In a time when much of the world is influenced so heavily by the West, it is nice to see some Eastern culture added back into the mix - this time, to do with technology!
IN WIN is quite well known throughout the world for producing a large range of good quality computer cases and power supplies, but now the Taiwanese company is branching out and trying its hand at some new products. Its retail brand, called IN WIN Style, has released its first hard disk drive enclosure, simply called "Na" - it is pronounced "Nar" in English.
In Chinese, the word "Na" means to contain something; rather fitting you might agree for a hard drive enclosure. Instead of just producing a plain Jane type enclosure like the hundreds out there already on the market, the folks over at IN WIN went out and designed a very tasteful product with plenty of Eastern culture blended into it - and a lot of style!
At first glance, it looks nothing like a HDD enclosure, more like a fancy piece of pottery or something you would display in a glass cabinet in your lounge room for all to see. But on closer inspection, things start to make sense.
Stay with us as we take a close look at the IN WIN Na and its performance, then establish whether or not it would make a good Christmas or holiday gift for your mother, girlfriend or whomever you believe this product would suit. Let's get started.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
We start things off by first looking at the specifications of the IN WIN Na.
The majority of the Na is made of white Apple-like style color plastic with a porcelain plate on top. As far as interfaces go, it supports USB 1.1 (up to 12Mbps) and USB 2.0 (up to 480Mbps) as well as eSATA. It officially supports 3.5-inch SATA and SATA II hard disk drives up to 1TB, but it should also support the new Seagate 1.5TB drive (and others in the future), too.
It comes with a great power supply that will work all over the world from 100 to 240 volts - the sign of a cheap product is a cheap power supply with only 120 volts or 230 volts, but here IN WIN passes with flying colors. The product will work in Windows 2000, XP and Vista - no word on Mac or Linux and we were unable to test those operating systems.
As far as size goes, it measures in at 131mm (width) x 201mm (length) x 70mm (height). Naturally being a 3.5-inch caddie enclosure, it is about the same length as most other enclosures, but the height is where things change and it is over double the height of most others on the market - not that it should really be a problem.
As far as availability goes, it is still a new product, and it is not quite ready to buy just yet - hence, we also don't have any retail prices yet. It comes with a three year warranty in case something goes wrong.
Now we've finished looking at the specifications, we get one step closer to actually seeing the device. First, though, let's rip open the packaging of our review sample and see how well it's been packed and what is inside the box.
IN WIN's Na comes packed nice and safely as well as neatly inside a stylish box containing all the bits and pieces. As you can see in the picture above, even the box is all about style - plenty of detail has gone into this product, that's for sure.
In the shot above, once we've broken the Eastern style Chinese sticker seal, we get our first look inside the box.
Moving on, all of the parts inside the box have been laid out, so you can see exactly what comes with the Na. From left to right, we have the AC power adapter and then the porcelain plate and basic manual on setting everything up.
Inside the plastic is a short eSATA and USB cable. We would have liked to see 1m length cables, these are only about half that - while good for notebook use, with desktop PCs the cables are too short. Also inside the plastic is the seven screws, which is all that's needed to fully setup the Na.
Now let's move on and take a close look at the Na enclosure itself.
IN WIN Na Enclosure
Now is when the fun begins - let's get an up-close look at the IN WIN Na and what exactly makes it special and very unique in its own cultural way.
IN WIN's Na enclosure is really and honestly almost like a piece of art. Compared to the drab and boring HDD enclosures I have kicking around here, the Na really does stand out and offers something totally unique.
Said to be inspired by traditional Chinese art and culture, the Na includes a hand-made porcelain plate with "Na" written in Chinese and labeled in the center. This plate isn't attached solid to the enclosure and can be removed when the enclosure is on the move. It's ideal to store some items on it such as a mobile phone and pens, but also looks great left empty.
Moving to the front of the Na, we see just the power button and that is it. No other switches or LEDs, which would look out of place on a product like this. There is a white LED inside the unit, which indicates power to the unit, but that light cannot be seen through the solid plastic - and that kind of begs the question, why is there even an LED there, when it cannot be seen from the outside? In future products, it would be nice to see IN WIN possibly have a clear piece of plastic for the power LED and maybe also activity lights to see what is going on when the drive is in action. Besides that, though, simplicity and style rule here.
Moving to the base of the Na, we get our first look at the cooling fan, or at least the air vents for it. There are also four plastic feet, which help keep the thing flat and balanced on your desk. Speaking of the fan, it is powered by an automatic temperature sensor and only begins spinning once the inside of the enclosure reaches a certain temperature - and when it does begin spinning, it is pretty much silent and inaudible over the idle operation of the hard drive. Yep, it's that quiet.
Now we move onto the interface connectors and this little compartment is hidden on the back of the unit, opposite side to the fan, as you can see in the picture above this one. From left to right is the power connector, eSATA and then USB 2.0 / 1.1.
Once you've plugged in the cables, just pop the cover back on and turn the drive over and as you can see in the picture above, the cables very neatly run through a small hole on the back of the enclosure. Remember I was talking about that attention to detail before - right here is more of it. The only issue I had with the cables is that plugging in the eSATA cable is a little bit of a pain - the connector on the enclosure needs to be raised by a few millimeters, which will enable it to plug straight in, instead of the eSATA cable basically touching the surface of the enclosure.
