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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very slow writes and poor power management., 22 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: StarTech 3.5 inch 4 Drive eSATA USB Multi Bay External Hard Drive Enclosure (Personal Computers)
I already own a Startech 2 bay eSATA enclosure and a Startech PCI-E eSATA card so I know a Startech product is likely to be of good quality but well below enterprise products in design, features and, thankfully, price.

I bought this to consolidate 4 disks from several other enclosures into one container. My PC already has two PCI-Express eSATA cards, one is SATA III and PCI-E 2.0 and the other is SATA II and PCI-E 1.1. Both support port multiplier so connecting multiple disks in this container via eSATA works out of the box. My PC's Nvidia motherboard also has an eSATA port but without port multiplier support (hence the cards).

The enclosure is presentable enough to sit on a desk without being an eyesore. It is very quiet with the fan on low. The fan is removable which should allow silent operation though it's quiet enough that I didn't bother doing this.

The option to manually select either eSATA or USB is a good idea, allowing you to switch the enclosure between two different PCs, one eSATA and one USB, without needing to swap cables. The blue indicator lights for the different settings are not bright or obtrusive so this might be one enclosure that doesn't end up with its LEDs covered with electrical tape.

Installing disks is very easy and quick. I installed 3x1TB and 1x2TB Samsung disks, all SATA II, connected via eSATA to my PC and powered up. The enclosure and disks are correctly recognised by my OS as 3.0 Gbps specification devices (SATA II).

The enclosure I received has its fan LEDS wired in reverse so that the slowest setting illuminates the FAN3 LED which is supposed to represent the fastest setting (according to the supplied printed manual and the downloadable pdf manual). I have to admit that I don't care, but do realise that some people will find this very unsatisfactory.

The device can be configured to power down immediately on the host PC being shutdown, or after a short delay, or only by a physical button press. This is all fine but there is a design deficiency that might render this unit unsuitable for some people: if you allow the enclosure to power down automatically when you suspend or hibernate your PC it does not resume when you resume/wake your PC. It's strikingly unusual these days for any powered PC accessory not to have really convenient power management and this could be really problematic for some people.

Write Performance:

is horribly bad and very disappointing. I set up two identical disks, Samsung HD103SJ 1TB 7200rpm with 32MB cache, with Linux software RAID zero and mounted the RAID array on /media/raidzero on a SATA 3 eSATA port connected to a PCI-E 2.0 bus. I tested the write speeds with the command:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/media/raidzero/output.img bs=8k count=512k

In a much older 2 bay Startech SATA II enclosure attached to the newer PCI-E 2.0 card this aprox 4.3GB write took 33.6 seconds and the write speed was 128 MB/s.

In the same enclosure but attached to a SATA II port on a PCI-E 1.1 bus it took 37 seconds and the write speed was 115 MB/s.

With the same disks and same RAID array mounted identically but now housed in this Startech 4 bay enclosure and attached to the faster PCI-E 2.0 card it took 126 seconds and the write speed was 34 MB/s. This is really poor, and hardly better than using RAID 0 via USB 2.0.

In each case there were no other devices attached to the same disk controller and the PC was otherwise idle. I checked the result by doing a similar write test to a single disk (no RAID) and the difference in performance was very similar - the write speeds for a disk or array in this enclosure are only about 30% of what they should be.

For comparison, exclusively attached to the same PCI-E eSATA card, a single Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7200 64MB cache disk averages about 124 MB/s performing the same write test in a 4 year old SATA II ICYBOX docking station and is considerably faster when attached to the motherboard's integrated port instead of a PCI-E card.

I think in terms of performance and value in comparison with what else is available this is a worthwhile product if you are looking for storage capacity and maximum value but care little for performance. That really illustrates the paucity of choice and overly high price of consumer multi-bay eSATA enclosures. The cheapest ones are really awful with defective disk controllers, dangerous power supplies, very noisy fans and a tendency to destroy your disks and data. The Startech products are probably as cheap as you can go and actually get something functional, safe and reliable. If you can live with an eSATA product that has USB 2.0 speeds and without the ability to automatically resume with your PC then this will probably do. I think I will be replacing mine with something like an HP Proliant microserver which costs a bit more but is hugely more capable.
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