We would like to thank Vantec
for the review sample.
USB 2.0 in today's market has become the standard and most popular external connectivity solution, but mainboard manufacturers are pushing USB 3.0 with every major player offering boards with the additional standard. The current solutions are not realized through the chipset, but with the use of an external IC - usually from NEC at the moment. Vantec is ready with their NexStar 3 SuperSpeed series, which takes advantage of the USB 3.0 benefits.
- Attractive Mirror Finish Design
- Aluminum Casing Cools Down Your Hard Drive
- Maximum Transfer Rates Up to 5 Gbps w/USB 3.0
- Maximum Transfer Rates Up to 480 Mbps w/USB 2.0
- Easily Add Storage to Any System with USB 1.1/2.0 or 3.0
- Backwards-Compatible with USB 2.0 or 1.1
- Hi-Quality Shielded USB 3.0 Cable Ensures Data Integrity and Speed
- Hot-Swappable: Plug & Play Without Rebooting
- Attractive Blue LED Indicates Power & HDD Activity
||SATA I/II HDD
|Data Transfer Rate
Up to 2TB
Vantec has done a great job with the packaging. While the front has an image of the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed and some bullet points about the enclosure's main features, you will find plenty of details on the back.
So far the above is nothing out of the ordinary from a design and marketing standpoint. But the inner box is bright blue and holds the vantec logo in the center. You will also find some promotional text which is only viewable if the light hits it at an angle - pretty fresh Vantec!
Vantec protects the enclosure itself by placing it in a plastic bag and securing it with foam spacers. A small box holds the power supply, while the USB 3.0 cable is loosely placed on top of everything. Even though the entire package was shipped across the US and then across the pond to Austria, all is well.
You will receive a black, plastic stand along with the afore mentioned USB 3.0 cable with the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed. The latter is fairly thick and roughly three feet in length. A simple manual along with the six required screws is also part of the entire package.
I am glad to see, that Vantec has chosen to include a compact power brick, which plugs straight into the socket with the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed. It is rated for 2A, which is more than the 1.5A which USB 3.0 can supply at full speed, thus it is a requirement.
A Closer Look
The NexStar 3 SuperSpeed looks identical to the other NexStar 3 series enclosures. This means that you can easily stack them up, while mix & matching your available connectivity. The SuperSpeed version is only available in black, which does look quite good on your desk.
There are no openings on the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed. You will find some branding, along with the model name and the fact that it is a USB 3.0 device printed on one side, while the other is complete clean with no text at all.
The front is void of any buttons, but holds the Vantec logo along with a lighting strip. This line is not present in the press images of the unit and seems to be a last minute addition. Turning the enclosure over reveals the large power switch and plug on the very bottom and the blue USB 3.0 connector.
Vantec ships the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed without the rear screws installed, thus the tray can be taken out easily. It will be interesting to see what ICs are used with USB 3.0 enclosures. Vantec has chosen the asmedia ASM1501. You can find additional information about the IC here
Before you wonder why we are installing a simple 7200 RPM SATA II drive into the enclosure, as such a drive will never push the interface to its limits, the reasons should be rather obvious. First off, the internal interface is SATA II to USB 3.0, thus a SATA III drive is out of the questions. Secondly, using a 2.5 inch SSD is not the intended purpose of the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed, as it is a 3.5 inch enclosure. To secure the drive, simply use the four included screws to hold it in place.
Then slide the entire tray into place and connect the LED cable to the three pin connector. Lastly, close things down and screw the two black screws in - done. Vantec has gone for a simple but effective installation method by going with a wide spread, trusted and true tray design.
Turning the enclosure on results in no vibration from the tray or hard drive. The blue LED lights up brightly and those who rather not have such an illumination can simply unplug the internal cable.
While the benefit of USB 3.0 should be obvious, when compared to the USB 2.0 standard, it will be interesting to see if all the future enclosures will manage to deliver a similar performance. As this is our first USB 3.0 review, we do not yet have any performance comparison charts. Nevertheless, with speeds of over 100 MB/s read and write with ATTO and average read of around 87 MB/s across the entire WD drive, you should notice things moving along much faster with the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed than with a USB 2.0 enclosure.
That said we also wanted to check how it fares when connected to the previous 2.0 interface. With a read speed of 30.7 MB/s it manages a solid performance, but is the lower spectrum of modern USB 2.0 enclosures out there. For those who need an enclosure and want to go the future proof route, the NexStar 3 SuperSpeed seems to be a solid choice nonetheless.
Value and Conclusion
- The Vantec Nexstar 3 SuperSpeed can be had for around $55 USD at major etailers.
- Great way to upgrade to USB 3.0
- Performance gain as expected
- Very good USB 2.0 performance
- Keeps HDDs cool
- Informative user's manual
- Can stand upright or flat
- Glossy appearance looks good
- Compact power brick
- Priced adequately for a USB 3.0 enclosure
- Power on/off switch
- Silent Operation
- USB 3.0 offers no performance advantage to eSATA
- No eSATA connectivity
- Priced higher than eSATA enclosures
The Vantec NexStar 3 SuperSpeed delivers exactly what it promises. You get the performance advantage of USB 3.0 over the 2.0 standard along with the plug & play ease of use we have come to love from the universal serial bus. It manages to deliver the maximum performance of the installed hard drive just like eSATA would, but with the advantage of a solid hot-swappable standard instead of somewhat flaky "will this work without a reboot?" implementation of the external SATA connectivity. That said, USB 3.0 is still in its early stages and mainboards are pushing the standard nonetheless. Vantec is showing that they are ready with new products, but until the enclosures come down in price - which is certainly not the manufacturer's fault - they do not have the price / performance ratio of affordable eSATA enclosures. If you are looking for a future proof investment which works on your current USB 2.0 as well as the USB 3.0 once it is available to you, the Vantec NexStar 3 SuperSpeed is a solid choice.