Earlier this month Star Trek: Online went the Free To Play model, meaning anyone can have their own starship and participate in one of the best science fiction franchises of all time! Why is that significant to this article? It is significant because I am a Trekkie. I openly admit it. When HornetTek contacted us to do some reviews on their products, this product definitely caught my eye for two reasons. One, I like hard drive enclosures and external storage solutions. Two, it is named "Enterprise". There is even a glimpse of the good 'ole 1701 on HornetTek's website.
The question is; is the HornetTek Enterprise 4X an enterprise-level device that performs like the Federation flagship would, or is it just as useful as a self-sealing stem bolt? Read on to find out!
Product Name: HornetTek Enterprise 4X
Review Unit Provided By: HornetTek
Words By: Chad
Pictures By: Wes
|Data Transfer||USB 3.0 at 5Gbps max: eSATA at 3Gbps max|
|HDD Support||3.5" SATA HDD|
|HDD Capacity||Supports up to 12TB (3TB x 4HDD)|
|Material||Brushed Aluminum Case with ABS HDD Tray|
|Product Dimension (LxWxH)||7.5” x 6.6” x 7” (LxWxH)|
|Package Dimension (LxWxH)||9” x 10” x 8.5” (LxWxH)|
|OS Support||Windows Vista/7|
80mm Cooling Fan with Speed ControlSmart Air Circulation Mechanism
Packaging and External Design
The Enterprise 4X (from now on to be referred to as Enterprise, or potentially some other geeky Star Trek designation) clearly looks like something straight out of the Original Series. There is a blue LED indicating power to the device, and green LED activity indicators for each of the hard drives. The case itself is square in the back, where the hard drives are stored, and the case comes out in front into a giant circle. The architecture in this device really is futuristic. There is a cooling fan at the top of the case to keep the hard drives cool, but the fan is also easily accessible enough to use a can of compressed air on to keep clean.
I like boxes with handles. I know this sounds silly but unless it is a small device being able to sling it with a handle is great (unless the handle is really flimsy *I'm looking at you Acer*)!
On the back, there is a USB 3.0 port, an eSATA port, a plug for power and a switch to turn the device on and off. I made the same comment about the HornetTek Fantasy as I will here. I do not understand why they put a power switch on this device. Most external hard drive enclosures I have seen simply use the USB bus to determine if the device needs to be powered on or not. It just seems so 2001. However, one fantastic switch on the back panel is a fan control switch so you can turn the fan down or up depending on workload. That is a nice touch.
I love the circular shape of the front, which makes it easy to place a nice big 80mm fan in there to keep everything cool!
The Enterprise does come with all the cabling you need, which is nice to see. There is a power brick to power the whole device, and both an eSATA and USB 3.0 cable included of decent length. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome it is that you actually get BOTH cables with the device. Many external drive enclosures give you one of the cables, and some hard drive manufacturers are not even including cables in their retail-level packaging. Cables are inexpensive, so it should be a simple decision to include the cable in the box. HornetTek does that.
Loading SATA drives is fairly simple, although needlessly more tedious than it needs to be. The four hard drive brackets on the back are plastic and there is a black switch that must be activated in order to remove the shuttle for the drives.
When you mount the drive in the shuttle make sure that you use that hard drive screws to attach the shuttle to the drive. I have used a Drobo in the past and the drives eject automatically on it (so I wrongfully assumed that it would be the same on the Enterprise). Getting a drive to eject when you can get no leverage on the drive itself can be quite an interesting task. Please make sure you mount the drive appropriately.
The Enterprise functions in a JBOD format, which means that there is no data redundancy on the information you put on it. I think it is extremely important to have data redundancy on a product that wants to be an enterprise-level device. I suppose that a software RAID could occur making it more practical in that sense, but with a $139 price point on Amazon without a drive it seems a little pricey. How do I come up with that assessment? The Netgear Stora can be had for $229 with a 1TB HDD preinstalled. Hard drive prices are insane right now, so adding 1 1TB drive to the mix would bring the Enterprise to the price point of the Stora, but the Stora would be more useful because the Stora is network attached storage. Perhaps I am a bit biased here (and I am), but when I look at big external drive enclosures I want them to be gigabit network enabled, and not plugged directly into the main computer. Most people have more than one computer in their household. The Stora also allows you to create data redundancy right out of the box, which is important if you are storing large amounts of data on the drive. However, like most of my reviews, I will rate the product on what it is designed to do, and not harm it too much by how useful I believe the device is. In that respect lets move on to the performance statistics of the device.
When testing the USB 3.0 connection, the Enterprise scored pretty well. With CrystalDiskMark the sequential test scored a read of 103.4MB/s and a write of 104.2MB/s. That means a 5GB file can be transferred in less than a minute. Having recently transferred a lot of data from a client's external hard drive, I can tell you that it would have been nice to have this to cut that transfer time down.
Similar results were seen with the eSATA test, recording 100.9 MB/s on the read and 105 MB/s on the write speed. It is nice to see consistency with both interfaces. eSATA is a lot like Thunderbolt to me right now. USB is just so dominant that I do not expect many devices to have eSATA and with the strict controls Apple has over cabling I am not expecting miracles with the Thunderbolt future support. I am glad Intel is on board with it though!
Interestingly, when the test system attempted a read and write test on a drive attached directly to the motherboard, the results were less-than-stellar. There clearly is a driver or cable related issue with the test system, but the numbers need to be included for the sake of a base line.
For the sake of an unscientific argument (since the machine running the benchmark is a machine that I no longer have easy access to), I ran BlackMagic's DiskSpeedTest on my Mac here in the office and generated up the following results:
Overall I was pleased with the disk read and write speeds generated by the Enterprise. I think on external drives performance does not necessarily be the be-all, end-all (since the first backup is usually the slowest and then everything after that is quick), but people do use external drives to stream media and function as scratch disks for Final Cut, Photoshop, or other high disk space usage programs. For that, I believe the Enterprise is suited for that task.
Conclusions and Final Verdict
The Enterprise 4X has a lot of potential. I very much enjoy the design of the unit; it fits the futuristic Star Trek-like design that HornetTek clearly was shooting for. It is important that if you are going to enter such a saturated market that the Enterprise is entering that it have a unique design. It does deliver exceptionally well on that front. The machine also has decent performance (again, some of that will be determined by the speed of the drive you have attached to it). So far, so good then; right? Yes, actually. If I were reviewing the device solely on what it is advertised that it does, it would easilly get a 10/10. Like the other HornetTek products that are reviewed, they all do what they advertise they do, and they do it well. That should be a testament to the effort their team put into their products. However, the Enterprise really is not complete without a network interface on it. Without it, I will give the Enterprise an 8/10. If it had the NIC, it would be a 9/10. And if it had a NIC and built in RAID 1 (at the least) it would easily be a 10/10 product. As time progresses HornetTek will undoubetly create a successor to the Enterprise, and I hope that with that realease they let us have an opportunity to revisit that product for an updated review!