Thermaltake Max 5G External Hard Drive Enclosure Review

ajmatson - 2011-02-11 05:20:24 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: April 10, 2011
Price: $59.99

Introduction:

With the size of hard drive space increasing quickly, like the Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB we reviewed not long ago, the speeds needed to read and write to the large amounts of space need to keep up as well. For desktops we have seen the boom of SATA III 6.0Gbps allowing us to fill up those drives in no time at all. But what about when you need to copy data to one that is external? For years we have had USB 2.0 which was great back in the day but it tops out at 480Mbps which can be tedious for large amounts of data. Next we had the introduction of eSATA which while having faster transfer speeds, did not take off, especially with the thin, less flexible cables and the limit of mostly un-powered ports and lack of compatibility for computers without eSATA ports on them. At CES 2010 we got a first look at USB 3.0 and what it could offer us. Slowly devices have been emerging designed to take on this new interface. USB 3.0 took the ageing 480Mbps of the previous USB specification and launched it into the new top speed of 5Gbps which is many times faster and also known as SuperSpeed.

We have reviewed several USB 3.0 devices here at OCC and today we are going to be taking a look at one product from Thermaltake that is designed to give you the fastest and most flexible external enclosure for your high capacity hard drives. The Max 5G enclosure has several features that are designed to give you the best of the best. Not only does it offer higher speeds up to 5Gbps with SuperSpeed USB 3.0, but you also get the backward compatibility for older computers running USB 2.0 ports, although at USB 2.0 speeds of course, and even USB 1.1 ports. The enclosure also incorporates an active cooling system to keep your drive well within normal operating temperatures and accepts a wide array of drives using SATA I, II, or III interfaces with a capacity up to 2TB.

 

Closer Look:

The Thermaltake Max 5G enclosure comes packaged in a black colored box with a clean overall design on it. On the front of the box there is a picture of the Max 5G along with several of the highlighting features of the enclosure. On the back of the box there are a list of the specifications and some more of the features of the Max 5G enclosure including USB 3.0 speeds, active cooling and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To protect the enclosure it comes padded in a foam coffin which helps keeping it from shifting in the box and being dented or scratched. This way your product looks brand new from first use. Included with the Max 5G enclosure is a power adapter, USB 3.0 cable, special screwdriver for the Allen screws on the enclosure, hard drive pads, and the documentation.

 

 

Now that we have everything out of the box let's take a closer look at the enclosure and the working parts.

Closer Look:

Now with the Max 5G out of the box, we can get a good look at the design that makes it stand out. The Max 5G supports 3.5 inch SATA I, II and III hard drives with a maximum capacity of two terabytes, which is a massive amount of external storage for all of your needs. On the left side of the enclosure there are two active cooling fans which we will look at more closely later in this review. The active cooling fans make sure your drives are running at optimum operating temperatures, so they do not over-heat on you. On the opposite side there is the Max 5G logo with the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 logo. The front of the drive enclosure has an LED strip that flashes as there is activity to the drive. This LED is a cool blue color that is pretty bright, so you know when the drive is in use. On the rear of the enclosure there are the functional buttons and ports for operation. On the top there is the power switch and an LED switch. The LED switch, which is the smaller one on the left, turns off the LEDs for the active cooling fans if you choose to not have them lit up when running. Under the switches there is the power plug and the USB 3.0 port.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To install a hard drive into the enclosure there are two Allen type screws that need to be removed on the bottom of the solid side of the casing. Once they are removed the side panel comes off and reveals the inside of the Max 5G. The two active cooling fans are both 80mm in size and are Thermaltake model number TT-8015. These fans run at 800RPM and have a low noise rating of 12dBA. Inside there is a SATA connector board which bridges the internal connections to the back-plate of the enclosure for power and data transfer. To install a drive, just slide it into the SATA bracket and flip up the plastic locking clip. Then screw back on the side plate and you are ready to go. This easy install takes only a minute.

 

 

 

To hold the enclosure upright and keep it from falling over, there is a swivel foot on the bottom. Just turn the stand to the sides and you are ready to start up your drive enclosure for use. With the drive in place and turned on, you can see the two 80mm fans that light up. Again the LEDs can be disabled if you do not want them on while keeping the cooling fans spinning.

 

 

With everything installed and setup we are ready to move on to the testing.

