By: Dave Montez
PCGC Contributing Editor
Thermaltake is a name that is both well-known and respected in the computer industry. As one of the hottest companies around providing enthusiasts with cutting edge products and accessories, Thermaltake enjoys a measure of success that few other companies can match. With ten years of experience in the industry, Thermaltake has consistently produced some of the most top notch products on the market.
Today is no different as Thermaltake unleashes its BlackX line of hard drive docking stations. Combining ease of use and a bevy of features, the BlackX ST0005U appears to be synonymous with quality and functionality. Will the BlackX ST0005U live up to its hype? Let’s delve a bit deeper into the ST0005U and find out!
Table of Contents
- Accessory Bundle
- External Appearance
- In Use
- Drive Fit
- My Recommendation
|Enclosure Interface||USB 2.0 and e-SATA|
USB 2.0: Up to 480 Mbps
e-SATA: Up to 3.0Gbps
|HDD Compatibility||All 2.5” and 3.5” HDD (SATA I and II compatible)|
|HDD Capacity||All 2.5” and 3.5” SATA up to 2TB|
|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista / XP / 2003 / 2000 / NT / 98 / 95 and Mac 10.3 and later|
|Material||ABS plastic construction|
|Dimensions||3.55” x 2.56” x 5.12” (W x H x L)|
The accessory bundle of the BlackX ST0005U is quite nice. In addition the requisite AC adapter, you are also provided with an e-SATA cable and a USB 2.0 cable as well. The USB cable is a Type A to Type B cable and is 40 inches long, while the e-SATA cable is a generous 38 inches in length. Both cables are exceptionally well built as they are thick and very robust. The e-SATA cable in particular proved to be difficult to straighten out.
The documentation that comes with the ST0005U is sufficient. The color photos are nice and the instructions are clear and detailed. I like the fact that Thermaltake also included documentation on how to format hard drives prior to using the ST0005U, both in Windows and Mac OS environments.
The front of the BlackX ST0005U is devoid of anything that one might consider being gaudy or tacky. To wit, the only lighting effect on the entire unit is at the top right, where the LED light glows blue when power is applied and red for HDD activity. An attractive BlackX logo and the Thermaltake badge grace the front of the unit. To eject a 2.5” or a 3.5” hard drive, a button is provided at the front of the ST0005U.
Looking at the ST0005U from the top down, we can see the SATA data and power connections within the unit. A protective door flap is provided to prevent debris from entering. With a 3.5” hard drive installed, the protective door flap will swing down and to the side, while a 2.5” hard drive will neatly slip right into the slot.
One of things that I found Thermaltake designed exceptionally well was the hard drive ejection system. In lieu of using plastic parts to eject your HDD as is the case with other manufacturers, Thermaltake went with an all-steel linkage system. This system proved to consistently provide smooth hard drive ejections every time.
The importance of smooth ejection systems cannot be understated. Hard drive integrity can be compromised with rough handling, and unlike some manufacturers that would have you yank out the HDD without the benefit of an ejection system, Thermaltake has developed one of the smoothest systems I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.
The rear of the BlackX ST0005U offers enthusiasts plenty of data connectivity options. In addition to the ubiquitous USB 2.0 specification (rated at 480Mbps), you are also treated to the goodness of e-SATA as well (rated at 3.0Gbps). Along with data connectivity, the ST0005U also features an AC/DC adapter hookup and a power button to turn the unit on and off.
It is worth noting that the undercarriage of the ST0005U has four rubber pads at each corner of the unit. This prevents the unit from sliding around on slick surfaces. The rubber feet also act to serve as a buffer against vibration on hard surfaces, such as glass or marble. The pads are thick and do not appear to mark surfaces.
Installation of a hard drive in the BlackX ST0005U is very easy. Simply line up the hard drive so that it faces forward (sticker towards you) and gently slide the HDD into place. You won’t need to press very hard, perhaps a gentle downward push to ensure that a positive connection has been made between the dock and the hard drive.
The ejection of a hard drive is even easier. Firmly press down on the button at the front of the ST0005U and the ejection system will gently deploy the hard drive from its slot. One of the things I like about this BlackX unit is that when you eject a 3.5” hard drive, the plastic flap will stay folded inside and not drag against the hard drive as you pull it out.
During my time with the BlackX ST0005U, I found the unit to be very well built. The body of the ST0005U is made of tough ABS plastic, and with a heavy 3.5” hard drive installed, the product feels solid and well adapted to handle the weight of even the heaviest hard drive. With the ability to support up to 2TB hard drives, the BlackX ST0005U is capable of meeting any current storage requirement.
To start up the BlackX ST0005U, connect power to the unit via the provided AC/DC adapter, connect either the USB 2.0 or e-SATA data cable, insert your choice of SATA hard drive and press the power button at the back. Upon power up, Windows will recognize the BlackX ST0005U as a mass storage device and the appropriate icon will appear in My Computer.
With the means to plug and play, I had the ST0005U up and running within seconds. Hot swap capability is a feature offered with this BlackX unit, and it worked flawlessly with my 2.5” and 3.5” SATA hard drives. Hot swap capability is a boon when quickly swapping out hard drives and avoiding data loss or data corruption in the process.
