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Thermaltake MAX 5G 3.5-inch USB 3.0 External HDD Enclosure Review

Thermaltake has the fastest USB 3.0 enclosure we've ever tested - one of the first to break 200MB/s!
By Chris Ramseyer from Apr 4, 2011 @ 10:00 CDT
TweakTown Rating: 92%Manufacturer: Thermaltake

USB 3.0 has a lot of promise for devices that need large amounts of bandwidth. So far we've only been given a glimpse of what the specification has to offer. The big marketing claim for USB 3.0 has always been 'up to 10x USB 2.0 speeds', but in our real world testing we've only been able to achieve around 200MB/s. With USB 2.0 topping out at around 35MB/s on a good day, 10x USB 2.0 has yet to be achieved. There are several reasons for this, but what it really comes down to is PCIe bandwidth and what current chipsets are able to make available after all those video cards, SATA, eSATA and USB ports take up. On top of the bandwidth limitations is the current crop of USB 3.0 controller and bridge chips. Many do not offer the 10x bandwidth we have been promised.

There are a lot of obstacles and USB 3.0 is still considered an early technology, so we haven't really been too concerned with not hitting the upper limits. To add to that, even the fastest SATA 6G SSDs are not capable of achieving the upper limits of what USB 3.0 has to offer (except the SandForce SF-2200 based drives). Most users are not planning on using their high performance SSD as an external drive either. To date, the GIGABYTE X58A-UD7 that we've used for USB 3.0 testing has reached a ceiling of around 200MB/s, but that recently changed.


The Thermaltake MAX 5G arrived at our office with the full retail kit and for the most part we just considered it another USB 3.0 external enclosure like all of the others before it. Nothing on the specifications or box would lead us to believe that the MAX 5G was anything special other than the dual 80mm fans that are a little overboard for cooling even the hottest platter drive.


It's a good thing those fans are ultra quiet, something we were ready to pounce on since no one enjoys the sound of a jet plane in their office or computer room. The MAX 5G is as quiet as a fanless enclosure, but you get very good cooling and a nice light show from the blue LEDs that are built into the fan. The MAX 5G comes with everything you need to install your drive. This includes a screw driver and vibration dampening pads. Thermaltake went over the top in the accessory department just like it did with the cooling - we really like it when companies give us more rather than less.


Late last year Crucial sent over several RealSSD C300 256GB drives to use for testing our storage products. The RealSSD C300 was the fastest drive available on the market at that time, and to this day is still considered one of the fastest SSDs money can buy. The C300 allows us to push products to their limits and find the ceiling of performance. As we stated, USB 3.0 on our X58A-UD7 has been limited to around 200MB/s....but that was before the Thermaltake MAX 5G graced us.



As soon as ATTO was finished we knew the MAX 5G had something special. The read performance with the combination of products used; GIGABYTE X58A-UD7, Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB and the Thermaltake MAX 5G, was very close to 240MB/s. This is a great achievement since everything up to this point has dropped off at 200MB/s. Even though most users are not going to populate their external enclosure with a crazy fast SSD, the option is there to do so and with the MAX 5G you will get more bandwidth when compared to the number of other USB 3.0 products we've tested to date. The maximum write speed we were able to pull out of the MAX 5G was just under 180MB/s. Your results will vary based on the HDD you use. Typical high speed, large capacity platter drives are capable of achieving around 120MB/s.


When it comes to performance across the drive, the Thermaltake MAX 5G doesn't interfere with performance. Latency remained around the same as what we typically measure on a single C300 attached to a SATA port and the speed remained constant.


Using AS SSD's built in File Copy Test, we achieved really good results. The ISO test scored over 90MB/s, one of the highest results we've achieved in the lab with USB 3.0. The Program and Game tests were also very impressive, once again registering top of our performance charts.

The Thermaltake MAX 5G is available at Newegg for just under 60 USD. This isn't the best price we've seen on a USB 3.0 enclosure, but the MAX 5G isn't anything like what we've seen before either. The speeds offered by the product are superior to our other test products and the dual fan design is also unique. The MAX 5G is actually quite light in weight even though it appears a bit bulky when pictured. We are talking about a 3.5" drive enclosure, though, and that means external power is required, which adds to the bulk when transporting the enclosure.

All things considered, we would purchase the Thermaltake MAX 5G over other HDD enclosures simply because it offers the most headroom for future use and is silent when operating while delivering exceptional cooling performance.

For more images of the product, please refer to the story gallery further below.


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