Sabrent External Aluminum Drive Enclosure

📅 November 12, 2014

case08Spare hard drives can accumulate over time as they are replaced with better, faster drives, so why not put them to use as external drives using an external USB enclosure?

Linux has excellent USB 3.0 support, and with it, external USB 3.0 SATA drives can enjoy the same speedy transfer rates as they do when connected directly to the motherboard.

The choice of case is important, and one Linux-compatible case I am pleased with is the Sabrent USB 3.0 hard drive enclosure. This sleek, brushed aluminum case is available in three different colors, and it breathes new life into a spare 2.5″ hard drive. After installation, the drive can be used like any other external USB drive, and since it utilizes USB 3.0, transfer rates are as fast as the hard drive will allow.

Here are my thoughts after using this enclosure with a 320 GB Seagate 2.5″ hard drive and Linux Mint 17.

 

Packaging

Red, blue, and gold variants are available. I have the red version, model EC-ALRD.

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Front of box.

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Back of box. Even though Linux is mentioned nowhere on the box, rest assured that this drive enclosure plays well with Linux. It is also plug-and-play compatible. You do not need to turn your computer on and off before usage. Simply mount and unmount the drive like any other external drive.

The case is packaged in a plastic bag to avoid scratching during shipment.

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Box lid opened to show the enclosure tucked inside neatly.

Everything you need for assembly is included. Contents include the case itself, a leather carry pouch, a USB 3.0 cable, four screws, and an extremely cheap-quality mini-screwdriver.

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Box includes what is shown here. The leather carry pouch is made of thin leather that has other uses. I recommend using a real screwdriver instead of the one included.

 

Construction

The case is all aluminum. No plastic. Neither are there any moving parts, hinges, or extra pieces that could break off. It measures 123mm L x 73mm W x 13mm H, making this one of the smallest external drive enclosures I have ever used. It is slightly longer than a 2.5″ drive, so it is perfect for tucking away in a shirt pocket.

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Bottom of Sabrent enclosure. Four screws located at the corners secure the case. All around, the case exudes a sleek, brushed aluminum finish.

The lid fastens together using four screws. However, the case is a simple case. Do not expect water-proof and shock resistance from drops. With a hard drive installed, treat the case with care. The durability is nowhere near the toughness of the Silicon Power A80 external hard drive.

Power

Power is obtained from the USB port (either USB 2 or USB 3.0). There is no need for an external power supply.

What Kind of Hard Drive?

Any 2.5″ drive should fit, including solid state drives. The Sabrent enclosure accepts 2.5″ notebook hard drives up to 9mm in height. I am using a 320 GB Seagate Momentus drive, and it fits with a little room to spare between the top of the drive and the lid. I added some anti-static packing cushion to act as a shock absorbent for the drive I used. Thinner 7mm drives might need extra padding to avoid rattling.

The interface is standard SATA, so only 2.5″ SATA drives will fit. Older IDE drives will not work.

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Case shown with a 320 GB Seagate Momentus 5400 RPM 2.5″ drive installed. The interface is standard SATA, so plug and play!

Installation

Installation is simple. Simply plug the drive into the SATA interface, screw the lid on, and it is ready for action!

Benchmarks

How fast is it? Even though the case is advertised as USB 3.0, it is also USB 2.0 compatible.

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One mini USB 3.0 port is the only port located on the case. A USB 3.0 cable is supplied, and it is compatible with both USB 2 and USB 3.0.

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A blue LED illuminates when connected to a USB port. Here, the drive is connected to a Linux Mint 17 computer via the USB 3.0 port.

Here are benchmarks using the Disks benchmarking test (with default settings) in Linux Mint 17. The hard drive is a 320 GB Seagate Momentus 5400 RPM 2.5″ drive in the Sabrent case, and I performed the test with USB 3.0 and USB 2 ports located on the same computer.

Benchmark Results for USB 3 and USB 2
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  Read: 58.3 MB/s (USB 3.0)
 Write: 45.2 MB/s (USB 3.0)
  Read: 27.5 MB/s (USB 2)
 Write: 21.1 MB/s (USB 2)

 USB 3.0

  Read: 58.3 MB/s (USB 3.0)
 Write: 45.2 MB/s (USB 3.0)

Linux Mint 17 Disks Benchmark. The two low spikes are due to the old 320 GB Seagate drive, not the Sabrent case, because only this drive would produce these results. Other drives functioned fine.

Linux Mint 17 Disks Benchmark. The two low spikes are due to the old 320 GB Seagate drive, not the Sabrent case, because only this drive would produce these results. Other drives functioned fine.

USB 2

  Read: 27.5 MB/s (USB 2)
 Write: 21.1 MB/s (USB 2)
USB 2 is slower. This shows that the USB port matters when connecting the drive and that drive speed is the limiting factor for transfer rates, not the Sabrent SATA-to-USB interface found inside the case.

USB 2 is slower. This shows that the USB port matters when connecting the drive and that drive speed is the limiting factor for transfer rates, not the Sabrent SATA-to-USB interface found inside the case.

Ports make a difference!

USB 3.0 is faster than USB 2, and with USB 3.0, you will be limited to the speed of the drive itself. With USB 3.0, read and write speeds are over twice as fast than the speeds possible when connected to USB 2. Even these speeds are low, but remember, the hard drive used in this test is an older 5400 RPM notebook hard drive. It was never a super-fast performer to begin with. Faster hard drives should perform faster.

Conclusion

I chose this case for three reasons: Slim size, metal construction, and USB 3.0. The result? A winner! The Sabrent enclosure has not let me down, and it continues to perform well after several months of usage, carrying it around, and connecting it to various Linux computers. It is 100% compatible with Linux, and it offers fast USB 3.0 performance.

Even though I focused on Linux Mint 17 in this article, it also works with Xubuntu, Ubuntu, and Windows. As long as the drive is formatted with a filesystem that the operating system can read, it will work.

While not as durable as other external drives on the market, this is a worthwhile, inexpensive enclosure that offers excellent speed for drives that might be collecting dust.

…and the brushed aluminum finish looks good!

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