Technology is so integral to our everyday lives that when a computer goes down, life almost comes to a screeching halt. There's nothing more disruptive than being unable to access your data, especially when tax season comes around and you were hoping to get everything turned in early. Taking a functional hard drive out of a PC is a fairly simple process and most households today have more than one computer. However, with the ever increasing prevalence of laptops, popping that hard drive into another system might not be so simple. It quickly becomes a seemingly hopeless situation that can only be resolved by forking over a couple hundred dollars to a stranger at a repair shop. What if you had a device that you could simply plug any hard drive into and be done?
Well, fret not, because such devices do exist, and have existed for years. The problem in the past has been that the limitation of USB 2.0 meant file transfer speeds were so slow that it might take a while to find them and it felt like an eternity to download them. It was so bad that a new standard was created called eSATA, which was identical to SATA in every way except mandatory increased EM shielding and the physical plug shape, so you couldn't just use a normal SATA cable with little shielding. With the advent of USB 3.0, external drives are getting close to internal drive performance
Vantec has offered some help: their IDE/SATA to USB 3.0 Adapter and its sibling, the NexStar eSATA to USB 3.0 adapter. The IDE/SATA adapter will connect to any standard hard drive that uses an IDE(PATA) interface of either the 3.5" or 2.5" laptop variant and also with any SATA drive, supporting speeds up to SATA III. It also has a power adapter for getting juice to the drives. Its sibling, the NexStar eSATA to USB 3.0 adapter, does just that. It lets you connect an eSATA drive again with speeds up to SATA III, via USB 3.0. It doesn't have a power adapter though, as any eSATA drive/enclosure should have its own. Both are fully backwards compatible with USB 1.1 and 2.0. You can only hook up one drive at a time to each. The IDE/SATA adapter is priced at $29.99, and the eSATA adapter is sold independently for $22.99. Together, about the only hard drives they can't connect to are SAS and SCSI drives.
Overview Video Above
Vantec IDE/SATA To USB 3.0 Adapter
Vantec NexStar eSATA to USB 3.0
IDE/SATA To USB 3.0 Adapter
IDE & SATA 1.5Gb/s, SATA 3Gb/s, SATA 6Gb/s SSDs,
|Drive Sizes:||2.5" & 3.5" & 5.25"|
|Hard Drive Capacity:||up to 4TB|
|Power Supply:||AC Adapter|
|Dimensions:||70 x 50 x 15 mm (2.75 x 1.97 x 0.6 in.)|
Supports 2.5" & 3.5" SA TA or PATA(IDE) Hard Drives
NexStar eSATA To USB 3.0 Adapter
|External Interface:||USB 3.0 (Backwards Compatible With USB 2.0 & 1.1)|
|Dimensions:||530 x 28 x 15 mm (20.87 x 1.1 x 0.6 in.)|
(As of January 1, 2010) To test all Hard Drives, SSDs, Hard Drive Enclosures and Hard Drive Docks, Hi Tech Legion will use its suite of popular diagnostic benchmarks. In most benchmarks "Higher is Better" unless otherwise stated. Benchmarks will include Crystal Mark, AIDA64 (Disk Benchmark) and ATTO. The benchmarks used are easily accessible to the general public. Depending on the drive tested, benchmarks may or may not reflect comparisons to other drives. Hi Tech Legion will also try to provide comparisons in seconds on applications and games. (Initialization Times, when specified). For External Hard Drives, Enclosures and Docks, file transfer times will be benchmarked.
FinalWire's AIDA64 is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. AIDA64 will be used for its Disk Benchmark tool with the test conducted using the Read Test Suite.
ATTO is a Hard Disk benchmark that that calculates both read and write times. You can download ATTO here.
Benchmark: Crystal Disk Mark
Crystal Mark is a disk benchmark software that features:
Download Crystal Mark
Benchmark: File Transfer
The 1 and 5 Gigabyte files are placed on the desktop then sent to the External Hard Drive. This allows the HDD to both read the file before transfer then write it to the HDD. Times are calculated in Seconds for the 1 Gigabyte file and Minutes and Seconds for the 5 Gigabyte file.