Specifications:

Enclosure Interface:  
USB 3.0
Transfer Rate:
USB 3.0: up to 5Gbps
HDD Compatible:
SATA I/II/III
HDD Capacity:
ALL SATA Drives
OS Compatible:
Windows 7 / Vista & MAC 10.3 and up
Material:
Steel Mesh & Ruggedized Plastic
Power:
-External Universal Switching Power Adapter
-CE, FCC, GOST-R Certified
Dimension:
207 (L) x 145 (W) x 47 (H) mm
8.14" (L) x 5.7" (W) x 1.85" (H) in
Accessories:
-Premium Shielded USB 3.0 Cable
-Power Adapter
-Hex Screwdriver
Fan:
Dimension: 80 x 80 x 15 mm (x2)
Current: 0.15A
Voltage: 12V
Speed: 800 RPM
Noise Output (free standing): 12 dBA
Weight:
530g
Special Features:
-Dual 80mm fans for accelerated heat dissipation
-LED On/Off switch
-USB 3.0 SuperSpeed for blazing-fast data transfer
-Integrated/retractable foot stand.

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of Thermaltake @ http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?C=1285&ID=2034

Testing:

Now we get to the exciting part of testing the Thermaltake Max 5G USB 3.0 hard drive enclosure. To test the Max 5G I will be running a series of benchmarks and real-time tests to show how well the speeds perform. I will be also throwing the scores up against another USB 3.0 dock that I have, as well as the internal speed tests. The drive I chose for these tests is the Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB drive which offers great performance with little power draw and thermal output. Since USB 3.0 connectors are backwardly compatible with USB 2.0 (host side of the cable) I will be running the tests using both a USB 3.0 port on the motherboard back-panel as well as a USB 2.0 port for each setup, excluding the internal SATA tests of course. To keep tests free from variables I will be using the same ports and cables for each enclosure/dock.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Docks:

 

Benchmarks:

 

 

HD Tune:

HDTune allows you to do many things with hard drives beyond benchmarking, however, for the purposes of this review I just used it for benchmarking. After the benchmark finished I recorded the Average Transfer Rate, Access Time, Burst Rate, and CPU Usage.

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra:

SiSoft Sandra allows you to run a variety of hardware benchmarks on your PC. For the purposes of testing I investigated Physical and File Systems in both Drive Index and Access Time. Upon completion of each test I marked down testing statistics

 

 

 

Real Time File Transfer:

Here I take 100MB, 500MB, and 1000MB zipped files and transfer them from Internal drive to external and internal to internal. To measure the speed and time that each test took I used a utility called TeraCopy. TeraCopy allows to you copy or move files and when completed it will give you the average transfer speed as well as the amount of time it took to transfer the files from start to finish. This cuts down on the variables that can arise with using a hand held stop watch.

 

 

 

 

For the HD Tune tests the USB 3.0 and internal SATA runs were just about dead on for the average read tests, but the burst speeds the Max 5G had the fastest out of external connections. In the Sandra tests both USB 3.0 scores were on par with each other. Finally in the real time transfers the Max 5G was the fastest in moving the files out of the external enclosures and matched the internal drive speeds.

Conclusion:

The Thermaltake Max 5G has to be one of the better enclosures I have used in a long time. Despite being built completely with plastic, which is a bit flimsy in parts that may break easily if accidently knocked down, the enclosure allowed me to transport my 2TB hard drive anywhere I needed. The Max 5G Active Cooling system provides cool air to the internal hard drive keeping the temperatures down and thus extending the life. I really appreciated the fact that Thermaltake included a switch to disable the fan LEDs which were a big issue with the older Max series drive enclosures.

Installing a drive into the Max 5G is pretty simple and takes less than 60 seconds to accomplish. The drive retention clips are sturdy and do not let the drive wiggle around. The added cushions make sure your drive is nice and secure without any rattling which is a big plus, because we are all in favor of silence these days. Even the cooling fans produce very low noise that is barely even noticeable when in use. I was impressed on how easy and efficient it was to use the Max 5G enclosure with my drive and having the ability to carry around 2TB of storage on the go made my life so much easier. I was able to use the USB 3.0 features while I was at home and when I went to work I had the backward compatibility for the USB 2.0 ports on my work machine.

Overall the Thermaltake Max 5G is an excellent external enclosure for 3.5" hard drives that you may have laying around or for that shared drive you have been wanting to get to transport and store your movies and music. I also found that creating system backups with Acronis Backup were a lot faster when backing up to the Max 5G versus even my network drives. If you are in the market for a blistering fast external solution with the latest USB 3.0 SuperSpeed technology then look no further - the Max 5G is your man, or rather, drive enclosure!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: