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.
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.
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.
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.