We would like to thank Vantec
for the review sample.
This is what Vantec has to say about themselves from their website:
Founded in 1994, and located in Fremont, CA, Vantec is a leading brand of computer accessories that provides a complete line of Storage, Thermal, and Mobile solutions. We are devoted to every computer user from mainstream to enthusiast. Our goal is to provide a complete and affordable way for all your computing needs.
At Vantec, we strive to be innovative, and with our popular NexStar™ External Hard Drive Enclosure Series, Vantec is leading the scene of the Built-Your-Own-Drive. The bold colors and mirror finish on the NexStar™ 3, changed industry outlook and put back the WOW factor. Vantec set a new standard and personalized it. No longer does an external enclosure have to look boring. Passing the 1 million units milestone in 2007, Vantec continue to expand its successful NexStar™ series along with the EZ-Swap®, LapCool, Stealth, AeroFlow, Tornado and Iceberq lines.
We understand that technology is changing faster than ever, and in 2003, we established a R&D and Sales office in Taiwan. Through this expansion, we are constantly integrating innovative technology to our products. Now with a world wide distribution network, Vantec products can be seen across the globe.
In years past there was a time when transporting the most delicate of information may have required things such as locked briefcases, handcuffs, large metal safes and other zany spy gadgets to keep secretive information secure. Ah, but the days of paper are over and the digital age is upon us, leading us to store all our data and information on things such as hard disks. Keeping information secure in the digital age has generally been done by means of software and passwords. Vantec is looking to combine a bit of the old with the new by using data encryption along with a physical keypad on a 2.5" enclosure. Today we will be having a look at the soon to be released Vantec NexStar Vault. Here is what Vantec has to say about their latest enclosure with security in mind:
The Vantec NexStar® Vault is a portable security enclosure. With its simple-to-use keypad design, simply enter your 6 digit password to guard your data from unwanted access. Whether it is financial documents, passwords, or any type of sensitive materials, the NexStar® Vault will keep your data safe with its integrated encryption technology. The hard drive is formatted into two partitions; an open drive (Public) and a private drive (Vault). Store and share your files under the “Public” drive and keep your sensitive materials safely guarded in the “Vault”. Simply connect the NexStar® Vault to any PC or Mac with an USB port—no drivers are required. Start protecting your valuable data with the Vantec NexStar® Vault!
- Protect your data from unwanted access
- Encryption Technology
- 6-Digit PIN
- Supports PC or Mac
- Hard Drive is Divided into "Public" and "Vault"
- Attractive Blue LED Indicates Power & HDD Activity
- Screw-free Design
- Protective Hard Case Included
- No Drivers Required
- USB 2.0
||SATA I/II Hard Drive
||Plastic & Aluminum
||130 x 76 x 16mm
The Vantec NexStar Vault comes in an interesting package that has the look of a metal safe. Quite fitting considering the name. The front of the package has a picture of a combination lock and features the name of the unit. One side of the box has a small graphic that explains the NexStar Vault will automatically partition your HDD into two separate partitions. The other side features a small picture of the unit. The back of the package contains a description, features, specifications and system requirements.
Contained within the box we have the NexStar Vault wrapped in bubble wrap along with a full color, thorough set of instructions to follow. The instructions are laid out well and take you step by step through how to set up the Vault.
A Closer Look
The first thing to keep in mind is that this unit is a prototype. The finished retail product may or may not look like this review sample. Upon unwrapping the Vault from its protective bubble wrap, you are greeted with the pleasant surprise of having the unit encased within a protective plastic box. The box also holds the USB cable which has a mini USB jack on one end to connect to the Vault and a dual standard USB connections on the other end. One connection is for data and the other for power. A good design so no other external power device is needed.
The first thing noticed when taking the Vault out of its protective box is that the unit is made of plastic. Some may think that if you were to name a product “Vault”, it would be made out of a more durable material. That aside, the Vault is around the same size of most other 2.5” enclosures. The unit has a dark brown finish with a textured aluminum overlay on the top. Having a look at the sides there are chrome vents to aid in cooling of a hard disk and at one end of the unit, there is a mini-USB jack, along with an optional power connector.
Having a closer look at the top of the unit, we see where the NexStar Vault gets its name. A fully functional security keypad is there to gain access to private files. They keypad is pretty straightforward going from 0-9. Above the keys are a LED power indicator along with another indicator labeled “Invalid." Most of the time we like to take these type of units apart and show you what is inside and what makes these devices work. Unfortunately, the design of the NexStar Vault doesn't make that possible for this review as taking it apart would essentially render it useless. One would suppose this design would keep someone from maliciously tampering with the unit as the only way to read the private date is by using the Vault.
To get the NextStar Vault up and running a 2.5” hard disk is needed. Installing the HDD is very easy. Flip the unit over and remove the back cover which easily comes off by pressing a tab. Here it is found out that the unit is not entirely made up of plastic because its back cover is partly made of aluminum. The aluminum not only keeps the hard drive firmly in place it works as a heat sink to keep the drive cool. So with the cover off the HDD easily slides right into the SATA data and power connectors. The cover is snapped back into place and the hard disk installation is complete.
With the USB cable connected to the computer and the Vault, a blue power LED illuminates indicating power. While the hard disk is being accessed, the power indicator glows a more violet color. Below the power LED is another LED that is labeled "Invalid." This LED illuminates when a key is pressed and is used to indicate a wrong code being entered. The LED would be better labeled "Function" or something like that as it serves more than an indicator of a bad key-code. Within the instructions are a list of things the Invalid LED can show. On first startup, the hard drive is automatically divided into two separate partitions. One partition is public and is accessible by anyone. The other partition labeled "Private" can only be accessed by pressing the correct six digit code using the keypad. Any six digit combination will work and can be set easily by inputting the default key code, then inputting the code of the users choosing.
To test the performance of the Vantec Nexstar Vault, we used a single 2.5" Hitatchi 7200 80GB hard disk drive. Performance was measured using HDTach 18.104.22.168 and ATTO Disk Benchmark.
For an enclosure aimed at security, the Vantec NexStar Vault really exceeds in performance, especially for a 2.5" enclosure. With 34.9 MB/s read performance, the NexStar Vault is in the upper echelon of hard disk enclosures we have reviewed. Looking at the ATTO Disk Benchmark results we can see that write performance is not lagging behind either and does a rather nice job using the USB 2.0 interface. CPU utilization is also a bright point of the NexStar Vault, coming in at only 4%, the internal data controller within the Vault does a great job.
Value and Conclusion
- The Vantec NexStar Vault will be available soon at major retailers.
- Great performance
- No external power connector needed
- Easy installation
- Includes carrying box
- Private files are kept private
- Auto-partition feature
- Functional keypad
- Compact design
- Mostly plastic construction
- "Invalid" indicator could be better named
The Vantec NexStar Vault overall does what it sets out to do, is easy to use and offers no unwanted surprises. Aptly named, the Vault does indeed keep storage protected and away from prying eyes with its intuitive keypad and auto partitioning feature. Hard disk installation was very easy and best of all tool less and is similar to replacing batteries in a remote control. The only real shortcoming of the NexStar Vault is its plastic construction which makes it less durable. One would hope going with plastic instead of a more expensive alloy or steel will help keep retail costs down on the unit, which remains to be seen. It is a great plus however, having the option to store both the enclosure and the USB cable in the provided case. Performance with the NexStar Vault is top notch, and a pleasure to see considering the focus of the Vault is security and indeed the NexStar Vault protects its storage securely. If the list of features and specifications apply to your needs, the Vantec NexStar Vault comes highly recommended.