Thermaltake BlacX Duet Review

Compxpert - 2009-10-29 21:37:20 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: Compxpert   
Reviewed on: November 26, 2009
Price: $40.00

Introduction:

You ever need an external enclosure? Ever have hard drives just lying around? Probably not, but if you do they would be great to use with the BlacX Duet. Whats the coolest thing about the BlacX Duet? Well how about the fact that it can handle two hard drives at the same time. The BlacX Duet is a hard drive docking station for use with Serial ATA hard drives. What could be better than a docking station? It allows you to swap in and out hard drives with great ease. Not only does it feature USB for data connection it also features eSATA. Not only that but the dock can handle two 2TB hard drives so you have a lot of capable space potential and it also supports 2.5" drives using a door that hugs around the 2.5" drive and gives away when you use larger drives.

 

Closer Look:

Looking at the front of the box we can see the dock displayed in its full glory. Also displayed on the front is the fact that it supports USB and eSATA interfaces. Moving to the left side of the box we have the barcode and branding logo with pictures showing that it uses SATA to USB or SATA to eSATA to interface with your PC or Mac. Yes, as you will find this docking station also has Mac support so none of you Mac fans are left in the dust. On the back we have pictures and descriptions of parts on the dock as well as lists of specifications and features the dock has. In addition to that we are made aware of a 3 year warranty. Finally, we are left with the right side of the box which looks about the same as the left side just with out the barcode and a big 'X Duet' instead of 'BlacX Duet'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But wait, there is more to see. I haven't even taken it out of the box yet. Let's move onto the next page.

Closer Look:

First of course we have the docking station itself. It isn't too terribly large but ultimately large enough to handle two standard sized 3.5" hard drives. The docking station features a button on the top front on the left which turns both drives on or off. The switch also has two blue activity lights. Note the doors on the top, both of which give away for 3.5" drives and features a hole that hugs around 2.5" drives. On the back of the dock we have our interfaces which include power, eSATA, and USB. The bottom of the dock has a sticker with information describing what exactly the dock is and what it does and also for some reason has a bar code. Also note the rubber feet which I noticed when using it kept the dock in place very well. Finally, we have here some of the cabling that is included with the dock which includes a USB and eSATA cable both of which are a suitable length for me anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have our power adapter which to me seems a lot different then the power adapters I have seen with most docks/enclosures. Ahh but here we have something of interest in the next picture. This piece of paper tells probably the most important thing regarding the dual hard drive feature whilst using the eSATA interface. To sum it up you need a Serial ATA chipset that supports a port multiplier. What is a port multiplier you ask? A port multiplier is much like a USB hub which allows multiple SATA connections on one SATA port. Before this I was never even aware SATA had such a function. Basically you need a chipset that is capable of seeing when a port multiplier is connected to the SATA port. I tested this on quite a few chipsets which included my laptops Intel ICH9M-E/M chipset, ICH10R chipset, and nVidia nForce 780i chipset. None of which were capable of seeing a port multiplier and the Intel Matrix Storage Manager even told me when I connected the dock over eSATA that if what I connected is a port multiplier only port 0 will be seen. I was greatly disappointed until I found that the JMicron IDE/SATA JBM36X included on my DFI motherboards supports the ability to see a port multiplier. Also included with the drive docks is a manual. Finally here we are with the drives connected to the dock. Here you can see the blue LEDS that are used as hard disk activity indicators.

 

 

 

So looks like we have a great product on hand. But how does it perform? Let's find out.

Specifications:

Features:

 Information courtesy of ThermalTake @ http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?C=1346&ID=1895

Testing:

For testing I primarily compared the USB and eSATA interfaces to an Internal SATA interfaces using HDTune and SiSoft Sandra. In HDTune I did some simultaneous testings to see how well the dock performed when accessing both drives at the same time. When I tested with two discs I used the Seagate ST3500320AS and ST3500418AS drives which come in at 7200.10 and 7200.12 RPM respectively. When doing the regular comparison tests however I only used the ST3500418AS both internally and in the docking station. I also included real world transfer testing to compare the dock to internal connections.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Drives used:

 

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 veriety 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 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB zipped files and transfer them from Internal drive to external and internal to internal. During each transfer I start a stopwatch at the beginning and stop it at the end and then record the time it took for the transfer to complete. For me 1 second was an instant transfer, as in no dialog box showed for it, it completed before one could be displayed.

 

 

I really wasn't surprised to see that the eSATA interface kept up with internal SATA. I had half expected the results to match but this might be limitations of eSATA, who knows. Of course USB didn't even come close to keeping up with either the eSATA nor the internal interfaces. Also, it wasn't a surprise that the performance dropped when attempting to access both devices in either eSATA or USB modes. Sadly I doubt many people prospecting this dock will be able to utilize both drives in eSATA mode considering current Intel onboard SATA chipsets do not possess the ability to see Port Multipliers. So unless you luck out having a onboard SATA chipset with this functionality or a SATA add-on card you're out of luck.

Conclusion:

Well to wrap this up I must say I am impressed by the performance of this dock. I couldn't find any problems with it at all truly. It makes it easy to transfer data that is for sure and having the convenience of being able to hot swap drives is also a nice touch. Supporting up to 2TB per slot is also nice for those of you who want or need the ability. As new as this dock seems it has yet to show up on newegg and isn't even on TigerDirect. It is however available on amazon.com so there is one place to get it. It retails for around $40.00 which isn't bad for having the ability to dock two hard drives. The only real issue I can find is the sheer lack of support for Port Multipliers on onboard motherboard chipsets which may leave many of you in the dark when it comes to having access to both drives over eSATA. This in its self I can't say is a con since it's all about chipset support and not something that the dock is lacking. However I find the lack of a firewire interface to be an actual con. ThermalTake should have implemented this knowing that there isn't much mainstream support for port multipliers and could have given you an additional interfaces that is faster than USB.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: