Published on October 22nd,2011 at 8:58 PM
By >Ike

[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed

Today we got our hands on a stash of fine crafted USB devices from Brando workshop (www.brando.com). A small word of introduction: Brando Workshop, offers a wide range of special, useful and helpful USB products for their customers.

A fancy notice I had to mention is the fact that Brando is devoted to deliver happiness and convenience to everyone. When looking at their immense catalog (call it a gadget geeks version of playboy), you really can’t imagine a gadget or computer peripheral they don’t have.

On today’s menu:

In this review we will be focusing on the following products:

  •  Unitek USB3.0 to SATA converter
  •  Orico 3.5 & 2.5” USB3.0/E-SATA hard drive docking station
  •  SuperSSpeed USB3.0 flash memory stick
  • Orico 2.5” USB2.0 Aluminum hard drive enclosure
  • Brando Workshop All-in-One USB3.0 SuperSpeed card reader

Let’s start the testing shall we?

 

Unitek USB3.0 to SATA converter

Unitek manufactured a cable solution to connect both 2.5” and 3.5” hard drives to your computer or laptop over USB 3.0. The cable itself is strictly limited to data transfer, you will need to plug in the additional power plug (on the side of the device) to be able to power up your hard drive. This cable & power adapter solution really is perfect for the IT guy on the road.

Tested speeds: The mentioned speeds are averages.

350MB file:                                                   80 MB/Sec
1GB file:                                                         55 up to 70 MB/Sec
set of photos (3-7MB):                               40 MB/Sec
iTunes albums (120MB per piece):         70 up to 95 MB/Sec

Overall very nice results, yet we have to say that the box mentions 180 MB/sec. So we contacted Brando Workshop to check what was going wrong here. As it happens, there are different manufacturers for USB3.0 chips. In both our test computers we had controllers built by Renesas.  Brando told us to use test devices built on NEC controllers, and we have to say that the speeds mentioned on the box are possible when having this type of USB3.0 controller available.

 

Orico 3.5 & 2.5” USB3.0/E-SATA hard drive docking station

Orico’s docking station features the ability to use both 2.5” and 3.5” hard drives in this single drive model. External ports are both USB3.0 and E-SATA, making it perfect for the everyday user and IT guy who needs quick access to certain hard drives without having to unplug & reconnect various external hard drives.

It felt very practical; actually I dare say it is one of the more sturdy units I’ve tested in a long time.  Speed-wise I would recommend (if your device supports this) to connect it to your computer/laptop over USB3.0, as this has the speed advantage over the E-SATA interface.
E-SATA can reach speeds of 3G/Sec, USB3.0 can go up to 5G, and the latest Intel light peak interface can push forward a whopping 10G.  (+- 300MB/+-600Mb/+-1200Mb per second that is).

Tested speeds: The mentioned speeds are averages.

350MB file:                                                   80 MB/Sec
1GB file:                                                         60 up to 75 MB/Sec
set of photos (3-7MB):                                45 MB/Sec
iTunes albums (120MB per piece):          65 MB/Sec

Overall: Strange to see this unit scoring better on smaller files (compared to the cable solution) but fails to set the speeds when handling the bigger files. Just like the cable solution, these results are based on our Renesas USB 3.0 controllers and not on NEC where they actually can get the maximum speed out of your drive.

This unit is something everybody into computers should have on his or her desk. It’s perfect for backing up personal files, for use as a cloning unit, …  No matter if you’re on Win, Mac or Linux.


SuperSSpeed USB3.0 flash memory stick

This is the upgraded version of a device most of you have lying around at home, a USB stick or also commonly called flash drive. This 16GB model was made by SuperSSpeed and built on SLC memory (not the MLC commonly found in SSD’s nowadays).

Tested speeds: The mentioned speeds are averages.

350MB file:                                                    up to 85 MB/Sec
1GB file:                                                          up to 70 MB/Sec
set of photos (3-7MB):                                 40 MB/Sec
iTunes albums (120MB per piece):           up to 70 MB/Sec

Running an ATTO benchmark on this stick returned the peak value of 115MB Read and 75MB Write with a 2GB file. We formatted the unit to FAT32 and ran a CrystalMark benchmark test, resulting in a peak read/write speed of respectively 81/60 MB per second. Reformatting the unit to NTFS boosted these R/W values to 100/70 MB per second.

The packaging claimed USB2.0 R/W speeds respectively at 37/33MB per second, on USB3.0 the speeds get bumped up to 164/166MB per second.  Our tests (again on the much slower Renesas controller) showed proper results, and we are convinced this memory stick can reach the described potential of the notification on the packaging if your computer has the faster of the USB3.0 controllers out there.

