NexStar CX Enclosure with Western Digital 2-TB hard drive

New WD20EARS 2-terabyte HD and NexStar CX Enclosure

NexStar CX Enclosure with Western Digital 2-TB hard drive

Purolator just dropped off my new system back-up gear!

In the package was a new Western Digital WD20EARS Advanced Format 2-terabyte hard drive and a Vantec NexStar CX USB/e-SATA external drive enclosure…

Update 2011-04-23: Having problems with hot swapping and the CX enclosure?   See the “Important notes” section below.

The Case
The NexStar CX kit comes with an aluminum case with vertical stand, USB and e-SATA cables, screws, power adapter and an e-SATA rear plate with cable.

My Asus P5W DH Deluxe has an onboard e-SATA port so the rear plate wasn’t necessary in my case.  But it’s good to see that Vantec made sure you have everything you might need for an installation.

The CX case doesn’t have any active cooling.  The case is made out of aluminum which acts as a heat sink so during operation, you’re going to want to give the CX some room to breathe.   Vantec included a vertical stand for the case which can help maximize air flow around it.

I’ve noticed that people have taken a mark off their ratings due to the heat issue, but I think some of them don’t realize that the case is supposed to act as passive cooling so naturally it gets very warm.   I agree that a fan would have been nice but including it would be at the expensive of size, noise and power requirements.

The case design is extremely simple and clean.  It’s not exciting but that’s what I like about it.   The case has a matte, slightly rough finish which helps in hiding finger prints— not completely though.  You’ll have to wipe the case down every so often if you handle it frequently.

The back of the CX sports (left to right) a power button, power adapter jack, a USB 2.0 port and the e-SATA port.

The photo on the left shows the drive tray extended with the LED cable detached.   The hard drive is connected directly to the circuit board via the SATA interface (middle photo) with no cabling.

When installing the drive, it’s best to screw the drive to the tray loosely at first.   The screw holes on the tray are elongated so the drive can be  loosely secured onto the tray and then slid into the SATA connector on the circuit board before being firmly screwed to the tray.

Flip the trap right side up, then push the drive into the  SATA connector on the circuit board until it’s firmly inserted and finally tighten the screws.

When connecting the LED cable, there’s nothing on the circuit board or in the instructions that indicates which way to connect the cable.    The LED cable has a 3-wire connector but only two wires connected to it.

I studied the photo in the instruction leaflet carefully and deduced that the LED cable has to be plugged in such that the red wire is positioned on the pin that’s closest to the case interior.

And finally, when sliding the tray into the casing,  you have to make sure that the tray’s lip is properly aligned and inserted with the grooves running down each side of the case.

Overall it was a very simple installation, and almost tool-less. You do need a small screwdriver to secure the hard drive and screw the tray’s end cap to the case.

Important Notes (Update: 2011-04-23)

A blog commenter named Patrick uncovered some useful information about the NexStar CX:

After more research, I have found that the e-sata only responds in the “green board” version if the drive in the enclosure is set to 1.5Gb/s or Sata I standard. you’ll have to pin the drive inside with a shunt to set it at Sata I because -what I gather- this version of the CX does not auto-negotiate.

So if you have purchased a NexStar CX with the green circuit board,  hot swapping will only work if the hard drive you’ve installed in the CX has been  set to SATA1 (1.5Gb/s transfer speed) mode.

The Hard Drive

I’ve already written about the “gotcha” that Western Digital’s Advanced Format hard drives have.  I.e.  Windows XP not fully compatible with 4k sector sizes.

Western Digital included this warning on the drive label:

You either install it with jumpers 7 and 8 shorted or you have to use the WD Align utility once the hard drive has been initialized and formatted.  The only problem I ran into was that Western Digital did NOT include a jumper with the WD20EARS, so I had to install it jumperless and resort to using the WD Align utility.

If you try to use the drive under Windows XP without running the Align utility on it first, drive performance suffers severely and the drive will be slow as molasses on certain kinds of write operations.

At publication time of this article, I’ve done a quick format of the WD20EARS and it’s currently undergoing a drive error check.  Once that’s completed, I’ll run the WD Align utility on it.

Overall

Set-up of the Vantec NexStar CX with the Western Digital WD20EARS 2-terabyte drive was simple and painless.   If I didn’t have to stop to take photos, the whole process would have taken me less than 10 minutes.

Once the drive’s error checking is complete and the drive has been aligned, I’ll post some drive performance figures under Windows XP.

Stay tuned…

6 thoughts on “New WD20EARS 2-terabyte HD and NexStar CX Enclosure”

  1. Hey, I actually just purchased the exact same combo you did yesterday! It definitely was a breeze to install but I’m wondering if you’ve run into problems with eSata not being recognized the second time you plug it in/turn it on. The first time it will act as if it recognizes that a “sata” hard drive has been connected and then after that I can’t get eSata to work. Stuck with sluggish USB transfer… I heard it has something to do with AHCI enabled and I need drivers for it. Let me know what you think!

    1. Hi, Curtis.

      I’m having the same problem. The drive is recognized only if the enclosure is plugged into the e-SATA port and turned on when the computer is first powered up. If I turn off the enclosure or unplug its e-SATA cable after the system is up and running, Windows XP will no longer see the drive until I reboot.

      I used a work-around to re-enable AHCI in Windows XP but in my case, that didn’t solve the problem; which isn’t to say that it won’t work for you too.

      Aside from hot swapping not working, the drive/enclosure works normally at least. I wish I could suggest something but at this point, there’s nothing else I can try other than to re-configure all my hard drives and do a fresh re-installation of Windows XP, which isn’t an option for me at the moment.

      Quite frankly, I’m stuck. :-(

  2. I have two versions of this enclosure. They look identical from the outside, but one has a Black internal circuit board (see the picture in the article) and the other had a Green internal circuit board.
    The black one says: PA-419REV0.2
    The green one says: PA-812 REV2.1

    I cannot get the enclosure with the green board to work properly in eSata mode with all sata drives I have (320 gb, 1tb, 2tb). Frequent lockups and not recognized often. However the black one works fine on any drive I have. Never had a problem with the black one.

    Anyone else with this problem?

    1. That’s odd. But at least one of your enclosures works as it should, which is more than I can say for the only CX enclosure I have.

      I believe the core of the problem is how eSATA support is implemented by motherboard and enclosure manufacturers and driver developers such as JMicron. Googling the problem reveals many inconsistencies in how such devices (fail to) function properly, even between users with similar hardware set-ups.

      The fact that one revision of the CX works for you while another one does not seems to bear this out.

      eSATA appears to work properly on your computer set-up so perhaps the Revision 2.1 CX enclosure you have is actually defective?

  3. After more research, I have found that the e-sata only responds in the “green board” version if the drive in the enclosure is set to 1.5Gb/s or Sata I standard. you’ll have to pin the drive inside with a shunt to set it at Sata I because -what I gather- this version of the CX does not auto-negotiate.

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