The Akitio SK-3501 Super S3 HDD enclosure provides a combination of cutting-edge connectivity, durability and flexibility. This well made enclosure offers a stylish, compact and simple to use design without the need for a noisy internal fan. Instead, the unit features a set of fins that run the full length of the unit to provide conventional cooling. A blue LED on the top provides visual feedback for both power and data transfers. The Super S3 is designed to accommodate the latest 3.5" SATA-I, SATA-II or SATA-III hard drives with capacities ranging from 80GB to 3TB and features high speed USB 3.0, dual FireWire 800 ports and eSATA. It is rather unusual to find all these high speed interfaces on a single HDD enclosure. The unit measures 8.75" x 4.5" x 1.5" (LxWxH) and includes cables for the USB 3.0, Firewire, and eSATA interfaces.
The Super S3 case is just large enough to hold a standard 3.5-inch hard drive and the main circuit board with the high speed interfaces and power supply. Four screws on the bottom of the unit hold the cover in place. Once removed, the outer shell slides off to expose the internal tray. The drive is held in place with another set of four screws provided in the package. For testing purposes, we installed a Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200 RPM drive (model 7200.10), which is a decent performer. SATA and power cables crisscross and attach with right angle connectors to the hard drive. Installation is easy and should take no more than a few minutes.
The back panel of the Super S3 case has all the interface connections for the unit. The input power jack mates to the universal AC power adapter (100-240VAC, 50/60 Hz) that provides 12V at 2 amps. The power switch is located right next to the power jack. Dual IEEE1394 (FireWire 800) ports are provided along with a high speed USB 3.0 port and eSATA interface. The FireWire ports can operate at 400Mbps or 800Mbps. USB 3.0 is one of the latest high speed interfaces that is capable of bandwidths as high as 5 Gbps, 10 times the speed of USB 2.0. However, in practical applications the difference in speed is much more subtle. This is an impressive set of interfaces that allows users the ultimate in flexibility.
The front of the Super S3 is simply a vented part of the enclosure allowing for some air movement. Small slots covered by a perforated metal cover facilitates thermal equilibrium for cooling. While the bottom of the unit has what looks like a heatsink, there is no good thermal path between the hard drive that generates heat and the bottom plate. In fact, an air gap exists between the two, which creates a rather high thermal resistance. The good news is the drive did not get very warm and in fact ran rather cool during our testing. Unlike other drive enclosures, the Super S3 seemed to keep the drive cool.
The Super S3 performance was tested on a Vista-based HP d5000t desktop with a Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor and 3GB of RAM. I installed a USB 3.0 PCI-Express card with an NEC chipset. Using large files to transfer data to the drive, we measured performance using both USB 2.0 (built-in) and USB 3.0 interface. Even though USB 3.0 is capable of transferring data 10 times faster than USB 2.0, other factors play into the overall performance and the difference is significantly less. The benchmark data shows the bandwidth performance of the two interfaces.
Our test files were rather large, comprising of about 6GB of data. We monitored the average transfer rate of the USB 2.0 interface and compared it to speed of USB 3.0. As it turns out, USB 2.0 clocked at about 28 MB/s and USB 3.0 ran at 50 MB/s, a significant speed increase.
The Akitio SK-3501 Super S3 HDD enclosure provides users with state-of-the-art USB 3.0 with speeds that will maximize performance. The additional eSATA and FireWire 800 ports offer flexibility not found on many other hard drive enclosures. While the Super-S3 lists for $150, it can be found for less than $100 from Amazon. The build quality is impressive and the performance near flawless. For those without USB 3.0 in their PCs, a simple PCI-Express card from Ebay can give you this high-speed capability for less than $15. We did just that and had the Akitio Super S3 running at full speed.