worked flawlessly with this bay as I’m sure other imaging software would as well. This bay is worth every penny of the asking price and is invaluable to any system builder, IT professional, or enthusiast. I highly recommend this and other products from StarTech, they have yet to disappoint with anything I’ve tried.
What I Like: Control of 4 drives independently; Built in port replicator; LED indicator lights; Fans for added cooling of drives; Quality construction of dock
What Needs Improvement: A bit pricey compared to others (but you certainly get what you pay for)