Thermaltake BlacX 5G USB3 Dock ST0019U

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
December 20, 2010
Manufacturer
Thermaltake
Product Page
BlacX 5G
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214685
Thermaltake BlacX 5G USB3 Dock ST0019U
The BlacX 5G is a great replacement for the original BlacX. If you already have an eSATA drive dock or don't have USB3, you might want to wait to upgrade.

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Page 1
Introduction

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When eSATA came out, it was built for high speed, direct drive access. USB 2 and Firewire couldn't match the speed that eSATA had and even though eSATA wasn't powered until recently, most of the devices needed external power anyway. Now that USB 3 is out in force, are eSATA's days numbered? Hopefully not, but Thermaltake has updated their BlacX line with the BlacX 5G which drops eSATA and adds USB3 connectivity. Perhaps they are numbered.

About Thermaltake

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We live in a world where most things seem to move at the speed of light. At Thermaltake, we feel the same way and that is exactly how Thermaltake conducts itself to deliver innovative, reliable and customer-centric solutions to the worldwide market.

Since the beginning of Thermaltake in 1999, it has been at the forefront of creating new and exciting products at a time where most computer users were provided little to no choices for components that may seem irrelevant, but in reality crucial to the performance of a PC.

Thermaltake Server Series solutions, with years of thermal experience and industry leadership, sets its goal on reforming total thermal management in server segment by formulating the perfect mixture of versatility, efficiency and thermal management with each respective server product category: Rackmount Chassis, Server Fixed & Redundant Power Supply and Server CPU Cooling Management Solutions.

With its comprehensive line of products available, it enables Thermaltake's core customers to enjoy a one-stop-shop experience, reduce product design-in evaluation period and most important of all, flawless integration process. Each of Thermaltake's strengths enables its customer to focus on their core business while taking advantage of the skills and efficiency of a single thermal management solution partner.

http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/About.aspx


Packaging

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The BlacX 5G is packaged in the traditional Thermaltake packaging of black with orange and red accents.

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The back of the box has various specifications in a number of different languages. Did we mention this uses USB 3?
Page 2
Specifications

  • Enclosure Interface SATA / SSD to USB 3.0
  • Transfer Rate USB 3.0: up to 5Gbps
  • HDD Compatible SATA I / II / III & SSD
  • HDD Capacity All Standard 2.5” or 3.5” SATA & SSD Hard Drives
  • OS Compatible
    Microsoft Windows 7 / Vista / XP / 2003 / 2000
    Mac 10.3 and later
  • Material ABS Plastic
  • Power Input: 100-240V / 50-60Hz ; Output: 12V / 2A
  • Dimension 136 (W) x 73 (D) x 88 (H) mm
    5.35 (W) x 2.87 (D) x 3.46 (H) inch
  • Accessory
    USB 3.0 Cable
    Power Adapter (CE, FCC, GOST R Certified)
    HDD Silicon Jacket - 3.5" (x1) & 2.5" (x1)
  • Weight 312 g / 0.69 lbs
  • Special Features *Supports SATA III (6 Gb/s) Hard Drives with maximum speed up to 5.0 Gb/s (maximum theoretical speed offered by USB 3.0).
  • Amazon Link


Marketing Summary

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Trendy and stylish HDD docking station design, to maximized heat dissipation from your hard disk. With the ability to switch from 3.5" to 2.5" SDD / HDD without losing its super speed and plug and play solution to create ease of use for consumer.

http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?S=1268&ID=1981


Package Contents

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Thermaltake packages a few items with the BlacX 5G. The AC adapter and two silicone booties for 2.5/3.5" drives are included along with some literature and a USB3 A-B cable. The most important addition is the USB3 cable since many people may have a normal USB2 A-B cable, but since USB3 uses extra signaling pins, it won't work at USB3 speeds. It is really too bad that the USB makers couldn't figure out how to pump more speed from the same pins, but we have to deal with the situation.
Page 3
BlacX 5G

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The BlacX 5G is a single drive docking station. This version basically supersedes the older, original BlacX. The MSRP is the same as well so if you are thinking of buying a single drive USB only BlacX, this is the one to get. The »BlacX Duet still lives on as the only dual drive dock and it features eSATA as its fastest port. Notice the power button and the "SUPERSPEED" indicator on the top. These glow when the BlacX 5G is on and running on USB3. If you don't use USB3, the "SUPERSPEED" will stay off. The BlacX 5G can fit any Serial ATA drive, even the 1.8", if you are careful.

