Cooler Master X Craft 350 eSATA Enclosure Review

Performance

I bought this enclosure for the performance. With USB 2.0 maxing out at 480mb/s and Firewire 400 maxing out at, well, 400mb/s, both interfaces become bottlenecks for high performance external hard drives. Typically, USB 2.0 external hard drives can reach towards 25MB/s transfer rates, which is significantly less than what high performance desktop drives can achieve. Even many laptops drives (aside from the 4200RPM ones) can sustain transfer rates above the saturation point of the USB 2.0 connection. To unlock the full transfer rate potential, eSATA is the way to go, along with a PCMCIA/ExpressCard eSATA adapter for a laptop.

I will be testing the difference between using USB 2.0 and eSATA as well as using eSATA versus an internal SATA port, to see if there is any overhead associated with the external SATA implementation. A newly purchased Seagate 500GB 7200.10 SATA 3.0gb/s hard disk with 16MB cache will serve as the drive being tested in all cases. The SATA 1.5gb/s limiting jumper was removed from the drive to take advantage of the faster speeds of SATA 3.0gb/s where possible.

X Craft with Seagate 500GB

For the test system, the following was used (relevant details listed):

Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 1.8GHz 2MB L2
Biostar TForce 965PT (on board ICH8 SATA was used)
2 x 1GB DDR2

First up, I tested the X Craft 350 in USB 2.0 mode against an older Vantec Nexstar NST-350 with a 200GB Western Digital WD2000JB. The difference in hard drives shouldn’t make a difference as both the Seagate and WD can saturate the USB throughput long before they reach their own performance bottlenecks. This should isolate the quality of the USB controllers used.

X Craft USB performance
Cooler Master X Craft 350 USB 2.0 performance

Vantec USB performance
Vantec Nexstar NST-350 USB 2.0 performance

As you can see, the X Craft 350 is slightly behind the Vantec in both average throughput and CPU usage. Not terribly inspiring so far.

Next up is the test of what I’m interested in: eSATA performance. It doesn’t disappoint.

External SATA performance

As you can see, average throughput is more than doubled and burst rates are just about quadrupled. As well, CPU usage is minimal and the drive shows up as a native hard disk to Windows, so SMART monitoring can be enabled. In comparison, in USB mode, the X Craft will be detected as a USB removable storage device. Performance is actually on par with SATA 1.5gb/s standards. The reason for this may lie in Cooler Master’s recommendation to use the SATA 1.5gb/s limiting jumper on SATA 3.0gb/s drives. Although I removed the jumper, the mere fact that Cooler Master suggests this leads me to believe that there is some physical limitation relegating it to 1.5gb/s performance. This is not isolated to Cooler Master – Vantec also suggests using the limiting jumper with their Nexstar 3 eSATA enclosures.

Finally, I tested the drive’s performance connected directly to one of the SATA 3.0gb/s provided by the ICH8 southbrige. As you can see, this is where true SATA 3.0gb/s performance appears. Average transfer rates are actually pretty close, but burst rate is almost 50% faster, blasting through the 150MB/s theoretical maximum of SATA 1.5gb/s.

Internal SATA performance

Benchmarks are nice, but real world performance is more important. Vista’s file transfer dialogue now includes a transfer rate measurement.

Vista Performance Dialogue - USB
Cooler Master X Craft 350 USB 2.0 Vista Performance Dialogue

Vista Performance Dialogue - eSATA
Cooler Master X Craft 350 eSATA Vista Performance Dialogue

As you can see, eSATA performance is significantly better than USB performance in real world testing as well. More than double the transfer rate is nothing to sneeze at.

COMMENTS

6 Replies to “Cooler Master X Craft 350 eSATA Enclosure Review”

  1. Extract from my letter to Cooler Master:

    I am terribly disappointed with your cabinet X Craft 350. You are saying in your advertising that using the cabinet will “increase hard drive lifespan”. That would have been true if the disk would could spin down when idle, but that’s not the fact with your cabinets. Your cabinet forces the disk to spin continuously as long as the power is on. (This has been explained to me by your tech support.) This is really old-fashioned, like 1984 or so.

    The reason I bought a Coolermaster cabinet was that I thought that it would have the standard functionality of ordinary, much cheaper cabinets + good heat dissipation. Now I paid twice as much for your cabinet WITHOUT getting the standard functionality that all other cheaper cabinets have.

    I also think that it is not acceptable having to wait 1.5 months for getting an answer from tech support.

  2. Cooler Master’s website does not state that their product is compatible with Vista. Have you had any issues? I read that some had issues with the one-touch backup in Vista, but can the software operate without the one-touch?

    Regards,

    Marty

  3. I haven’t run into any problems with Vista – it gets detected fine, assuming you have the appropriate drivers installed for the eSATA – connecting via USB will work fine with whatever Vista decides to install for it.

    I haven’t been using the one-touch backup software. Any backing up has been done manually, so I can’t comment about the compatibility of that utility with Vista. I’m not sure what you mean by using the software without the one-touch feature. The one-touch backup is the software.

  4. with xp sp2 i’ve it detected normally on my laptop, but on the desktop it says “external” is found but can’t find the drivers.
    How could i solve it?
    Thanks
    Paul

  5. Paul – The best idea I can think of is to try the things that Coolermaster lists here, but Windows XP should pick it up as a mass storage device, if you’re using USB.

    If you’re attaching it using E-SATA on your desktop, then you may need to install the appropriate SATA drivers.

  6. Paul

    Your hard disk is not initialized. Try Management – Storage drives and right click on ur external drive n initialize it n then do ur partition plus format…

    hope this works

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