We looked at four different storage accessories that were all designed to facilitate the handling of hard drives. Crucial’s SK01 External 2.5” Storage Kit is an external enclosure for notebook hard drives, which can also be operated via the fast eSATA interface when the product is plugged into its desktop installation frame within a 3.5” drive bay. At only $30, this is an excellent solution if you need to keep large amounts of data mobile, because you can move files onto your mobile drive at eSATA performance speeds, and access drives while you’re on the road with USB 2.0 flexibility.
iStarUSA’s T-5 SS is another product that installs into an available drive bay—this time a 5.25” one—and is designed to allow enthusiasts and administrators to directly insert any 3.5” drive for quick and dirty access. We liked its flexibility when it comes to SAS and SATA, as both are supported, but you will need a non-standard SAS cable that splits the data and power connectors to properly attach the T-5 SS to an SAS host adapter. If you can live without SAS support, we recommend going for one of the external drive docks by iStarUSA or Unitek.
The HDD Docking Station by iStarUSA provides eSATA and USB 2.0 connectivity, which makes it an excellent choice for users who have to work with frequently changing SATA hard drives—be they 2.5” or 3.5”—and who need maximum throughput via eSATA. However, the build quality was so poor that we had to open the device and relocate the SATA connectors before we could even use it (average Joe would have to return the device to the store). If you’re ready to fix quality issues yourself then you can go with this product.
Mainstream users in need of a flexible solution to hook up 2.5” or 3.5” SATA drives to a PC should consider the Unitek Docking Station Combo, as it not only offers direct access for hard drives, it also comes with a USB 2.0 hub and a high-speed multi-card reader. The product is a bit more expensive than the other storage accessories, but it even comes with a one-touch backup feature. The only disadvantage we found was the limited USB 2.0 performance.