iStarUSA HDD Docking Station (xAGE-N99-SAU Drive Dock)
Product Type: USB 2.0 / eSATA 3.5” HDD Dock
Cost: ~ $35
Product Information: http://istarusa.com/storage/docking/xagen99sau.aspx
The second product we received from iStarUSA is a hard drive dock module. It allows the user to plug 2.5” or 3.5” Serial ATA hard drives into the device, which then connects to a host PC either via eSATA or USB 2.0. iStarUSA positions this product as a “simple and compact idea, which offers an easy and convenient way for data backup and recovery, hard drive testing, and fast access to archived hard drives.” Is this an administrator’s favorite HDD tool?
The device is completely covered by black plastic, and looks like a part of the center console in your car. Hard drives are inserted top down; if you use a 2.5” drive, then you simply have to insert it into the opening, while 3.5” drives will leave the larger cover open once you push the drive inside. The front holds an activity LED, which looks like a power button—this is not the case, though, as the power button is located on the back, right next to the eSATA and USB 2.0 ports. To ensure that the device is stable when standing once you play around with hard drives, iStarUSA equipped the bottom part with a metal plate.
Plug and Jam?
Unfortunately, we ran into major trouble when we first tried the xAGE-N99-SAU, as we could not plug any drive onto the SATA connector. In theory, it should all be so easy, but it turned out that the build quality of the device is poor. The slot was misplaced by a few millimeters, which we were able to resolve by opening the device, and relocating the SATA connector to make it fit.
How Good is It?
After solving the initial troubles, we repeatedly made use of this device to hook up a hard drive to a host system so we could back up or restore a system image. Performance was bottlenecked to a bit more than 30 MB/s when using USB 2.0, which was expected; you will not experience performance limits if you run the xAGE-N99-SAU using eSATA. iStarUSA also adds protective rubber drive covers, which we recommend using with care, as they could interfere with cooling by insulating the drives. Careful drive handling clearly is more important than using these protective devices anyway.