Provided By: Vantec
No compensation was received for review of this product.
Price: IDE/SATA to USB 3.0: $29.99 (@Amazon.com)
NexStar eSATA to USB 3.0: $22.99 (@Amazon.com)
The Vantec IDE/SATA to USB 3.0 and NexStar eSATA to USB 3.0 adapters fall into the mainstream category for external storage.
Aesthetically speaking, both of these devices are quite Spartan. They are clearly designed to get the job done, without a lot of flair, and they are built well. While they are little more than a plastic shell housing a printed circuit board (PCB) with soldered on components, the plastic is hard so they should handle regular wear and tear pretty well and some light abuse, too. I also like the fact that the packaging each comes in is the perfect place for storage because they don’t take up a lot of unnecessary space with foam. Neither of these products is meant for the standard consumer, but instead the DIY geek earning money on the side by fixing computers.
NexStar IDE/SATA to USB 3.0 Adapter:
The CB-ISA200-U3, priced at $29.99, gives the ability to connect virtually any consumer hard drive manufactured in the last 20 years, which isn’t exactly new. The distinguishing features on this guy are the USB 3.0 interface and support for SATAIII. Due to the fact that USB 3.0 is very close in speed to SATA III, it might be expected that this device would push data through at a few hundred megabytes per second. While it certainly didn’t set any speed records, the CrystalMark bench gave 128MB/s. Copying files is always a lot slower than artificial benchmarks. Our test to transfer 5GB took 184 seconds or three minutes and three seconds. That gives us an average speed of 27.8MB/s, which is still faster than any USB 2.0 external hard drive would realistically achieve.
It is very easy and straight forward to use. Just plug your hard drive in and add power and then plug it into your PC. This device even includes a power adapter so you can access the drive completely external from a computer. The power adapter also has an inline switch so you can turn the drive on and off easily. There’s only one complaint about the physical aspects of this device and that’s because the included SATA cable is almost comically short, and thus inconvenient.
NextStar eSATA to USB 3.0 Adapter
For those who aren’t familiar with eSATA, it is electronically identical to SATA but the cable has more shielding and the connector is physically keyed differently so you don’t accidentally use a standard SATA cable. ESATA served as a stop-gap measure to satisfy those who didn’t want to use the painfully slow USB 2.0 interface for external hard drives. Now that USB 3.0 is out and wide-spread, the early adopters of eSATA are forced into the awkward situation of lacking future compatibility with the dominant external drive interface.
Vantec’s CB-ESATAU3-6, priced at $22.99, isn’t the only product on the market for its kind, but it is one of only a couple that can handle the SATA III and USB 3.0 protocols. It’s just as easy to use as its sibling and the cable has an acceptable length of 20 inches. Interestingly, this guy was faster than its sibling with the Crystal Mark bench getting about 266MB/s. I would have expected that these devices would give similar speeds, since SATA and eSATA are electronically identical. The file transfer testing was also able to benefit from this performance, with the 5GB file transfer taking just 133 seconds, which is 38.5MB/s which is faster than some internal mechanical hard drives.
Both of these devices are very easy to use. Just plug them in via USB and you’ll get a little pop-up from your operating system saying that it’s installing the default drivers. A minute later, it’ll say ready to use. If you don’t have a drive connected, you’ll see a generic device, but once you plug a drive into the other end of the device, your computer will see a storage device that’s automatically mounted (assuming you aren’t using Linux) and ready to use. Performance is pretty good in both cases and realistic performance is in line with what an internal mechanical drive might get. The only problems for either of them were cable length. The included SATA cable on the IDE/SATA to USB 3.0 adapter is almost too short, while on its brother, the eSATA to USB 3.0 adapter, the cable is a pretty tight fit to reach from a desk down to the USB ports of a mid-tower case standing on the floor. Even so, with their performance and ease of use, both of these devices would be perfect additions to my computer recovery kit.