Purpose Built with Performance in Mind
Sabrent makes some pretty amazing products, including blazing-fast SSDs. I was excited to be covering this USB-C 3.2 4-bay dock for a lot of reasons, but before I get ahead of myself, here’s the basic intent of this product. For one, this enclosure does not support RAID. It’s important to point out because you can purchase other enclosures in this price that do have built in RAID. The DS-SC4B (which retails at $299 but can be found under $200 at times) is a traditional USB enclosure that supports 4 simultaneous drives being used.
This enclosure also lacks any networking/NAS features, as it is USB only. Again, you can purchase NAS enclosures for a similar price range to this, which has a built in processor, RAM, networking interface, and software. A single port Ethernet NAS is no where near the performance of this enclosure though, so let’s discuss why this enclosure is still a great deal.
For one, it’s nice to have a bunch of drives stored in a single, hot-swappable and tool-free enclosure. Secondly, I can use this same enclosure on all of my computers and benefit from full speed of all drives being used simultaneously. That means if I am ripping a 100GB media bin to one drive, I can be using another at the same time, while a 3rd is serving video content or copying data elsewhere. It may seem like a specific use case or a series of events that may not happen all the time. The thing is, if you are like me and don’t like don’t like lag time because hardware can’t keep up, this is your enclosure.
I love that I can treat all four of these drives as if they are internal. It’s as simple as that. If you want no limitation or impact on the usability of 4 drives (or even 5 if you buy the 5 bay!), this is your enclosure. Slower USB 3.0 bays max out at about 500 MB/sec, which is just above the speed of two fast and high capacity mechanical hard drives. USB 3.1 Gen 2 allows theoretical max speeds well above what any 4 mechanical hard drive transfer rate combo is capable of, so the interface in this box is never the limit. NAS drives are great for features, but are terrible for performance considering your max network transfer speed is only 1 gigabit per second (not byte!). 1 gigabit per second is only 125 megabytes per second, which is slower than a single drive I used for testing. There are NAS units with Link aggregation to get roughly 250 MB/sec but they cost a lot more and you need supporting networking hardware.
Going back to the DS-SC4B, instead of worrying about workload queues and when you should use each drive, use an enclosure like this and use whatever drive you want whenever you want. Because this system is a USB JBOD (just a bunch of disks) enclosure, you can use this on Windows, Mac, and Linux without needing special drivers or software. You can even format one drive for each operating system’s native format while taking advantage of the speed and convenience this enclosure offers. I love this enclosure because I can use any laptop or desktop with it and still have great performance. This saves a ton of time with production work and media creation as I do not have to transfer a project from machine to machine anymore.
Specs and Features
As far as the specs and features go, I want to point out a few things. For one, the included USB cables are short. Sabrent was kind enough to give you USB-C to USB-A, and a USB-C to USB-C cable, but they are so short the couldn’t make it to one of my 3.1 Gen 2 ports on my desktop. I had to purchase a USB 3.0 extension cord (which still works fine with 3.1 Gen 2) in order to place the enclosure where I wanted to. For laptop use, these cables are more than adequate.
Sabrent also includes a 90mm fan on the rear of the unit that pulls air in from the front and expels out the back. The fan is of if the enclosure is off or in standby. As soon as you power on any of the four drives, the fan turns on at a fixed RPM. Even with long term torture testing on all four drives, the fan speed never changed. I found the cooling to be more than adequate. Not one drive ever hit the 40C mark (which is still acceptable), with the hottest drive being a 4TB WD Black under load at 38C. The fan, while audible, is not too loud or distracting. I wish there was an ability to disable the fan on low load situations for silent operation, but it’s certainly livable. There is a main power switch on the rear of the unit (think kill switch) but each drive has its own dedicated power button up front.
When you first power on the enclosure, nothing lights up and no fans spin. If you press any of the four power buttons up front, the adjacent LED illuminates in a soft blue (not bright at all which is excellent), and the drive spins up. At the same time the rear fan will spin up as well. The initial power up is the loudest stage of the enclosure, but then it settles back down to a quiet operating level. Once the drive spins up, you will see it show up on Windows, Mac, or Linux as you would see any detachable drive (as long as it’s in a compatible format for that OS of course). When you are done using the drive, or if you are looking to hot-swap it, simply use your OS to select the drive and disconnect it. That once-blue LED will now switch to red and the drive will spin down. If no other drive is powered up, the rear fan will also shut off automatically. You can now pull the drive out and switch it with another, all without disconnecting any cables.
If you need to secure this in an office environment, Sabrent provides a Kensington slot on the rear of the enclosure. It also comes with two keys that have a triangular shape to secure the front trays. Someone determined could likely still open this, just as they could snip a Kensington cable, but the real advantage is having practical security to deter any kind of snatch and grab behavior.
I can honestly say I love this enclosure. As an AMD desktop user, the luxury of Thunderbolt is hard to come by. This is a truly exceptional product that I can finally use to store all my long-term editing content without worrying about degrading performance. If you want something well made, fast, and reliable, I cannot imagine finding anything better than this enclosure. It’s that good. If you want to purchase one for yourself, you can visit Amazon or Sabrent’s online store.
Links to buy:
Amazon: Sabrent USB 3.2 4-Bay 3.5″ SATA Hard Drive Tray-Less Docking Station (DS-SC4B)
Sabrent Online Store:https://www.sabrent.com/product/DS-SC4B/usb-3-2-4-bay-3-5-sata-hard-drive-tray-less-docking-station/