 

Orico 2.5” USB2.0 & E-SATA Aluminium hard drive enclosure

This 2.5” Aluminium hard drive enclosure was added to the review, not so much to discuss its working speed, but more to announce what’s special about this one.

Orico’s Aluminium enclosure is first of all a pretty item on your desk. When you are a Mac owner familiar to the all-aluminium lifestyle, you will surely appreciate this matching accessory.

The system for inserting a drive is very straightforward, you push the side button and the lever will unlock. Once unlocked you can push the lever to the side and insert a 2.5 Inch hard drive. Once you pushed as far as it goes, you just have to push the lever back upwards to its original position when you opened it. The lever will push your hard disk into the SATA slot and the hinge lock will snap into place again, holding your drive tight and secure.

Big advantage here is that you literally require no tools at all. The enclosure gets its power from a USB connector with 2 male ends. Since many manufacturers managed to use 1 USB male to both power and transfer data, this might be the only downside to an otherwise very nice product. Especially Mac owners with limited USB ports might want to reconsider this item unless you have a USB dock to extend your standard number of ports. The E-SATA plug will get you the faster speeds out of this enclosure, yet still required plugging in at least 1 of the USB jacks to give power to the drive.

 

Brando Workshop All-in-One USB3.0 SuperSpeed card reader

If there is one product many of us wanted to see it surely must have been card readers with USB3.0 speeds. Lucky for us, Brando Workshop was one of the first to fulfill our requests.

The multi in multi-card reader stands for compatibility with multiple formats & standards. To sum them up briefly: dual SD/SDHC/MMC, Micro SD(HC), single MS PRO DUO/MSHG, MS micro/M2, CF 1:CF II, xD/xD1.21.

It was fairly difficult to test a reader like this, since the maximum speed memory cards I had available during testing were CF’s rated at 90MB per second. An ATTO benchmark revealed weak results of 25MB per sec read and 30MB per sec write. Real world tests showed up more positive and revealed the actual maximum speeds of the memory card to be reached by the cardreader.

The cardreader itself is a very compact item, sure to be picked up by many serious photographers who are constantly on the road and require a high speed transfer device that’s light and durable. Especially sport photographers and photographers with tight deadlines will appreciate the speed gain over the conventional USB2.0 cardreaders they’re currently carrying along.

 

Final thoughts

First of all, a word of thanks to Brando Workshop who granted us the favor to test all these devices. The USB3.0 hard drive docking statio, the USB3.0 flash drive and the USB3.0 multi cardreader are really must have items for every serious IT pro and computer enthusiast alike.

A word on speed: There are many different motherboards and expansion cards out there for USB3.0, make sure you search a bit around before you make the purchase. Before I received Brando’s USB3.0 kit, I never really gave much thought about the throughput speed of those blue USB ports on both notebook and desktop computers. Now, after testing on 2 devices and contacting Brando’s fabulous support team, I can clearly see that one USB port isn’t the other. For USB3.0 one of the 2 prominent manufacturers are Renesas (low power usage, lower speeds than claimed by the USB standard) and NEC labeled chips (higher power usage, full superspeed). Strangely enough, Renesas is actually producing USB3.0 controllers together with NEC (Sony). When explicitly listed, go for the NEC labeled USB3.0 option if you wish to get the speeds claimed on the product’s packaging.

Further piece of advice: Check your hard disk manufacturer first to find out what the maximum read and write speeds of your particular drive are. With SSDs, this is usually printed on the box.  Currently we can say that 5400RPM hard disks have write speeds of about 60-90MB per second (depending on the manufacturer), 7200RPM’s can go up to 110/120MB second and SSDs (depending on which generation of controller) can go up to 550MB per second. So make sure you realize the cable can’t push any more data per second than the limitation of the disk connected to it. Also don’t expect a 550MB per second rated SSD to reach 550MB per second over USB3.0 when the destination disk is a conventional 100MB per second rated hard drive.  Also (part II) don’t try installing your OS over USB3.0 until this is natively supported by the motherboard’s BIOS, since you need a software driver to currently unlock the superspeed out of those blue ports (by default they work at USB2.0 speed). The OS-thing is mainly because on many occasions I had a corrupted installs, try sticking to USB2.0 ports for these types of actions.

Category Review
              
[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed
[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed
[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed
[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed
[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed[REVIEW] USB 3.0 peripherals, in search of SuperSpeed
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