Sunbeamtech Air Box USB 3.0 External HDD Enclosure Review

Storage/Other by leeghoofd @ 2010-06-29

It took a while for the external enclosure manufacturers to catch up with the motherboard makers. USB 3.0 however was introduced a while ago. Sadly at CeBIT 2010, we saw mainly prototypes, meaning they were not production ready. Sunbeamtech was the first specialist to send us a full blown USB3.0 3.5inch external enclosure branded under the Airbox name. External data backup via USB has always been painfully slow, surely compared to the more expensive Firewire and eSATA solutions. Will this USB3.0 external solution be able to close the gap ? Let us see if we can stuff it with precious data at blistering speeds.

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Test Setup and Performance Results

Test Setup

Time to put the Enclosure to the test. Motherboard of preference was an Asus Rampage Extreme III. Powered by an Intel I7 i950 and 6Gb of Corsair Rams. The USB 3.0 ports being steered by the onboard NEC 720200F1 chip (as used on most motherboards ). Comparison was made between the Sunbeamtech enclosure hooked up to the USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports. Last test was when we attached the Western Digital 1.5Tb drive straight to the internal Intel ICH 10 SATA controller.

Leeghoofd's Test Setup
CPUIntel I7 i950
Cooling Corsair H50
MainboardAsus Rampage Extreme III 0704 bios
Memory6Gb Corsair PC12800 Dominators at 1600mh 8-8-8-24
PSU OCZ ModStream 700W
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  • The Intel I7 i950 CPU was run at stock speeds : 3060Mhz with 3200Mhz NB speeds. Rams run at 16000mhz C8-8-8-24 1T
  • Hard drive used in the enclosure was a S-ATA Western Digital 1.5Tb Caviar Green (64MB Cache)
  • Operating system is Windows 7 Professional 64bit, Videocard driver for the GTX 285 is the WHQL 179.45 64bit version

    Performance Tests

    HDtune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), and securely erase all data and much more.

    Madshrimps (c)

    USB 3.0 isn't only brilliant on paper, it performs alike. USB 2.0 is better put to rest. Let's hope the new standard will be 2 x USB 2.0 ports and the rest all USB 3.0. The Sunbeamtech Airbox allowing blistering speeds up to ICH 10 standards. Only the Burst rate is a little bit inferior.

    Madshrimps (c)

    PCMark05 got its own separate HD suite benchmark. Testing a wide variety of factors to determine the performance of your hardware setup. Similar picture here, though the numbers don't look as impressive as with HDtune. Yet in the File write test and Virus scan USB 2.0 is completed obliterated. Sunbeamtech's USB 3.0 solution again able to compete with the same Drive attached up to the ICH.

    Madshrimps (c)

    All these numbers look astonishing. But does it allow the end user to gain massive time when leeching or stuffing his external hard drive with LAN Party goodies ? We simulated copying a various number of small rar files, bigger VOB and ISO files. Just like you would do in real life. Total amount of data to be moved was 33.5GB. Write get's a nice gain , but look at them Read speeds. More than two times as fast.

    Madshrimps (c)

    Megabytes per second are nice, but let's take a look how long it took to shift all the data. Read again being the most impressive. With almost 11 mins gain when transferring the files from the external enclosure to the PC's HD. It took just over 17 mins to get the files Read with USB2.0. Write gains over 7 minutes compared to the USB2.0 25 minutes copy time.

    Since the Airbox got an 8CM FAN build in time to see how big its effect is on HD operating temps.

    Madshrimps (c)

    We unhooked the FAN connectors and put a thermal sensor on the Western Digital Hard drive. Temps being monitored via Asus' Probe. After an hour of HD stressing we saw a 7°C difference, which is very nice. Conclusion: The little 8cm fan is very effective to keep your mechanical drive in safer operating temperatures.

    Madshrimps (c)
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