First of its kind dual eSATA RAID dock reviewed (February 7th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: HighPoint
- Drive speed unhindered by dock
- First of its kind
- Supports both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives
Modern drive docks are awfully convenient. Without taking the time or expense to case a hard drive, contents are readily accessible to the user, and with the advent of eSATA drives docks, most are hot swappable, assuming the OS allows it. Storage solution provider HighPoint has an excellent paired solution for PCI-E equipped machines -- the HighPoint RocketStor dual-channel 5322 SATA drive dock, and the newly released RocketRaid 642L PCI-E x4 expansion card. Electronista was recently given the chance to give the pair a spin.
Drive docks are in theory pretty simple. Generally speaking, they have some sort of bridge board similar to a hard drive case, easily accessible to the user to plug in drives without individual cases. The RocketStor stands out in that its the first dock to provide a pair of eSATA 6Gb/second connectors, allowing for full speeds from a RAID in the dock. We paired the dock with the RocketRaid 642L card reviewed here.
We reproduced every test we tried with the previous review of the RocketRaid 642L PCI-E SATA/eSATA card. A pair of drives in RAID 0 formatting provided very nearly four times the speed of a single drive on a native SATA 2 bus. Unexpectedly, we were able to boot our test equipment with the dock-mounted drives in Windows 7, OS 10.6, and OS 10.7 and received the same brutally fast boot results we did with the PCI-E card -- the machine booted from "cold iron" at the BIOS screen to desktop in 11 seconds. Repeating the test with OS X 10.7 was similar, with a boot from cold iron to desktop in just under 12 seconds.
As with the PCI-E card itself and the drives mounted internally, we weren't able to get the RAID bootable in OS 10.5, a different testing machine in10.8, or Windows 8. Boot capability and speed obviously depend on the host card, but the dock provided no barrier to our tests. We have contacted the manufacturer about the boot issue, and will update this review if we get more information.
We didn't experience any variances at all between internal drives and external mounted in the dock during all of our tests. The drive dock with its dual eSATA interface didn't impose any limitations on operation and is optimized for speed, unlike nearly every other drive dock we've tried. With no port-multiplying bridge board to slow things, the docked drives are not limited by factors other than the raw speed of the drive.
This all said, the need for blistering speed in a dual-drive dock is not for everyone. This is an excellent tool for server operators, who need a very quick way to archive or secure large amounts of data using high-capacity hard drives as the backup target, rather than glacially slow tape or other high-density removable media. Alternatively, the dock allows for outside possibilities such as completely securing a computer, with the boot drive stored in a central location and installed by the user in the dock when needed.
If Apple's engineers were tasked to made a dock considering every factor and engineering against every possibility, this would be it. Our only gripe with this dock is the price. At $120, it isn't cheap. Our normal complaints with docks: cheap plastic, flimsy connectors, weak power supplies, slower than expected data transfer -- all just aren't an issue with this dock. If you're just looking for a dock for rudimentary home operations and periodic backup, this is probably not it -- if this is the case, you should personally subtract a star and a half from our rating on the price alone. The RocketStor 5311 is a no-compromises device (with a price to match) that if you need it, you need it, and no other solution will do.