A good hard drive dock is nothing if it cannot securely hold hard drives in place. With a 3.5” hard drive installed, the ST0005U is very stable and resists tipping over quite readily. This is due to its rather large base, about 3.5” wide by 5” in length. The weight of the BlackX ST0005U is also on the stout side as well, weighing in at approximately 1.5 pounds sans hard drive.
One thing I must point out is that while 3.5” hard drives feel secure in this dock, 2.5” hard drives do not as I found them to be a bit wobbly. There is quite a bit of play with notebook hard drives installed, and care should be taken to not accidentally bump them. Doing so can easily break or crack the SATA power and data connections within the unit or on the hard drive itself.
To test the Thermaltake ST0005U, I benchmarked the unit with three hard drives with varying spindle speeds: a Western Digital 74GB 10,000RPM Raptor (WD740), a Western Digital 500GB 7,200RPM Caviar (WD5000AAKS), and a Fujitsu 250GB 5,400RPM notebook hard drive (MHY2250BH). I used the latest version of HD Tune (v2.55) and conducted the testing in a controlled environment, ensuring the ambient air temperature was kept at a consistent 22 degrees Celsius.
I used the following setup during testing:
ASUS P5Q Deluxe motherboard
Intel Q6600 processor (B3 stepping, stock)
Super Talent PC2-6400 4GB (2 x 2GB)
MSI RX3870-T2D512E OC videocard
Creative SoundBlaster Audigy2 ZS soundcard
Western Digital 320GB hard drive (WD3200AAKS)
Lite-On iHAS424-08 DVD burner
Lite-On iHDS118-04 optical drive
D-Link DGE-530T NIC
Silverstone SST-TJ03 enclosure (stock fans)
Silverstone FP35 media reader
Each hard drive (10,000RPM, 7,200RPM, and 5,400RPM) was benchmarked using the USB 2.0 interface first then re-tested using the much higher bandwidth specification offered by e-SATA.
Thermaltake BlackX ST0005U – USB 2.0 Benchmark
|Hard Drive||Minimum||Maximum||Average||Access Time||Burst Rate|
|Western Digital 74GB (10,000RPM)||32.4 MB/s||32.7 MB/s||33.5 MB/s||8.3 ms||26.8 MB/s|
|Western Digital 500GB (7,200RPM)||29.8 MB/s||32.4 MB/s||33.0 MB/s||13.6 ms||26.2 MB/s|
|24.0 MB/s||32.3 MB/s||28.6 MB/s||18.4 ms||26.0 MB/s|
Thermaltake BlackX ST0005U – eSATA Benchmark
|Hard Drive||Minimum||Maximum||Average||Access Time||Burst Rate|
|Western Digital 74GB (10,000RPM)||50.0 MB/s||68.6 MB/s||62.1 MB/s||8.5 ms||101.7 MB/s|
|Western Digital 500GB (7,200RPM)||43.1 MB/s||80.7 MB/s||69.3 MB/s||13.6 ms||79.7 MB/s|
|24.6 MB/s||52.9 MB/s||41.5 MB/s||18.1 ms||82.6 MB/s|
The test results are right on the mark. USB connectivity showed that the hard drives performed on par with each other regardless of spindle speed. This is due to the lack of bandwidth that USB offers, as all three hard drives handily saturated the bandwidth offered to them. Suffice to say, spindle speed and hard drive capacity make no difference in overall performance if the data interface is easily (over)saturated.
Utilizing e-SATA connectivity, however, the results are much different. As expected, spindle speed and capacity does play a part in the performance of each hard drive as the bandwidth offered by e-SATA is nearly six times that of USB 2.0. This decisive difference in performance is clearly seen in the benchmark results.
As expected, the Western Digital 10,000RPM 74GB Raptor did well across the board versus the other two hard drives I tested on the ST0005U, with the Western Digital 7,200RPM 500GB Caviar bringing up a close second. Trailing behind both was the Fujitsu 2.5” 5,400RPM 250GB notebook hard drive. With the test results in and the data analyzed, the BlackX ST0005U appears to scale in line with other similarly marketed products.
We live in an age where our digital life must always be at arms reach away. As consumers desire to store ever more information on storage devices, the capacities of these devices are increasing at a rapid pace. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that manufacturers were scrambling to release hard drive docks capable of accessing 1TB hard drives!
In light of this, Thermaltake has seen fit to introduce their new BlackX ST0005U hard drive dock. This new dock is capable of accessing 2TB hard drives via the e-SATA or USB 2.0 specification. This effectively bridges the gap between two worlds where upgradeability is concerned, and the ST0005U has proven to be a highly effective product in that regard.
Criticisms of the ST0005U are very few. I was not keen on the amount of play that 2.5” hard drives experienced when installed in the ST0005U. Experiencing excessive play in a dock can result in damaging the delicate SATA connectors inside the unit and on the hard drive if care is not used.
Overall, I came away impressed with the BlackX ST0005U. While a bit on the expensive side, in return you get a quality made product with a terrific accessory bundle, a solid feature set, and the capability to access hard drives up to 2TB in capacity.
- Excellent features; well thought out
- Extremely smooth ejection system
- Durable construction; well built and solid
- Accessory bundle is great; documentation is good
- 2.5” hard drives not held securely in dock
- A bit on the expensive side