Well I’ve been using it for all my day-to-day Copy+ operations as well as development and support activities for quite some weeks now, and can truly say it is a faultless piece of kit. Here’s what you get for your money.
Obviously the box contains the docking station itself, which is a sleek black unit that won’t look out of place on your desktop. There are two power switches on the front of the unit for controlling the two drives, essential for this kind of setup as you don’t want to be hot plugging drives in and out of the cradle while they are still spinning! On the back of the unit are the input for power from the supplied power “brick”, a single USB B style socket and two ESATA ports clearly labelled – one for each drive dock. Also included in the box is a single standard USB A-B connector (a nice touch in the days where printer manufacturers seem to be omitting USB cables as if they were some kind of “optional” extra) and not one but two ESATA cables. Also Storage Depot included a UK mains cable to replace the US two-prong version that comes in the box as standard. So no excuse to go trying to plug it into your bathroom shaver socket as I saw one dumb user post to a forum recently 🙂
So, all in all the unit was very easy to set up and just plugging into my PC the Windows XP USB mass storage drivers automatically detected the new hardware and I was up and running in seconds. No tools required, just as the box packaging suggests. Then it’s just a case of plugging in a SATA drive – the unit takes both 3.5” desktop variants such as used in Sky+HD or the smaller 2.5” laptop drives without modification – and powering on with the appropriate power switch on the front. The drive then spins up and is recognised by Windows just like with any other USB cradle/caddy.
I started out by performing a disk-to-disk copy using both ports of the cradle, as this is the most likely potential use for this kit when upgrading a Sky+HD box from the OEM 300GB drive. As a source disk I used a 300GB Samsung drive that had been in use in my Sky+ box for quite some time and was about 80% full. As such the file system was relatively fragmented, and so a good representative test of the kind of source disk most people would be copying. As the destination drive I choose a 1TB Hitachi Deskstar drive – again not an uncommon choice for HD upgraders. Copy+ fired up and recognised both drives straight off, and it was a simple matter of selecting source and destination and clicking the Copy button.
The whole copy process took about 4 hours, which was a little longer than I was expecting. However this is probably down to both drives being on the same USB port and all the data for both reads and writes has to travel down the same 480Mb/s USB 2.0 link to the cradle. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a PC with ESATA ports, and so was unable to test this connection method – however I expect that would be significantly faster with a combined throughput of 3Gb/s. I hope to be able to test the device in this configuration at some point and report back.
Once the copy had finished I used the Windows task bar Remove Hardware icon to safely disconnect both drives. I was please to hear that at this point the caddy powered down both drives obviously parking the heads on each. This is something you don’t normally see with regular USB caddies – and so it’s a nice touch with this unit given its quick plug feature. The power light on the front remained eliminated however, and after powering off the drives I removed them from the cradle and returned the 1TB to the Sky box. I’m sure you could probably remove the drives without powering off, as they had already spun down – However it seems sensible to remove the power from the electronics first!
Both the caddy and Copy+ had performed flawlessly and all my recorded programs and series links were present on the Sky+ box – So I have absolutely no qualms in certifying this thoroughly excellent piece of kit as fully Copy+ compatible 😀
As I mentioned earlier, I has also used the cradle for my day-to-day Copy+ support and development activities, so it’s had a very good workout in addition to drive copying duties. During this time I also noticed that the docking station will auto-power down drives to standby if they aren’t used for an extended period of time (e.g. 5 minutes or so). Again that’s a feature you don’t see on a large number of aftermarket enclosures. Given the open drive nature of this enclosure that’s a very useful feature that means the unit would be totally silent when not in use as well as environmentally friendly. So if you plan on using the cradle as an occasional desktop backup solution, I’d suggest it would be eminently suited to that job as well.
[box]The product was kindly provided by Storage Depot, a small and friendly company, established in 2002, which specialises in digital storage.
Storage Depot have kindly offered a 10% discount on all hard drive cradles. At “Checkout” you should find a button named “Show Discounts & Extras”. Press this and a box will appear allowing you to enter a discount code. Type in “copyplus” (without the quotes). It’s not case sensitive.[/box]
[review]The SI-7928SUSJ Dual SATA Docking Station a very well thought-out and specified piece of kit that I would have no hesitation in recommending to any Sky+HD upgrader – or indeed PC user who requires a hot plug SATA solution. I’ve certainly found it invaluable, as my work with Copy+ often requires swapping drives in and out of my various caddies – and this little unit has saved a lot of time and hassle. I just wish there was a similar unit of PATA drives![/review]