Reliable USB3 3.5" case for long-term use - anybody tried any of these?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Makosuke, Jan 1, 2015.

  1. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #1
    I just got a new 5K iMac, and I ordered it with just an internal SSD planning on using external storage for bulk-data needs. I have a thunderbolt RAID array for "big data" storage, but I also wanted a smaller single-drive box that's quieter and uses less power for "everyday"/server stuff (the iMac is now my home server, too) so that I can just leave it on all the time.

    Since there really aren't any reasonably-priced Thunderbolt cases available, and USB3 is plenty fast for a single spinning drive, I figured a simple USB3 case is the way to go.

    I already have on hand a current-generation Newer Ministack (the thin black-topped ones), which includes a USB3 port. Perfect.

    Except having tried to use it, it keeps flaking out after a few hours/days. It will either drop out temporarily, or, worst case, once completely seize up and require turning it off and doing some kind of additional voodoo (never did figure out what exactly I did that revived it) to get it to work again. It could be a hardware problem--I had had some issues like this before trying to use it as an eSATA case with a Mini server--but in any case it's out of warranty, I didn't have good luck with an earlier-generation Ministack (should have learned my lesson) and if it did break I certainly don't want to buy another one.

    Which leaves me looking for a decent USB3 3.5" case that I can actually leave on constantly without fear of it hanging up randomly, a problem that trolling around reveals is somewhat common. (Incidentally, I have a Seagate external that I got a USB3 base for, and that works reliably, on a hub even, aside from the Seagate drive's annoying tendency to do the scratchy head-park noise somewhat at random.)

    I already have a drive: HGST 4TB NAS drive. Don't technically need a case that will support more than 4TB, but it would be nice to be able to upgrade some day.

    A fan would be nice, since the drive will get pretty heavy use, but isn't vital. The ones I've come up with so far are:

    Icy Dock Blizzard - A bit expensive, physically large, but has a big, theoretically quiet fan.

    Transcend StoreJet 35U3 - Reasonably priced for a case with a fan, recognizable company, but kind of ugly and might be noisy?

    Macally G-S350SU3 - Very nice looking, I had good luck with a similar Firewire case from them at work, but no fan or heatsink other than the metal case.

    Akitio SK-3501 - Dirt cheap (~$26) despite the high MSRP, and has a big heatsink on the bottom.

    ...but the real question is, are any of them reliable? Does anyone own any of these? If so, have you had any problems with it dropping out when connected/powered on for a long period of time? Any alternate suggestions that aren't wallet-murdering?
     
  2. matreya macrumors 65816

    matreya

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    #2
  3. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

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    #3
    Interesting recommendation. Since it has FW800 it's significantly more expensive than USB3 only enclosures, and I'd really rather spend as little as I can get away with, but I'll put it on the shortlist.

    I'd always kind of wondered what the relationship between OWC and Newer is; they don't appear to be owned by OWC, but being the only US retailer that carries the entire Newer line I tend to conflate the two companies.
     
  4. matreya macrumors 65816

    matreya

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    #4
    From what I've seen, I think Newer Technology and OWC are owned by the same parent company...
     
  5. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

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    #5
    Is that what it is?

    It would make sense, since they seem really close, but Newer has a completely independent website, and they also make a few directly competing products. Also OWC generally seems to have significantly better quality, although I suppose that could just be my experience.
     
  6. ColdCase macrumors 68030

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    #6
    USB3 will always have drive connection issues because its USB, especially for those drives that sleep and Macs that sleep. Using a hub will make things much worse. You need to consider enclosure, drive, cable. Its a crap shoot.

    The most stable ones I've used are the WD Elements and Seagate Backup Plus. The NewerTech Guardian Maximus sold by OWC has also been reliable, but that has two drives and a small fan. I've had less luck using HGST drives and MacAlley enclosures. I have to turn the MacAlley off to boot my MacPro or it will hang. G-Tech has also been OK.
     
  7. Makosuke, Jan 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015

    Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

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    #7
    Thanks for the recommendations. Sadly I already have a drive in hand, and WD, Seagate, and G-Tech don't sell empty cases...

    I'm not saying you're wrong, but "always" is a strong word. For example, connected to the same Mac that is giving me trouble is a Seagate external (GoFlex, not the backup series you mentioned) with a USB3 adapter base, which is connected through a hub on top of it.

    That drive has been mounted (as a Time Machine volume, so accessed regularly), via the hub, on a computer that sleeps quite regularly and additionally is set to sleep drives, for over a week without any issues whatsoever.

