The race to USB 3.0 has been fast and furious. When GIGABYTE and ASUS launched their revised P55 motherboards that supported the new SuperSpeed USB 3.0 protocol, it was like dropping the green flag at the 500 Mile Race. Since then everyone has been quickly gathering the needed personnel and equipment to get their own USB 3.0 device on store shelves. CES proved that the race was far from over and that a leader has yet to be crowned. At the show we saw more prototypes than retail ready products. Buffalo Technology picked up an early lead when they launched their DriveStation HD-HXU3 in Japan with other markets seeing availability soon after, but 500 miles is a long way to go.
Enthusiasts are the early adapters and most don't want a drive with their enclosure when it costs over 300 USD. These users already have piles of hard drives and see little need for an all-in-one solution. Toaster products like the Sharkoon QuickPort USB 3.0 are nice for product reviewers and those that never need to travel with a high speed data device, but the system lacks portability and is a high security risk for bleeding edge business users. What the world needs is an external USB 3.0 enclosure that is durable, has a low cost of ownership and is portable.
Just before CES we were made aware of an incoming package from Vantec. Instead of bogging us down with a sit down meeting where we could go over performance graphs, pie charts and a bunch of nonsense that you guys wouldn't want to read even if you were stuck at your in-laws all weekend, Vantec has done us all a favor and just shipped over their latest products. In our package we received a PCIe USB 3.0 controller card (PN: UGT-PC302) and the latest prototype of the soon to be released NexStar 3 SuperSpeed (PN: NST-280S3-BK).
The USB 3.0 PCIe Host Controller is a two port device that is so small that it may just fit GIGABYTE's X58A-UD7 with the massive heat sink installed. This card uses a single PCIe lane and uses the NEC USB 3.0 controller that is the standard for USB 3.0 connectivity at this time. The Vantec host card is already on the shelves at Newegg and other retail / e-tail locations.
The Vantec NexStar 3 SuperSpeed appears more like a retail unit than a prototype. The only thing that gives it away is the white box that it was shipped in. Everything inside of the box appears to be ready to go, so I don't think we will have to wait too long for retail availability. The NexStar 3 SuperSpeed is even listed on Vantec's website, but a Coming Soon label is also listed.
Let's take a look at Vantec's USB 3.0 solutions.