With USB 3.0 products promising consumers significantly faster transfer speeds, Startech have released their own USB 3.0 hard drive docking station, compatible with both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives.
If you haven’t got any USB 3.0 components in your machine, you can bundle them with your purchase to ensure you get the best speeds possible. We were sent a USB 3.0 Express-card with the docking station to review and here’s what we thought.
Look and Feel
When you first open the docking station, you’ll be presented with a selection of power adapters which you can choose from depending on where you are in the world. You’ll also get a USB 3.0 cable to use with the dock.
The dock is finished in a glossy black colour, and offers a single drive socket rather than two separate sockets. The socket can handle 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives whilst allowing for the casing to be more compact. On the back of the dock, you won’t be surprised to find a DC power port and USB 3.0 port.
The drive securely holds hard drives in place, and can be turned on with the button on the top of the casing.
I chose to install the USB 3.0 Express-Card in a laptop running Windows 7. The included Express-card is a small adapter offering two USB 3.0 ports. Unfortunately, installation wasn’t as straight forward as it could have been, due to the included driver CD. I directed Windows to search for any drivers on the disc when prompted, and it didn’t find any drivers that were required. On closer inspection, it appeared that there were a whole host of drivers on the CD, although none of which appeared to match the model we were sent.
Fortunately, the drivers are readily available on Startech’s website, although the installation process is something that could be simplified in the future. Following the installation of the correct drivers, Windows recognised the Express-card and they functioned perfectly.
Performance & Benchmarks
The big question that everyone will be asking is how the docking station performed with USB 3.0. Is it really worth the extra money? According to my tests, it outperformed USB 2.0 significantly.
To carry out the tests, I used the USB 3.0 dock with a 7200RPM SATA hard drive side by side with a USB 2.0 external hard drive. Both drives were formatted as NTFS.
I copied the same file from the same location on the hard drive of the laptop on to both the USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices. The USB 2.0 external hard drive transferred the file at an average of 29mb/s, where as the USB 3.0 dock copied the file across at a staggering 91mb/s on average, boasting transfer speeds over 3x as fast.
Although the transfer speeds of USB 3.0 still don’t match those of a transfer using a direct SATA connection, it’s a significant improvement over USB 2.0 devices on the market. The transfer speeds certainly speak for themselves, although the technology is still a little expensive, so it may be a while until we see widespread adoption of the USB 3.0 standard.
The Startech hard drive dock is priced around £40 and the USB 3.0 express-card is available for less than £30.