Thermaltake BlacX Hard Drive Docking Station

by K. Samwell on April 14, 2008 in Storage

Happen to have a few 2.5″ or 3.5″ SATA hard drives lying about that you’ve been avoiding because you don’t feel like installing them in your rig? Want a quick and easy way to hot-swap between multiple drives for a very reasonable price and have a unit that actually looks cool? The BlacX is for you.

If there is one thing that computer users never stop craving, it’s additional storage. More hard drive space, stacks of blank DVD media, multiple flash drives attached to our key chains, network drives, external enclosures… we are never satisfied. After a while, we might realize that we have too much storage, but who feels right about throwing it away, no matter how menial its density may be?

Today, I am taking a quick look at a very unique product from Thermaltake. While most external storage solutions require you to install a hard drive inside of an enclosure, the BlacX is different. Instead of dealing with the hassle of an enclosure installation (especially if you have more than one drive), the BlacX allows you to plug a bare drive straight into a dock, hence, “BlacX USB Docking Station”.

Who is this drive for? Those who regularly swap hard drives in and out of their system, and believe it or not, there are a lot of you. No one wants to keep eight hard drives installed in their rig, after all. The BlacX eases the pain by allowing you to simply hot-swap your drives as necessary.

The beauty of this, is that it is fully external, no digging around inside your machine or the device. This docking station lets you install and remove hard drives with the computer turned on and without opening the device to install your hard drive – just insert and go.

Since SATA drives are the dominant type nowadays, it’s no surprise that IDE drives are not supported. The dock also lacks e-SATA and LAN connectivity.

Here are the complete specs, as provided by Thermaltake:

  • Patented Design
  • RoHS Compliance
  • Supports All 2.5″ & 3.5″ SATA HDDs up to 1TB
  • Hot-Swap Capability for Rapid Multi HDDs Access & Exchange
  • Supports USB 2.0 Transfer Speed up to 480Mbps
  • Windows & Mac OS Compatible
  • Compact Docking Station Design maximizes Heat Dissipation & Exhaust
  • Windows Vista Ready
  • Interface: SATA to USB 2.0
  • Transfer Rate: Up to 480 Mbps (Max)
  • SATA Compatible: SATA I & II
  • HDD Compatible: All 2.5″ or 3.5″ SATA HDD up to 1TB
  • OS Compatible: Windows Vista, XP, 2003, 2000, NT, 98, 95;
  • Mac 10.3 and later
  • RoHS Compliance: Yes
  • Material: ABS Plastic
  • Power: Input: 100-240V / 50-60Hz / 1A;
  • Output: 12V / 2A
  • Dimension: (L x W x H) 5.12″ x 3.55″ x 2.56″ / 130 x 90 x 65 mm

From the below image, you can see that the connections are partially exposed, so if you were planning on not using this for a while I’d find a way to cover it to keep the dust out.

The button you see at the front is an ejection system that gently lifts your inserted drive so it can depart from the docking unit without rocking or shearing of the pins.

The oval light you see glows blue to indicate a connection is present and the right hand side of the oval turns red to show HDD activity. The back of this unit (not shown) has the usual USB and power connections plus a power on/off switch that allows you to actually power down the item when not in use.

Please bear in mind, this is not intended to be a portable device, and some reviewers have ripped on this item for that exact reason. On the contrary, I like the fact this is a good solid base (with no slip grips on the bottom!) that actually takes up very little desk space. I also quite like that this is requires absolutely no software, my machine detected it immediately and I was up and running within minutes of FedEX dropping the box off.

The price point of approximately $35US makes this an almost perfect device. My only gripe would actually be the fact it has the shortest power cord I have ever seen, not to mention the seemingly obligatory wall wart. (Why can’t these things be inline on the cord?)

Fair warning, the instruction manual is, hmm, how do I put this politely, ‘roughly translated’, but the simplistic design of the device requires little instruction.

As a final note, if you need a USB 2.0 hub, the new BlacX SE has all of the same features plus a four-port USB hub in front, but at a higher price.

I’m not going to go into transfer rates, as I’m the kind of person who doesn’t care if the drive is 2 seconds slower than it should be. Lots of computer-specific factors can come into play, though, such as how much is going on in the background and hard drive latencies. Since relies on USB 2.0, you shouldn’t expect speeds faster than 35MB/s in either direction. The price point, the concept, the functionality, and yes even the design have me sold.

I give this a 9/10. It’s almost a 10/10, but nothing is actually perfect, although this came close.

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