Rosewill RX81-MP External USB/eSATA 3.5 Review

ajmatson - 2008-03-17 08:09:59 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: March 26, 2008
Price: $64.99


With the amount of data being moved in and out of computers you can never have enough storage space. So you just upgraded to the latest terabyte hard drive and don't know what to do with the old one? One perfect solution is to turn it into an external drive. With an external drive you can now have a place to back up important files or even transfer files from computer to computer. With the high capacity drives these days, external drives are becoming more and more popular to hold movies, photos, or even the ever important business data. Sure you can go out and spend the money on a pre-assembled external drive, but in many cases these units cost more than making your own, and besides being the enthusiast that I am, I like to build my own versus buying it pre-made.

Rosewill has one of these types of external enclosures for a 3.5 inch drive with USB 2.0 and eSATA connections. The Rosewill RX81-MP Enclosure allows you to take any 3.5 inch SATA drive and turn it into a portable storage medium for anything your heart desires to put on it. You can even have a separate operating system on it as long as your PC supports booting from external devices. Today I am going to assemble my own external drive using the Rosewill RX81-MP enclosure and put it through some tests to see how well it works.


Closer Look:

The RX81-MP Enclosure comes packaged in a very sturdy box to protect the contents. The front of the box shows the two versions of the enclosure as well as some of the features. The back informs you of the specs, the features of the RX81-MP and the system requirements needed to make the enclosure work properly. Included with the RX81-MP is the enclosure itself, the power brick and extension cable, a USB 2.0 cable, an eSATA cable, and some misc screws.




The RX81-MP is made of aluminum and metal to help dissipate the heat created by the hardrive. Essentially it acts like one big heatsink. The front is ported with holes to allow air to flow into the enclosure and cool the drive passively. The back has an on-off switch, a USB 2.0 port, an eSATA port, and the power port.



Now that you have seen what the RX81-MP is, lets install a drive in it so we can test it out.


To start off the installation you need to flip the RX81-MP over and remove the two inner screws to release the inside of the enclosure. Slide out the inside and you will see four more sets of screws holding an aluminum shield on the top of the inner part. Remove these screws and the enclosure is open.










Once the enclosure is opened you can see the control board with the connectors on it. There is the power switch, USB, eSATA, and power ports that connect directly to the board. The wire leads to the left lead to the dual-colored LED that is hidden behind the ported front. It shows blue when drive is on, and flickers blue and red when the drive is being accessed. To install the drive, place it in the enclosure and connect the SATA power cable and the SATA data cable to the drive.




Flip the inner part of the enclosure over and use the four drive screws included to secure the drive in place. Next, replace the aluminum shield back over the inner parts and replace the four screws. Slide the inner part back into the enclosure and place the two screws in to hold it into place.  Now it is ready to use.




Configuring the RX81-MP is quite simple. Just plug in the power adapter and the interface you prefer. For USB, just plug it into the computer and the drivers will automatically install. A box will pop up asking you what you wish to do with the content on the drive.


eSATA is a little different.  You have to restart the computer for it to recognize your drive unless your motherboard supports SATA hot swapping. One thing I would like to point out, is that if you use the eSATA connection, you may have to alter the drive a bit. During testing I could not get the computer to recognize the drive in the BIOS. I tried for hours until something told me to remove the back port shield from the enclosure because it didn't look like the eSATA cable was going all the way in. As soon as I did this it worked fine. On the RX81-MP enclosure sent to me for testing, the back plate was too thick to allow the cable to go all the way in, and the hole was not big enough to allow it to pass. I tried several eSATA cables and neither worked with the back plate on.



Now that everything is installed, and working let's move on to the testing.



Model Number
Black / Silver
External Interfaces
eSATA & USB 2.0
HDD Size
3.5" SATA Drives
J-Micron 20336
Drive Capacity
Up to 1 Terabyte HDD
Aluminum with internal metal chassis for optimized heat dissipation
22.5cm x 13.5cm x 3.5cm
OS Requirement
Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP/Vista
Linux or above
Mac OS 8.6 or above
External AC Adapter
Universal auto-swiching 100-240 VAC
Data Transfer Rate
eSATA up to 3.0Gbps
USB 2.0 up to 480Mbps
Regulatory Certifications
1 Year



** Please NOTE: In order to enable HOT-SWAP function, please check to make sure the motherboard supports HOT-SWAP function. Otherwise, the hot swappable function won't be work as well. (Please refer back to motherboard user guide)


To test the enclosure I am going to use a program called HDTune to measure the average transfer rate, the burst speed, the access time, and the CPU utilization percentage of a Seagate 7200.10 hard drive. The measurements will be taken twice in the Rosewill enclosure, one for the USB connection and one for the eSATA connection, for comparison. I am also going to compare it against the Seagate FreeAgent Pro which uses the exact same drive, and has both the USB and eSATA connections as well.


Testing Setup:

Comparison Enclosure:



Now for the tests. There will be two tests for each enclosure, one for USB and one for eSATA, and one test for the drive internally on a motherboard SATA connector. For the average and burst rates, higher scores are better. For the access time and CPU utilization scores, lower is better.




File Transfer Times:

For a final test I am going to measure the ammount of time it takes to transfer a 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB file to the drive, using each interface. Time will be measures in seconds, using a digital stop watch from when I drop the file to the destination, to when the transfer box disapears. Lower scores are better.



The Rosewill RX81-MP takes the lead from the FreeAgent Pro and is almost as fast as an internal hard drive in some cases. For the burst rate, the Rosewill with an eSATA connection just smokes the FreeAgent. For the file transfers, the Rosewill RX81-MP was slightly faster than the FreeAgent drive, but still not as fast as if it were installed internally.


So, how well did the Rosewill RX81-MP External Enclosure do? I think the numbers speak for themselves. In the average and burst speeds it pulled ahead of the pack. It uses the CPU more than the others, but not enough that it slowed down my system at all. As far as heat goes, the drive never went over 43 degrees Celsius according to HDTune during the file transfer tests while connected with eSATA. The transfer speeds were not quite as fast as when the drive was installed internally, but did perform better than the FreeAgent Pro, which uses the same drive.

I was disappointed that I had to remove the back plate to use the eSATA connection. This should have been checked prior to manufacturing. It would have been better to just imprint the information on the back of the internal enclosure, instead of having a back plate or make the back plate's connection holes bigger to allow the cable to pass. However, that is not that big of a deal since it can be removed if needed. I would recommend this enclosure to anyone looking for an inexpensive enclosure with great performance.