Thermaltake BlacX Duet HDD Docking Station Review
By Gabriel Torres on November 24, 2009
BlacX Duet is a hard disk drive enclosure for you to install up to two hard disk drives outside your computer. You probably have seen hundreds of devices like this before, but what makes this Thermaltake product really unique is the fact that it is a docking station, allowing you to install and remove hard drives with the computer turned on and without needing to open the device to install your hard drive – just insert your hard drive on the available slot on the docking station. In fact hard disk drive installation with this unit remembers the installation of cartridges in older video game consoles. Sounds interesting? Read on.
We have already reviewed the previous incarnation of BlacX. What is new on BlacX Duet is the presence of two bays instead of only one and also an eSATA-300 port, which allows you to access you hard disk drive at its full speed, just like if it were installed inside your computer. As you may know, USB 2.0 limits the maximum transfer rate from the hard disk drive (and on this review we will show you by how much). The new USB 3.0 with its 5 Gbps (500 MB/s) should solve this issue, but we will need to wait until motherboards and hard drive enclosures based on this new standard become more popular.
As you can see in Figure 1, contrary to other HDD enclosures around, BlacX is opened, so you install your hard drives by just inserting them on one of the available slots – imagine installing a cartridge on an old video game console, it is the same thing. The available slots allow both 3.5” and 2.5” devices (we are saying “hard disk drives” all the time, but you can also use SSDs, of course), as it has retractable frames to make 2.5” drives to fit the slots. BlacX only accepts SATA hard disk drives.
Since the hard disk drive is exposed this device doesn’t need a cooling system for the hard drive.
In Figure 4 you see the rear side of the unit and in Figure 5 you see the power supply, the USB A/B cable and the eSATA cable that come with the product.
BlacX Duet supports hot swap, so you can add and remove hard disk drives with your computer turned on (don’t forget that you need to “eject” the drive first in Windows by right clicking it and choosing “eject;” another way to do this is to use the “Safely Remove Hardware” wizard that appears next to the Windows clock).
During our tests we used the configuration listed below and the only variable component between each benchmarking session was the hard disk drive being tested.
We adopted a 3% error margin. So, performance differences below 3% cannot be considered meaningful. In other words, products where the performance difference is below 3% must be considered as having similar performance.
We used three programs to evaluate BlacX Duet: DiskSpeed32, HD Tach and HD Tune. We installed a Western Digital Caviar SE16 500 GB (WD5000AAKS) and performed three tests. First we measured the performance of this drive when it was connected directly to one of the internal SATA-300 ports from our motherboard. Then we installed the drive on BlacX Duet and connected BlacX Duet to the PC through the eSATA port available on our motherboard. And finally we repeated this test with BlacX Duet connected to a USB 2.0 port. For the results presented by each program we are considering only the average transfer rate. The results are below.
As you can clearly see, all programs showed the same thing: using the eSATA connection you will achieve the same performance as if the drive was installed inside the PC. USB 2.0 connection really slow things down: this connection cuts the hard disk drive performance by half.
Thermaltake BlacX Duet main features are:
* Researched at Froogle.com on the day we published this review.
BlacX Duet is an interesting option if you are looking for a hard disk drive enclosure where you can add and remove hard drives very quickly without the need of using tools and/or opening boxes and with the computer turned on.
This new version solved the main drawback presented by the previous version: it now comes with an eSATA connection, allowing you hard disk drives to achieve the same performance as if they were installed inside the computer. Plus BlacX Duet comes with two bays for installing drives, not only one. Another advantage is the compatibility with both 3.5” and 2.5” units.