Introduction and Usage Impressions

Direct Attached Storage (DAS) units have been the go-to devices for consumers looking to store large amounts of data, though they are being slowly replaced by Network Attached Storage (NAS) units in certain scenarios. The advent of high-speed interfaces such as USB 3.x and Thunderbolt have enabled a new generation of DAS units that enable the host system to access the member disks without any bottlenecks. The last time we looked at a multi-bay external enclosure was in our review of the Mediasonic Probox. A couple of years have passed since we checked out the JMicron JMB321 port-multiplier coupled with a JSM 539 SATA to USB 3.0 bridge. These JMicron parts have been discontinued and new parts have been introduced for economical multi-bay direct-attached storage enclosures.

StarTech.com specializes in gadgets performing niche, yet handy functions. We have reviewed a few of their products such as the USB 3.0 to SATA IDE HDD docking station and portable SATA duplicator before. Technology-wise, there are plenty of similar options in the market. StarTech.com hopes to differentiate itself by acting as a one-stop shop for all these miscellaneous needs. Since the beginning of the year, StarTech.com has launched two interesting products in the DAS (direct-attached storage) space. On the high-end side, we have the S354SMTB2R, a 4-bay Thunderbolt 2 enclosure with a price point just south of $700. Two USB 3.0 / eSATA enclosures have also been introduced around the $300 and $400 price points. The $315 S355BU33ERM 5-bay enclosure and the $392 S358BU33ERM 8-bay enclosure support both 3.5" and 2.5" drives. Hot-swapping is also supported.

Similar to the Mediasonic Probox, they come with both eSATA and USB 3.0 host connections. UASP is now supported, thanks to the usage of the JMicron JMB575M SATA port multiplier / selector and JMS567 SATA to USB 3.0 bridge controller. The 5-bay unit comes with a 80 mm cooling fan, while the 8-bay unit has a 120 mm cooling fan. These are JBOD enclosures (no hardware RAID).

The S358BU33ERM comes in a large white box with the UASP support prominently highlighted. In addition to the main unit (pictured at the top), the package also contains the following:

  • Three different power cords (NA, EU and UK)
  • eSATA cable
  • USB 3.0 Type-A Male to Type-B Male cable
  • Instruction manual
  • SATA to eSATA full-profile bracket (for PCs without an eSATA port, but a spare SATA port on the motherboard)
  • 32x screws for 2.5" drives and 32x screws for 3.5" drives

In addition, the main unit has the drive trays pre-installed. The gallery below takes us around the unit.

The placement of the two ports is ideal (unlike the recessed ones in the Mediasonic Probox). The drive trays are also much better than the Probox. The aspect I liked most about the chassis was that the drive trays could easily slot in, thanks to the guiding notches on either side. However, unlike the Probox, the StarTech.com unit has only one fan. The 300W power supply is built into the unit.

Coming back to the core platform, we have the JMB575M SATA port multiplier. Its block diagram is provided below. Note that two of these port multipliers are used in the DAS in a cascaded manner (each part can be configured in a 5-to-1 connection at the maximum).

The SATA III to USB 3.0 bridge chip (JMS567) also taps into the SATA connection just prior to the eSATA interface in the board.

In the rest of the review, we will first cover the testbed setup and evaluation methodology, followed by a look at the benchmarks in eSATA as well as USB 3.0 mode.

Testbed Setup and Evaluation Methodology
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  • BMNify - Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - link

    you could probably do it with the £99 Orico 9548RU3 Aluminum 4 Bay USB3.0 3.5 inch Hard Disk SATA HDD RAID Enclosure B
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Orico-9548RU3-Aluminum-4...
    Reply
  • alpha754293 - Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - link

    Given that you seem to found a system/setup that works better for you - do you think that you would be able to re-test the Mediasonic Probox because I have a feeling that some of the speed limitations (like around 180 Mbps regardless whether it was USB 3.0 or eSATA) might be due to hardware/infrastructure/setup limitation and might not actually truly represent the performance of the enclosure? Reply
  • digitalgriffin - Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - link

    I really don't see the benefit of spending this much. There are better and cheaper alternative external enclosures with 4 bays for < 1/2 the price for each. For example the Media Sonic HF2-SU35L handles 4 bays eSATA & USB3 for $99/each. Get two and you are at 2/3'rd the price of this one unit. If one enclosure fails you aren't SOL.

