Quick Look: Akasa AK-ENU3M2-07 M.2 Enclosure Review 1

Quick Look: Akasa AK-ENU3M2-07 M.2 Enclosure Review

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I would like to thank Akasa for supplying the sample.

The Akasa AK-ENU3M2-07 is the company's entry into the growing 20 Gbps M.2 enclosure market. Sporting a unique design and completely tool-less assembly method, the unit could prove to be a very useful tool to have in your kit on the road, for easy and robust access to either NVMe or SATA M.2 drives. Akasa also provided us with their 20 Gbps USB-C 3.2 Gen 2x2 expansion card to pair with the enclosure for testing.

Package and a Closer Look

Both the enclosure and controller card ship in really sturdy, full-color packaging that fit classic retail environments well. You will find pictures of the respective devices on the front and lots of additional information on the rear.

The AK-ENU3M2-07 includes a good-sized, sturdy USB-C cable, a thermal pad for your SSD, and an assembly manual. On top of that, Akasa has placed the enclosure itself into an anti-static bag that can be found in a cool little cloth pouch for future use, which is great to see.

As far as NVMe enclosure go, the AK-ENU3M2-07 is a bit on the larger side. It sports a cool heatsink design with company branding on the top and the model name edged into the underside. A fairly irritating serial number sticker can be found on this side as well. It would have been nice if this were a smaller sticker or omitted completely.

The connector of the AK-ENU3M2-07 has been framed in a plastic end with flat thumb screws holding everything in place. On the other end is a black acrylic cap through which you will see the power/activity LED when the unit is turned on.

Putting the Akasa enclosure on the scale, it clocks in at a whopping 112 grams, making it one of the heftiest units we have looked at in recent times. This bodes well for its cooling capabilities as the top cover is used as a heatsink.

To take the AK-ENU3M2-07 apart, simply unscrew the two thumb screws and pull things apart. This is quite the cool and functional way to get into the enclosure without needing any tools or small screws. There is no need to remove the PCB, but we did to show you the underside as well. While the top is intended for up to 2280 form factor SSDs, the underside is used to house all the smaller electrical components

An ASMedia ASM2364 IC is at the heart of the unit. It's a widespread, popular choice for 20 Gbps M.2 enclosures. It is compatible with both M key and B+M key M.2 connectors for NVMe M.2 drives.

As for the controller, Akasa provides a low-profile bracket and simple manual for it.

The controller itself holds all the functional components on the side usually facing downwards in a modern tower chassis, with only a few resistors and the likes at the center around the main IC on the upward side. The expansion-slot bracket is standard fare, but also branded clearly, so you will know it is an Akasa product.

The PCB has print and solder pads for either a Molex or SATA power connector at its end, but this unit apparently doesn't need it. An ASMedia ASM3242 is at the heart of the card, which, once again, is a pretty popular choice for these 20 Gbps USB-C cards.

Assembly and Performance

Moving forward, we will be using the KIOXIA Exceria Plus G2 2 TB PCIe 3x4 NVMe drive. This marks a switch from the KIOXIA XG6 and BG4 series drives, which are not really available to the consumer. The Exceria Plus G2 with its higher capacity has components on both sides of the PCB, and it should be interesting to see if an enclosure is capable of handling 2 TB as well as effectively cool it. We will keep the XG6 and BG4 variants around for backup if need be.

To install an SSD, unscrew the two thumb screws and take the unit apart. You may then slide the drive of your choice in at an angle before using the plastic locking clip to keep it in place. Lastly, the thermal pad is placed on the drive for direct contact to the top of the housing, which thus acts as a heatsink. Once assembled, simply twist on the thumb screws to keep it all firmly in place. Overall, this is one of the best assembly experiences for an NVMe enclosure to date.

The controller has no embedded LEDs with the host system powered on, but a small green LED lights up and acts as an SSD activity LED in front of the AK-ENU3M2-07.

As expected, the 20 Gbps interface results in roughly 2 GB/s data transfer rates in our quick benchmark with a bit of variation while testing. On top of that, a thermal sensor was attached to the exterior of the enclosure and 10 GB of data was written to it 100 times consecutively, resulting in host writes of over 1 TB to heat up the drive within the Akasa AK-ENU3M2-07. The highest reported temperature of the drive was an excellent 51°C, while the exterior showed 46.3°C. The difference is simply due to the comparatively large, thick exterior of the enclosure acting as one big heatsink.

Value and Conclusion

The Akasa-ENU3M2-07 sells for $79.99, while the Akasa AK-PCCU3-07 20 Gbps USB-C 3.2 Gen 2x2 PCIe controller has a price tag of $45.99. That puts the enclosure at the higher-end of the 20 Gbps pricing scale, while the controller comes in right in the middle. The extra money does get you a nice carrying pouch to hold that bulky, well-engineered and excellently performing enclosure which sets itself apart from the competition with a completely tool-free assembly. While it lacks that second USB-A cable we have seen with other enclosures, the variant Akasa does provide is thick as well as long enough to be useful enough in most scenarios.
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May 17th, 2022 17:44 EDT change timezone

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