Once we move the plate out of the way, we get our first look inside the enclosure. The dark plastic part is able to be removed from the white plastic base and it includes a very handy black handle, which allows you to carry it around in or outside of the complete enclosure.
The first step to beginning installation is firstly unscrewing the three black screws. These hold the HDD tray in place, as you can see in the picture above, then it is just a case of lifting it out.
With the HDD tray turned upside down, you end up with the above. A 3.5-inch hard disk drive slides into the bottom compartment - the SATA data and power plugs are at the other end, as you can see in this picture below. The hard drive clicks into place with the connectors and without any fuss.
Another nice feature of the Na is the included noise dampening plastic screw plugs, which reduces the amount of vibration produced by the HDD.
Below we get a look at the hard drive installed inside the Na and also the power button and white LED. You also get a good look at the cooling fan, which does a good job at keeping the drive cool. With the way the fan is positioned, a small amount of air is pushed under the drive in the direction of the front of the enclosure. Even a small amount of air flow is enough to keep most drives happy.
For reference, during load read tests in HD Tune Pro, we measured our Seagate 7200.11 640GB SATA II drive hit a maximum working temperature of 36 degrees Celsius over about a half an hour period, which is not bad at all. That was with the drive fully installed and with the fancy plate sitting on top.
The hard disk drive is secured to the tray with four standard screws. Simply place the tray back inside the white plastic part of the enclosure and secure it with three screws and then you're good to go. Installation is a complete breeze and only took a couple minutes to complete.
Okay, so we know the drive looks good, but how does it perform? Read on and find out!
Now comes to the important part - working out the performance of the IN WIN Na.
We decided to test the Na against a cheap eSATA and USB 2.0 controller from DigiFusion, which I picked up at the local computer markets in Taipei. We tested not only eSATA performance, but also USB 2.0 for those without eSATA capability.
We also plugged the same Seagate 7200.11 640GB 7,200 RPM SATA II hard drive used in the HDD enclosures directly on the motherboard to see if there is any performance penalty using eSATA over regular SATA.
The test system used was a fairly modern system consisting of an MSI X48 Platinum motherboard, Intel QX9450 quad-core processor @ 3.2GHz, 4GB of DDR3 memory on Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1 with all the latest updates and drivers. The controller used for all testing was the onboard Intel ICH9R Southbridge.
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com/>
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
- Benchmark: measures the performance
- Info: shows detailed information
- Health: checks the health status by using SMART
- Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
- Temperature display
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
- Average Read Speeds
Our first test looks at average read speeds and as you can see, there is virtually hardly any difference between either the Na or DigiFusion enclosure. And so far there doesn't seem to be any speed penalty by using eSATA.
USB 2.0 performance is very good - it pretty much maxing out what USB 2.0 is capable of in the real-world.
- Average Write Speeds
When it comes to average write speeds, we see the same story as we did with the read tests. No benchmark tests are ever completely useless and here even though the results are all identical, it does tell us that the IN WIN Na is perfect at delivering fast speeds over eSATA - just the same, as if the drive were connected internally in your desktop.
- Burst Speeds
The final test for this review is about burst speeds and here is where the results mix up. Oddly enough and even after testing each configuration several times for error and consistency, we can see that the IN WIN Na enclosure in eSATA mode actually offers the best burst speed.
After receiving the Na hard disk drive enclosure review sample from IN WIN, I was a little skeptical. What had they sent me? What do they think I am? Chinese or something?
Just kidding there, but seriously, after only a short time, the thing grew on me and I really started liking it. My Taiwanese girlfriend even had to look twice at it vaguely and ask what it was and why was it sitting on my computer desk. That, if anything, is a very good indication of the style and dedication that has gone into making the Na something rather cool.
Installation is a breeze and after just seven screws and about two minutes of setting up, you're in action. From top to bottom, it's clear to see that a lot of thought has gone into creating the Na, with loads of attention to detail in everything from the packaging right through to the smart placement of the cooling fan.
It should be noted that we had issues getting the Na and some other eSATA enclosures in our lab working on an MSI X48 motherboard through the rear I/O panel eSATA ports. While not directly a fault of IN WIN, but nevertheless, they are checking into it and are considering bundling in an eSATA PCI slot bracket, in case this type of problem becomes more common. eSATA is great when it works, but sometimes it can be a downright pain in the backside.
Visuals aside, performance is also good and at times, in eSATA mode, it even surpasses the performance of our Seagate test drive installed internally via regular SATA - as strange as that might be, we know. USB 2.0 performance is as to be expected, much slower than eSATA, but at the same time, it is pretty much completely saturating the maximum real-world bandwidth available.
We still have no details on pricing or availability at this stage, but as long as the asking price is not too crazy, IN WIN is on a winner here and should sell plenty over this upcoming holiday season. It will make the perfect gift, especially combined with either a 500GB or 640GB hard drive, which have hit great price points.
It gets our thumbs up and I'll be making plenty of use of the Na!
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