    Get a PCIe eSATA card with two ports/2 channels. This will offload some of the burden

    These mega NAS builds are for professionals only with serious NAS storage requirements. (Business web servers, data archives, code archives, photograph databases, etc...) Again not really useful for 99.5% of the readers here. Cool to look at, but not practical for the vast vast majority of us.
    Reply
  • herky - Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - link

    I'm not sure what the Media Sonic HF2-SU35L is, because it doesn't exist. Perhaps the HF2-SU3S2 is what you were referring to? In any case, it may be cheaper but it CERTAINLY isn't better. The build quality isn't good, and far worse, the transfer speeds are awful compared to the Startech product. If you want dirt cheap, get 2 of the HF2-SU3S2. If you want something that works well, get the Startech product.

    As the review noted, this isn't a NAS device so I'm not sure why you are ranting about them. This is a DAS. It seems to me YOU don't need one so you don't think anyone else does either.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    I know the difference between a NAS and a DAS. Most towers are more then capable of holding 10+ drives.

    If you honestly need that much storage space then chances are you are running a server farm for some medium to large business. In that case you want redundant backups (failover). So running something like this on a desktop environment isn't practical.

    If you need more then that then you are going redundant failover NAS and adding on a DAS to that NAS when the NAS runs out of storage.

    And you are correct it is a HF2-SU3S2. I never claimed it was better. Just that is was a cheaper alternative. And if one hardware case goes down, then you aren't ham stringed with the loss of 8 drives versus 4. (If you set it up properly)

    Now as to your argument that just because 99.5% of us don't need it translates as "I don't need it" would be incorrect. It's a NICHE product AT BEST. If you TRULY need this much storage, then you are a profesional with mission critical data, and you aren't going to buy a niche product without top TIER 1 support, warranty, and reputation behind it.

    This does not have that. Sorry.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - link

    "The product page also doesn't make it clear that a SATA chipset with port multiplier support is needed for accessing multiple disks in the array over an eSATA connection."

    You really need to emphasise this more. It's actually rather common for eSATA ports to not support this, especially Intel ones.
    Reply
  • dtgoodwin - Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - link

    It would be nice to see how accessing two drives at the same time affects the speed. I have an old Silicon Image SATA 300 based 4-port multiplier box (Rosewill branded). One drive has okay speed, but if I start accessing two, the switching mechanism combined with the latency of conventional hard drives mean read or write speeds drop to around 25% of their original - with only two drives being accessed. I could imagine RAID on any of these boxes with hard drives would be pretty miserable. The eSATA card that came with mine had softRAID capabilities, but I immediately flashed it to the non-RAID firmware. Reply
  • dzezik - Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - link

    completely stupid idea and useless logic with sata multiplexer.
    the enclosure would be thousand time more useful with two external sas ports (each port is for 4 disks). then you dont need any chip inside, only good quality wiring and your computer can control fully all 8 disks, you can get full speed 8x6Gb/s. eSATA and SATA is completeley useless. You can buy 8 port SAS controller for $100. if You need SATA for any sake then You can use SATA disks, or You already have SATA then You can use SATA disks, SATA disks are compatible with SAS controllers. but it is good idea to buy SAS disks instead SATA, the price is almost the same, I mean the same model with SATA and SAS are only 2-5% differrence in price. if You prefer very low performance disks like WD-RED then You stick with SATA, but all 7200 disks are available with SAS and SATA. please remember SAS are not only faster (full duplex, SATA is half duplex - cant read and write at the same time) but are more solid, accept longer cables and have more advanced error correction.
    Reply
  • experttech - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    So if I move all 6 SATA drives that I have in my computer case to a DAS, will I lose any data or will Windows show up these 6 drives as though they were attached to the internal SATA connections in my case? Also is there one connection from the DAS to the computer case? If so, wouldnt operating multiple drives in tandem be a problem since the available bandwidth (USB 3/ eSATA etc) are limited? Reply
  • Jorsher - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    This looks like a neat product. Typically I would avoid things from brands that aren't well-known, and that would include Star Tech, but...

    The only item I've purchased from this company was a 25u 4-post server rack for my home setup. Their packaging could be improved, as two arrived with over 50% of the parts missing. Of course, the fault lies with the couriers (one attempt with UPS, one with FedEx). As far as the rack itself -- it was a great price and while it is a no-frills rack, it's very well-built. It's holding a large rackmount PSU, a filled 24-bay storage enclosure/server, two switches, rackmount PDU, patch panels, and even a monitor and keyboard up top and is very sturdy. I will consider their other products in the future.
    Reply

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