So after taking a quick look at the parts and accessories included in the package, it was time to examine the enclosure itself. On the backside of the enclosure were a power switch, two Firewire ports, a USB port, and a DC power port. Through the use of two Firewire ports, the possibility to daisy chain up to three of these drives together by plugging one drive enclosure directly into the next drive is provided. We won’t be testing this feature however since we only have one enclosure available today. On the front of the drive, there were five LED’s for indicating power status and drive load. These LEDs are blue and red.
After looking at all the parts and accessories, we started examining the enclosure itself. The body of the enclosure was constructed entirely out of plastic, which was rather disappointing. The quality of the plastic was a bit questionable since it was thin and easily could bend without much force. Normally we wouldn’t mention how to take apart the enclosure but on this particular enclosure, it's probably worth mentioning. First, we unscrewed the two small screws that were located in the base of the two feet of the enclosure. This allowed us the removed the feet. That was pretty simple, but the hard part was yet to come. After the feet were removed we were left wondering how exactly this thing opened. Did it slide open? We tried sliding it in all four directions but none had worked. Then we tried prying it open but the latches wouldn’t release and we were afraid of damaging the flimsy plastic casing. After a little bit of work, we just decided to give it a good hard pull. There was a big snapping sound when it came apart. We thought something had been damaged, but luckily, everything was fine. Inside the enclosure, we found a small 40mm fan and the external IDE interface board. Air flow is critical in external drives so the 40mm fan was a good idea, but we were a bit skeptical of its effectiveness in real world usage. It would be interesting to see Ultra Products implement some additional cooling capabilities, such as implementing Heatlane technology to help in dissipating the heat away from the drive while not adding any noise. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be much shock protection to prevent the hard drive from being jarred when transporting.
After we had the drive enclosure opened up, the installation of the drive was pretty standard. We simply had to attach the drive to the plastic supports and then connect the power and IDE cables to the drive. After that was done, we popped the cover back on and reattached the feet and everything was done. The drive we had installed inside of the Ultra Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure 3.5" was a Maxtor 7200RPM 160GB IDE hard drive. Our testbed in this instance was comprised of 1GB RAM, Athlon XP 2600+, and Abit NF7-S Revision 2 motherboard. Loaded on this system was FedoraCore3 with the 2.6.10-1.770 Linux kernel.
Although no support is stated on the Ultra Products website regarding Linux OS compatibility, we had no problems getting the drive to be automatically detected and running. To test the performance, we used the hdparm function (hdparm -t /dev/sdc) that indicates the speed of the drive with sustained sequential data reads under Linux. For accurate measurements when the Ultra Products drive enclosure was connected, we ran this benchmark three times. The USB2.0 hdparm benchmarks revealed 23.73, 23.69, and 23.70 MB/s. Although the average was only 23.71MB/s for USB, when we had tested the Firewire capabilities we experienced slightly higher rates in the area of 26-27MB/s.
This drive enclosure was not bad, but wasn't the best compared to other drive enclosures we've seen from Thermaltake, ByteCC, and CoolMax. The casing itself could be improved greatly if it were constructed out of metal instead of a cheaper plastic. At $59.99, this drive enclosure isn't cheap and there are better solutions available at much more reasonable prices. Although we didn't experience any heat related issues with this enclosure in our testing, we still would appreciate some additional cooling safeguards implemented, such as Heatlane technology. Ultra Products does offer a 2.5" drive enclosure version for only $29.99. Overall, the Ultra Products Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure 3.5" (ULT31310) is a reasonable external drive enclosure for use as a secondary drive.
· Fast performance
· USB and Firewire support
· Linux compatible
· LED status
· Daisy Chain capability
· Poor construction
· Somewhat expensive (~ $59.99)
· Not bootable
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Phoronix Product Rating: 7 / 10