I will be testing the Duet using both eSATA and USB connectivity on my main system, consisting of the following hardware:
Intel Q9650 Quad Core
ASUS P5Q-E Motherboard
2x OCZ Vertex SSDs in RAID0
4 GB DDR2
Windows XP Professional SP3
First up, we will have a look at eSATA.
All benchmark tests were run on a Hitachi Deskstar 500 GB, 3.0 Gb/s 7200 RPM drive. I will be using SiSoft Sandra Lite 2009 SP4's Physical Disks benchmark and HD Tune 2.55.
SiSoft Sandra reports back a drive index of 78.71 MB/s with a random access time of 19.26 ms. These numbers are spot-on for this drive. Next up is HD Tune.
Numbers here are very consistent with Sandra, showing 79.0 MB/s average with an access time of 18.5 ms. eSATA is certainly a welcomed addition on the BlacX dock.
Just for fun, I decided to test the dock using USB as well, since not everyone will have eSATA connectivity on their computer.
33 MB/s and an access time of 17.5 are in line for USB.
Again the numbers tell the story as we see the drive bottlenecking around 33 MB/s, the USB transfer speed limit.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The biggest improvement Thermaltake could have made with the BlacX series is the inclusion of eSATA connectivity which we finally have in the Duet. This feature alone will no doubt make the dock more attractive to many users, myself included. For those that still do not have eSATA capabilities, you can still use the Duet with USB 2.0 but of course transfer speeds will be much slower. Cables for both connectivity methods are included, although cable length may be a little short for users who keep their systems on the floor below their desk and also, the eSATA cable is very stiff.
Thermaltake took things one step further by including a second SATA slot on the dock so you can access and use two drives simultaneously. The overall style and look of the Duet hasn't changed much from the original which looked good in its own right. The dock is easy to use and the blue LED power / activity lights aren't overly bright / blinding.
As much as we like the Duet, there are a few things you should be aware of regarding eSATA and using two drives at the same time. First, I was unable to get the Duet to be hot-swappable when using a single drive in eSATA, even when doing a disk rescan / refresh in Disk Management. In order for my system to recognize a drive when using eSATA, I had to reboot my system and then it would show up. Thermaltake lists the dock as hot-swappable, but they never specify what connection method they are referring to (eSATA or USB). For the record, the dock is hot-swappable when using USB.
When utilizing the eSATA interface, Port Multiplier feature is required on the host systemís eSATA controller for two hard disk drives to be seen at the same time. Unfortunately my ASUS P5Q-E, which uses the ICH10 SATA chipset, does not support this feature, so I was unable to get the BlacX to recognize two drives when using eSATA. All USB supports Port Multiplier function, however, so I was able to get my system to see / use two drives when using USB connectivity.
As of writing, the Thermaltake BlacX Duet can be found for around $45 online which is a pretty fair price. If you only require a single SATA port / your system doesn't support eSATA Port Multiplier, you can pick up a single port BlacX for around $35.
OCIA.net has awarded the Thermaltake BlacX Duet our Gold Seal of Approval!