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Orico transparent 2.5 / 3.5 hard drive docking station review

It’s hard to make a cool or interesting HDD enclosure, but I quite like this one from Orico. Its clear casing lets you gaze inside, while a modern feature set allows full compatibility with a range of 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch HDDs and SSDs. Let’s take a closer look!

 

Specs & Features

  • Vibrant transparent ABS plastic casing
  • Supports all 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives at SATA III speeds
  • USB 3.0 external (up to 5Gb/s) with UASP
  • Plug and play: hot swapping, no drivers or apps needed
  • 2A @ 12V power adapter ensures adequate energy
  • Compatible with Windows / Mac / Linux
  • LED indicator monitors working status of drive
  • JSM578 chipset
  • Included: Dock, USB 3.0 cable, power adapter, manual, warranty card
  • 14.4 x 7.1 x 5.3cm / 165 grams
 

Design

The Orico dock is interesting to look at, thanks to its transparent design. You can easily see the single circuit board inside, with its various capacitors and fun doodads.

The clear material also makes it easier to insert smaller 2.5-inch drives correctly, although you basically just need to slide the drive down into the back left corner in order to hit the SATA data and power connections. For 3.5-inch drives, it’s more straightforward; you can’t really insert it incorrectly.

A bright blue LED on the board turns on with the enclosure, and flashes to show you when the drive is working. This might be annoying in dim environments, but you could easily put a bit of tape over the light if it bothered you.

On the back of the dock, we have three features of note: the Type B USB 3.0 socket (that’s the squarish USB plug you commonly find on printers), the mains adapter input and a small button. This button turns the enclosure on and off, making it easy to power down the dock without needing to unplug it.

 

Testing

When it comes to testing, there are two basic approaches…

First, we can turn the dock on, pop in a drive, and make sure everything works as described. We did that, and everything was hunky-dory. It was easy to insert the drive and plug in the two connections required, although the USB cable was a little short — I would have preferred to see a 2m cable in the box. We pressed the wee button on the back, and the drive showed up in Windows (remember you may need to format it first using the Disk Management tool).

Secondly, we can test the performance of the enclosure, by calculating the speed difference between running the hard drive via USB and wiring it up your PC’s motherboard directly using a SATA cable. We also did this, using an SSD to make the differences in performance more obvious (for mechanical HDDs, connecting to a USB enclosure won’t make much of a difference).

We used a Drevo X1 Pro SSD for our testing, a small capacity drive (64GB in our case) that nonetheless boasts high read and write times. Its box promises to deliver read speeds of up to 400 MB/s and write speeds of 300 MB/s. We ran four different benchmarks twice: once while connected to the Orico enclosure, and once while connected directly to the test rig’s internal SATA connector.

To see the test rig’s specifications, check out our component breakdown here!

 

HD Tune Pro

First up we have HD Tune Pro. This benchmark shows the difference in read speeds, sustained over a fairly long data set. The speed is charted over time, and the minimum, maximum and average sequential read speeds are shown at the end of the test. Access times and burst rates are also shown.

This test showed what we’d expect — despite being attached to a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed port, the drive drops from an average of 356 MB/s to 266 MB/s while connected to the enclosure. Maximum write speeds are noticeably decreased as well, although minimum speeds and burst rates remain somewhat similar. Finally, access times are more than doubled, although still remaining under the 0.1 ms mark.

All of this isn’t to say that the enclosure is bad — just that there is a speed difference between USB and internal SATA connections; in this case we’re losing about 25% of our speed. It’s good to see that the minimum rate has dropped only 9%; if our dock was being taxed, we might see more severe periodic drops. Instead, we get pretty consistent performance across the board, indicating that the USB interface is the limiting factor rather than the enclosure’s controller.

AS SSD

Next up is AS SSD, a rapid-fire test that shows how speeds differ with various data sets. Sequential models reading and writing very large files (e.g. copying a video file), while 4K shows how the drive can read and write very small chunks (e.g. playing a game or more normal computer use).

We can see there’s a weird result right away in the enclosure’s sequential reads, which could indicate the enclosure has become overwhelmed and slowed right down. However, the remaining results are normal; we see sequential write speeds are nearly identical between the two tests. The enclosure’s USB connection deals better with smaller numbers of larger files than it does with large numbers of smaller files, so you’d expect better performance using the enclosure to store media than you would to run an OS. However, with an SSD as we have here, you’d still get decent performance.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO is a more comprehensive benchmark, showing how read and write speeds vary across a whole range of data sizes.

You can see the drive ramps up to its fastest speed much more quickly when it’s mounted internally, although the sequential results (i.e. the largest data set size) are broadly similar. This serves as confirmation of the trends we spotted in earlier tests.

CrystalDiskMark

Finally, CrystalDiskMark is a good all-purpose SSD benchmark that shows read and write speeds at different data sizes and more importantly at different queue depths.

Queue depth refers to “the number of simultaneous requests on a drive’s request queue”, and tests how well the drive’s controller can order these pending requests to achieve maximum throughput. In the third line, we have data sets of size 4KB, in the fourth we have the same size but requested thirty-two at a time. We’d expect the speed to increase given the presence of any kind of intelligent controller, but better controllers will achieve better speed improvements. Does that make sense?

Anyway, we see that the enclosure again does well, even outperforming the internal mounting in the sequential and 512K read and write tests. However, the tables turn when we deal with these smaller 4K data sets; as we have the same controller (and indeed drive) in both tests, the ratio between the third and fourth tests remains constant but the internal connection yields faster results, particularly when writing lots of small files. Once again, the enclosure is doing well; it’s the USB connection which is the limiting factor.

In summary, our tests reveal no issues with the enclosure. Its JSM578 chipset is clearly capable of dealing with HDDs and SSDs; the limiting factor is the USB 3.0 connection. In general, HDDs won’t show massive performance differences, but SSDs will be a bit slower, particularly when writing lots of small files. These limitations are intrinsic to USB enclosures of all types, so this is a good result for the Orico!

 

Wrapping up

This transparent Orico enclosure is pretty sweet. It looks cool, it performs well for a USB enclosure and it’s available at a reasonable price. If you’re after an easy way to connect drives to your PC, this is a stylish option to consider.

 

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About The Author
William Judd
Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.