By OvRiDe at 2010-04-05 17:48
by Curtis Gauger (OvRiDe)
Vantec has recently released new products to get users on the SuperSpeed highway of USB 3.0. Whether you have the latest motherboard with on board USB 3.0 ports or not, they have you covered. With the introduction of their UGT-PC302 PCI-Express card and the NexStar 3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive Enclosure your just a simple installation away from joining the 5 Gbps revolution...more...
The Vantec UGT-PC302 is a PCI-Express 2 port expansion card that features 2 external high speed USB 3.0 ports. For those that are not up to speed on USB 3.0, it is of course the next revision of the Universal Serial Bus. USB 3.0 sports transfer rates of up to 5 Gbps which is 10 times faster then the current 2.0 standard with a maximum transfer rate of 480 Mbps. Aesthetic wise the Vantec UGT-PC302 is nothing special. Its a small PCI-Express card that can be used in a 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x, or 16x PCI-Express slot, so I won't dwell on this too much. Although the manual does say that performance can vary depending on the speed of the slot, this was not my experience in this review. I tried both a 1x slot and a 16x slot with identical results.
In the box, the UGT-PC302 Superspeed USB 3.0 Host card is packaged in a anti-static bubble wrap envelope. Also included is a user manual, driver CD, and a low profile replacement bracket.
Installation is pretty straight forward, insert the card in any PCI-Express slot. You will also need a spare 15 pin SATA power connector from your power supply. In certain cases I could see some issues with this. Most SATA power connectors have 2 plugs per cable. Since you will most likely not be able to reach the hard drive bay and the card area with one cable, you will need to use a dedicated line off the power supply to the card. This in essence will use up 2 SATA power connectors instead of one. There may be some SATA extensions and/or adapters that could remedy this situation. Once the card is inserted and the power is connected, you are ready to enjoy some 5 Gbps goodness.
Here you can see the SATA power connector on the back of the card.
Now that we have USB 3.0 capabilities on the PC side, we need something that will utilize it. Vantec has that covered as well with their new NexStar 3 Superspeed USB 3.0 enclosure, model number NST-380S3-BK.
I must admit I have been a fan of the Vantec NexStar 3 enclosures for quite a while. I have several of the IDE USB 2.0 versions, and they have been some of the most reliable enclosures I have ever owned. The NST-380S3-BK doesn't change anything in the styling from the previous NexStar 3 enclosures.
The NexStar 3 comes packaged nicely with hard foam padding around the enclosure to hold it securely. Everything you need is included in the box: The NexStar 3 enclosure, and all the necessary screws to mount the hard drive. A stand so that it can sit vertically on your desk without falling over. A users manual. A USB 3.0 cable, and a power adapter (not pictured).
The enclosure's exterior features a glossy black finish with chrome trim, and blue led lighting. The finish on the enclosure is very nice, but it is a complete fingerprint magnet. It matches my aging Antec Sonata 2 case quite nicely.
All the connections as well as the power switch are housed on the back of the device. One thing that stands out immediately is the new configuration for the USB 3.0 connection. It has been designed to accommodate the additional pairs for USB 3.0 while still having the traditional connections of the USB 2.0 socket, allowing it to be backwards compatible.
As for the cable it has the matching USB "B" end with the additional USB 3.0 channel, while the "A" side of the cable visually looks like a standard USB connector.
Installation is quite simple. Just remove the internal carrier from the enclosure by gently pulling on the back plate of the enclosure. Once removed you will see a standard SATA connector that your hard drive will slide up to. Then just secure using the provided screws to the bottom of the hard drive. At this point you can reinsert the carrier into the enclosure. As you are sliding the carrier into the enclosure, there is a small cable with a plug on the end that will need to be plugged into the carrier for the External LED indicator to function. Installation is concluded by securing the back panel with screws.
Now that all the hardware is installed and ready to go, all that was left was a simple driver install to get us on the "Super Speed" highway of USB 3.0. I tried to choose a test that would give real world results of what an individual would experience. I also used Sisoft Sandra to benchmark the transfers along with HD Tach to compare the transfer rates of USB 2.0 vs 3.0.
The Testing equipment:
Intel Core2Duo E8500 @3.16Ghz
4GB of G.Skill 1066 RAM
EVGA FTW 750i Motherboard
EVGA GTX 260 896MB
For the enclosure I installed a Samsung HD080HJ 80GB 7200RPM 8MB Cache 3.5" SATAII Hard drive.
First up is the comparison. I connected the NexStar 3 to the on board USB 2.0 connectors using a standard USB cable. I ran HD Tach to obtain a benchmark. Then I connected the NexStar 3 to the Vantech USB 3.0 card and ran the bench mark again. The USB 3.0 graph is in red, and the USB 2.0 graph is in blue.
In all honesty, I do not know the reason for the USB 3.0 graphs fall off. What is obvious is there is a definite performance increase with the enclosure connected to a USB 3.0 port.
Next up some benchmarking with Sisoft Sandra. I used the same method as with the comparison graphs. First I connected the enclosure up to the USB 2.0 port on the motherboard, and let Sandra run through the Physical Disk benchmark. On a side note, I chose the Physical disk benchmark over the Removable disk benchmark, due to the Removable benchmark is geared towards flash media.
As you can see the Vantec NexStar 3 connected to a USB 2.0 port yields very average results. They are pretty much on par with other USB 2.0 devices, and performs well under the SATA150 drive that is represented by the green in the graphs. Now we repeat the process connected to a port on the Vantec USB 3.0 Host card.
The graphs show a most definite improvement in performance. The USB 3.0 connection clearly excels over the USB 2.0 devices, and there is also a significant bump in transfer rate over the SATA150 device as well. After running the Sandra tests, I decided that I wanted something a little more real world. I picked a 700MB AVI file and a 4GB ISO file so that I could measure the time it took to transfer these files under the USB 2.0 connection and the USB 3.0 connection. First up was the 700MB AVI file.
Then I repeated the tests using a 4GB ISO file.
There is no doubt that the USB 3.0 is a significant performance increase over the USB 2.0 spec. Did we get the 5Gbps transfer rate? No, but that is not a surprise. Since the SATA II drive is only capable of 3Gbps that is the absolute maximum we could have achieved in any case. I am very happy with the results and look forward to getting a lot of use out of this enclosure. In the future when SATA III drives, with a maximum transfer rate of 6 Gbps are readily available, I can imagine that there will be a Vantec NexStar 3 ready to fully utilize the USB 3.0 spec.
SuperSpeed USB 3.0
Included low profile bracket
Small compact card
15 pin SATA power connector may require an adapter in some instances
NexStar 3 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Enclosure
Sleek glossy black and chrome exterior.
SATA Speeds using USB
The Vantec NexStar 3 Enclosure has great looks, solid construction, and now SuperSpeed USB 3.0. Its a combination that's hard to beat. If you have a spare SATA II drive hanging around, the NexStar 3 enclosure is a simple and easy way of converting it to SuperSpeed portable storage. The Vantec UGT-PC302 PCI-Express card is a quick and easy addition to give you external USB 3.0 ports in many existing machines. The UGT-PC302 is available from Newegg for just under $44 and the NexStar3 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 enclosure can also be purchased from Newegg for just shy of $55. While the DIY route might not be for everyone looking for portable solutions, I can say I really like the flexibility the NexStar 3 gives me. Be sure to check out Vantec's website at http://www.vantecusa.com for plenty of USB 3.0 solutions coming soon.
This product was provided free of charge by it's manufacturer for the purpose of review.