Thermaltake Vi-On HDD Enclosure Review
By Gabriel Torres on December 4, 2009
Vi-On from Thermaltake is a hard disk drive enclosure with a suspension mechanism for the hard drive, a sheet of rubber foam to reduce the noise produced by the drive and a temperature-controlled fan. It is available in two versions, with eSATA port and without this port, and two choices of color, black or white. Let’s take a look at the black eSATA model.
On Figures 1 and 2 you have an overall look from Vi-On. It comes with an angled stand, so you can have this enclosure flushed to your desk or tilted.
As mentioned, there are two versions of Vi-On, one with eSATA port and one without. In both cases the enclosure comes with a USB 2.0 port. The eSATA port allows you to access your 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.
On the rear panel from Vi-On we have a USB connector, an eSATA port, a jack for the power supply and an on/off switch. In Figure 4, you can see the power supply, the USB A/B cable and the eSATA cable that come with the product.
Let’s see now how a hard drive is installed inside Vi-On.
To install a hard drive inside Vi-On you need to open it first. This is done by sliding one of the side panels, but you need to first remove the bottom metallic plate that is attached to the enclosure through four screws. So opening the unit is not fast and here Vi-On loses to other enclosures that have a tool-less mechanism.
The panel that is removed has a rubber padding to reduce the noise level produced by the hard disk drive. The stands where the drive will be installed on have small shock absorbers also to reduced the noise level produced by the drive. No screws are necessary for installing the drive inside the enclosure, which is clearly a plus. As you can see in Figure 7, Vi-On only accepts SATA 3.5” hard disk drives.
In Figure 8, you can see the SATA connectors and the 40-mm fan. If you pay close attention you can see a thermal sensor on the printed circuit board (the small green component). The choice of a 40-mm fan was a dubious one as the smaller the fan the higher noise level it generates.
In Figure 9, you can see the components from Vi-On printed circuit board. The main controller is a JMicron JM20316.
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 Vi-On: 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 inside Vi-On and connected Vi-On to the PC through the eSATA port available on our motherboard. And finally we repeated this test with Vi-On 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 Vi-On main features are:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
Thermaltake Vi-On is one of the gazillion hard disk drive enclosures available on the market nowadays. Here is a summary of what we found out about this product.
The main drawback of this unit is the use of a 40-mm fan that is really noisy when working at its full speed and thus we recommend you to look for a quieter product.