Kingwin DM-2535U3 Dock Master Review
Reviewed by: Indybird
Reviewed on: August 30, 2010
Portable hard drives have always been a popular concept among computer power-users and casual users alike. For a while the only viable means to achieve portability with a hard drive was to either buy a pre-built external hard drive or throw an existing hard drive in a special enclosure. Hard drive docks however are a fairly new phenomenon. Taking a bare hard drive and sliding it into a simple dock for quick hot-swap connections is a very desirable concept. Recent docks have used USB 2.0, eSATA, or a combination of the two for convenience.
Kingwin, who is best known for their power supplies, and general case & computer accessories, have been producing hard drive docks since the beginning of the trend. Today with the release of the higher-bandwidth USB 3.0, Kingwin has updated their docking station line with the Dockmaster DM-2535U3. The advantage to USB 3.0 is its backwards compatibility with any previous USB standard along with its new, higher bandwidth connection. The Kingwin Dockmaster DM-2535U3 is attributed with having high data transfer rates and a simple plug and play experience, let’s see if it lives up to its hype.
The Kingwin Dockmaster comes in a fairly hefty cardboard box that should protect it from any shipping and handling damage. On the front you get a basic list of features and a clear picture of the dock itself. Around the back you get more views of the dock, and a detailed list of features and specifications.
Opened up, the box is divided into two sections; the dock and the accessories box. The dock itself is wrapped in plastic to keep it scratch and scuff free until you open it. Inside the accessories box you’ll find a USB 3.0 cable, manual and AC Adapter.
With the packaging and accessories out of the way we’ll move on to the dock itself.
The Kingwin Dock Master has a very simple and solid design. The dock is made of a very high quality plastic, and feels like a quality piece of equipment in your hand. The exterior design of the device is very simple and will look good on your desk. Across the front you have the Dock Master logo. Just below is the Kingwin logo which is lit by an LED that acts as the power and activity light. Around the top is the hard drive slot and the Superspeed USB Certified logo. Since the dock supports both 2.5” and 3.5” hard drives the slot cover has a double-tier design allowing you to insert a 2.5” drive while keeping the top of the dock flush. The back is also kept plain and clear; you have your power button, DC in and USB 3.0 Connector.
Docking a hard drive is just as easy as you can imagine; you simply slide it in. Though the drive doesn’t click in or have any major tactile feedback, you can feel that the drive sits securely in the dock. When docked the drive will stand straight out of the dock and does not wobble at all. There is no active cooling for the hard drive so that is left up to the ambient air.
Now on to the installation.
Installation on the Kingwin Dock Master is very straightforward. If you’re going the full USB 3.0 route you obviously have to make sure you have the drivers for your onboard USB 3.0 or your USB 3.0 expansion card. If that’s not the case, then you can always plug the Dock Master into a USB 2.0 port and run it at 2.0 speeds. Other than any USB 3.0 controller drivers, the hard drive comes with no software, and will be instantly recognized by Windows when you plug it in.
The USB 3.0 “B” end looks fairly different than its predecessor due to its extra pins. The “A” looks the same as a standard USB. If you are plugging into your motherboard’s onboard USB 3.0 you have to find out which ports are USB 3.0. On our test bench the motherboard distinguishes its USB 3.0 ports with convenient blue connectors. It should be noted that the dock will not be recognized if the USB 3.0 cable is plugged into a USB 2.0 port; you must to use a USB 2.0 cable for 2.0 ports.
2.5” / 3.5” SATA Hard Drive
146 (W) x 115 (L) x 71 (H) mm
Mac OS 10x & Above
- 2.5” / 3.5” SATA Hard Drive Docking Station
- Up to 5.0 Gbps Data Transfer Rate In USB 3.0
- Increase Storage Capacity to Any System
- Plug and Play
- Rohs Compliant
- LED for HDD Access & Power
All information courtesy of Kingwin at: http://www.kingwin.com/products/cate/docking_stations/dm_2535u3.asp
To test the Kingwin Dockmaster we’ll be using standard hard drive benchmarks. Included in these tests are HDTune, SiSoft Sandra and windows file transfers using real files. For comparison the drive will be tested using a direct internal SATA connection. The Dockmaster only has a USB 3.0 connection and since USB 3.0 is backwards compatible it will also be tested with USB 2.0. The test drive is freshly formatted and defragmented, so the results will not be skewed by uneven and/or indexed data.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P
- Motherboard: ASUS M4A89GTD USB3
- Memory: Mushkin Blackline 996782 PC3 12800 2x2GB
- Video Card: Palit Geforce GTX 260
- Power Supply: OCZ 700W Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 750GB SATA
- Optical Drive: Lite-on DVD-RW SATA
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit
- Average Transfer Rate (HD Tune)
- Access Time (HD Tune)
- Burst Rate (HD Tune)
- CPU Usage (HD Tune)
- Physical Disk Drive Index (SiSoft Sandra)
- Physical Disk Access Time (SiSoft Sandra)
- File Systems Drive Index (SiSoft Sandra)
- File Systems Access Time (SiSoft Sandra)
- 10/100/500MB Real World Transfer Time
HD tune is designed to measure disk performance and performance impact on windows. It is typically used to benchmark drives and disk controllers.
Sandra is a full pc benchmarking suite. Among these are four tests designed for hard drives that we’ll be running here.
Real World Transfer Time:
A 10MB, 100MB and 500MB are copied from the system drive to the test drive; the time it takes to copy is measured with a stopwatch.
Over USB 3.0 the Kingwin Dock Master performs very well. In HDtune the average transfer rates and burst rates were 77% and 69% (respectively) of the full internal SATA speed. Though the CPU Utilization was higher, 14% is nothing to worry about. The access time was almost spot on, but USB has never been a particularly high latency connection. Moving over to Sandra, the results were even better. Physical Disk and File System Drive Indexing and access times were all within 90% of the SATA speeds. Strangely though the Windows file transfers tell another story. The file transfers typically took double the amount of time as it did on the internal SATA, and though this is a pretty decent improvement over USB 2.0, it still leaves a bit to be desired considering the benchmarked gains. Speaking of USB 2.0, it is clear that USB 3.0 is a much higher bandwidth connection. The USB 2.0 seemed a little disappointing actually when compared to USB 3.0.
During all of these tests I noticed that the hard drive got fairly hot. Nothing alarming, but probably not ideal either. A small fan blowing air over the drive could solve this issue with a minimal amount of effort.
The Kingwin Dock Master has proven to be a very capable dock. Even though it only has a single USB 3.0 connection, being a high-bandwidth connection and backwards compatible makes it equally as versatile as docks with multiple connector types. The dock itself is solidly built and has the looks to match. Performance-wise the Dock Master is nearly on par with the internal SATA connection when connected via USB 3.0. The only real con here is that the hard drive does run hot due to its sole reliance on ambient air for cooling. However, since the hard drive does not come anywhere close to dangerous temps, the pros by far outweigh the cons.
The Kingwin Dock Master is great for anyone who needs portable high-capacity storage, commonly works on hard drives, or simply wants the ease of use of a SATA dock. For around $40 you get a solid dock with great performance, making this an easy recommendation to any user.
- Great drive performance over USB 3.0
- Backwards compatible with USB 2.0
- Very easy to install and use
- Great Build Quality
- Activity LED
- Hard Drive runs fairly hot