Cirago CDD2000 USB 3.0 SATA Docking Station
While we have examined a number of devices to allow you to attach external hard drives to your computer, this is the first one we’ve examined that uses the new higher speed USB 3.01 interface. Supporting both 2.5” and 3.5” SATA2 hard drives, the Cirago CDD2000 USB 3.0 SATA Docking Station from Cirago International Ltd (http://www.cirago.com/) provides a maximum data transfer rate of 5 Gbits/second. Note that while it is designed for use with USB 3, it is backward compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1 interfaces.
While the data transfer speed of USB 3 is nominally ten times that of USB 2, it is incorrect to assume that USB 3 devices will be able to transfer the same files in a tenth of the time. This is due to a variety of reasons, including significantly more overhead than USB 2. Exactly how much faster it effectively will be depends on a number of factors, including the type of files, the sizes of the individual files, the implementation of the interface (on both the computer and device sides), and the speed of the computer. In a simple quick-and-dirty test I tried copying 12.7 Gbytes of data from a SATA drive in the CDD2000 to various systems using different interfaces. The USB 2.0 required 20:01 minutes to transfer the data while is only took 12:18 minutes with an integrated USB 3 port and 13:05 minutes with a USB 3 ExpressCard3 interface.
While the casing is plastic, it appears to be very well manufactured and has a solid feel to it. Unlike a number docking stations from other manufacturers, this unit is designed with a vertical access slot with the drive held in place by gravity, so you don’t have to worry about the drive wiggling lose over time due to vibration. As the unit does not come with any type of spacer, I was somewhat concerned about how secure a 2.5” drive would be when inserted into the Docking Station, but I experienced no difficulties with the unit. A foam or cardboard brace could be constructed for it, but that might interfere with the convective cooling of the drive. The positioning of the SATA connector in the unit is such to allow insertion of drives equipped with a protective plate over the drive electronics so you don’t have to pull the plate to access the data.
In addition to the docking station, the package for this unit includes a power adapter, a USB 3 cable, and a user manual. While the manual for the unit is brief, it does contain all the information required to configure a new SATA drive or access a pre-configured one. When used with a USB 2.0 or 1.1 interface, a standard USB cable can be used in place of the included 3.0 cable. Suggested retail price of this unit is $49.99.
1. USB 3.0 - Wikipedia. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_3.0>
2. Serial ATA - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA>
3. Official Home Page for ExpressCard Technology from PCMCIA. ExpressCard at <http://www.expresscard.org/web/site/>
John Joyce is a laboratory informatics specialist based in Richmond, VA. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.