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The bottom of the BlacX 5G contains some rubber feet to prevent it from sliding on the surface while your inserting or remove a drive. The label on the bottom has various government bla bla and such.

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The back of the BlacX 5G has two ports. The first is the AC adapter. This adapter isn't the same as the Duet, but you could probably use it if you needed. There is an amperage difference which shouldn't matter too much. The second port is the USB3-B connector. USB3 specs have the connector painted in blue for showing off the SuperSpeed design.

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The silicone boot was a nice addition, but we'll probably never use it again after taking this photo. When we swap our drives in and out, we can't be bothered to put it in a silicone sleeve. The drive release is to the right of the drive in this picture.
Page 4
Installation

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The Thermaltake BlacX 5G was simple to install. The only caveat is if you don't have USB3. Without that, you'll be limited to USB2 speeds. Many new computers have USB3 ports, but there isn't much uptake for older computers. Even motherboards a year or so old may not have USB3 embedded. We had to add a PCIe card to give our test systems USB3 support.

This has nothing to do with the BlacX 5G, but there may be some issues if you are using a PCIe USB3 card. One of our systems showed lower performing results compared to eSATA. This shouldn't be since USB3 can handle the increased throughput and the data transfers should be closer to bulk rates without the added overhead. Putting the same PCIe card in a different system solved the issue. It could be the software we used, or other factors. You just don't know with new technology. Even though there was a slowdown in that one system, it still blew USB2 out of the water.

Speed

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USB2 is the old stand-by and we started our tests by connecting the BlacX 5G to a standard USB2 port. Even at USB2 speeds, the BlacX 5G pushed about 35MB/s on reads. This is an example of excellent performance. It is pretty much the maximum you should expect from USB2. This was coming from a Kingston V+ 128GB SSD. Normal magnetic drives should easily saturate USB2 as well.

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Once the BlacX 5G is connected to a proper USB3 controller, the drive opens up. While there was a minor slowdown in the drive performance, it wasn't more than a few percentage points. USB3 may handle bulk transfers better than USB2, but it isn't anything like eSATA for disk access. The difference between eSATA and USB3 is fairly negligible in real world use, though. With USB3, the BlacX 5G pushed about 200MB/s from this drive. These are good results and it shows just how old USB2 is. Still, if you have eSATA, you're in good shape.
Page 5
Video Review



Conclusion

The Thermaltake BlacX 5G is the new flagship of the BlacX line. It supersedes the original USB2 BlacX and has the same MSRP. While the retail channel is pricing the 5G a bit higher at $50 (Amazon Link), this is the product to get for future proofing. The included bundle of the silicone sleeves and the USB3 A-B cable is icing on the cake. We're happy that Thermaltake included an USB3 cable, not many people have one. The cable is long enough to move around as well. If you don't have a hard drive dock, the BlacX 5G is an excellent purchase.

The real issue is if you don't have USB3 or you already have an eSATA drive dock. We're content with using our own BlacX Duet for transfers as there was no real difference in speed between the two units. eSATA may be faster if you don't have a SATA Gen 3 drive that can push more than SATA 2's bandwidth. It might not be much faster, but it is what it is. eSATA users should probably just wait for a system upgrade that includes USB3 and stick with what they have. Still, this is good news for USB3 and once all systems have USB3, the eSATA days may be numbered. Darn.

HardwareLogic would like to thank Thermaltake for sending the BlacX 5G for review.

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