    I also, previously, had a Fantom-brand drive (not sure what the guts are; I bought it assembled) connected to my Mini server (which didn't sleep, admittedly) via USB2 for literally years without a single issue.

    I'm not saying these drives will never have problems, but they certainly haven't acted up for me thus far, so I'm not writing off USB3 entirely as an unreliable interface at this point.
     
  8. AppleNewton macrumors 68000

    AppleNewton

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    #8
    If you need a drive in an enclosure go for the owc mercury elite, I'm sure they have USB3 only option.

    Otherwise I'd just recommend Startech "toaster' enclosures. you just pop it in and the drive is good to go, i like those better as enclosure seem to be rapidly failing or overheat drives and these get nice airflow.
    I think startech also manufactures the same icy dock enclosures http://www.newegg.com/STARTECH-Hard-Drive-Enclosures/BrandSubCat/ID-1762-92
     
  9. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #9
    Just about any USB3 3.5" enclosure you buy will work, but....

    ... BE SURE you get one that specifically states it has UASP support (USB Attached SCSI Protocol).

    Actually, you might also consider a USB3/SATA docking station. Makes it easy to swap drives around when necessary. The disadvantage is that it doesn't look as snazzy sitting on your desk...
     
  10. thedeske macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    I don't know - I kinda like the look of a bare drive poking out of the ol' black brick to the right ;)
     
  11. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

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    #11
    Actually, sadly, they don't--only the relatively expensive multi-interface version, though it does include USB3.

    Now that is some useful advice, and not a piece I've ever heard before. Also not something I remember seeing often, if ever, on spec sheets, so I guess it's time to start digging.

    Already have two "toasters" on hand for bare-drive backups and IT things, and ran my server drive in one for several months when this MiniStack started acting up initially. With a drive sticking out the top they're not really very attractive to go with the minimalist desk, though, and while they're better than a plastic case for cooling, I'd really prefer a fan or at least heatsink for good measure.

    I may try my drive in one for a while just to see if its controller is stable, though.
     
  12. ColdCase, Jan 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

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    #12
    What I meant is that one will always see issues with some USB3 setups, not that one will always have issues. I reference a couple that are solid for me. It it seems to be a crap shoot, however, as one setup will work fine with one Mac, and not another....

    Recommendations for UASAP is common here, but now that just about every enclosure supports UASAP (most use the same chip set) it usually doesn't come up. Its like saying to make sure it has a SATA drive connection, not IDE.... oh yea you may want to make verify 6Gbs SATA while your at it.

    USB3 is a "smart" protocol that requires some firmware on the chip, so you also should look for the firmware version in the enclosure and verify it is solid. Many of the early USAP enclosures were initially a disaster, but firmware updates typically made them better. Its the implementation of features that can be buggy, and if your setup is not using a buggy feature you will not notice :)

    Both ORICO and StarTech sent me out firmware revisions that fixed sleep and disconnect issues, but those were 2.5 inch enclosures. The USB3 chip makers provide dozen's of parameters that vendors can manipulate.

    So the bottom line is its complicated and seamless operation cannot be guarantied for a number of reasons. The best approach may be to purchase an enclosure you think you'd like from a retailer with a generous return policy and test drive the enclosure for a month. When you have problems that you don't want to deal with, return for another brand.
     
  13. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

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    #13
    For reference, I ended up buying a Vantec NexStar 6G, which is a no-frills, very compact, aluminum USB3 enclosure with no fan that is available quite cheap (I think I paid under $25).

    Plusses: Absolutely no issues with drop-outs (rock solid after a couple weeks of heavy use); UASP equipped; as far as I can tell no speed problems; fairly nice looking in black; can be set up vertically or horizontally; the activity light isn't horrifically bright; the USB3 cable it comes with is a bit short but pretty beefy; has a (tiny) mechanical on-off switch; and the aluminum enclosure is pretty good at getting heat to the outside surface plus is vented on the ends.

    Minuses: It seems to be weirdly good at transmitting low-frequency vibration noise from a 7200RPM drive to whatever it's sitting on, so it's kind of noisy (low pitched hum) if you don't put it on something soft; no fan, so it does get pretty warm (although if Google is to be believed, that's probably not an issue); the perforated front is plastic, so not quite as nice looking as if it were 100% aluminum.

    I'm pretty happy with it, although I do wonder if the Vantec HX series (which presumably uses the same controller, but has an 80mm fan) would have kept the drive cooler and maybe transmitted less hum to the desk (at the cost of fan noise, of course). Might get one of those at some point.
     

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