In The Box
So the situation hasn't changed from last time around. You're an enthusiast, or maybe just someone who likes to keep up to date. Like most of us in this category, you tend to collect a lot of spare parts. Most of these parts are still serviceable, but they're just not the cutting edge gear you have installed in your precious system.
When it comes to hard drives, there is a lot of potential for just storage, but the speeds of the older drives can have an adverse effect when placed onto one of the system IDE channels. This is where products like the NexStar 2 come into play; they take that old hard drive and allow you to add it to your system through either the USB or the Firewire ports without slowing down your system drive(s). Nice concept, but there are several things that can go wrong so lets see how the folks at Vantec make this concept work.
Shown above are the contents included with the NexStar 2 device. You'll get the external enclosure, cabling for both USB and Firewire (there is also a USB only model if you want to save a few bucks), rubber drive mounts, all necessary screws for mounting the drive, a power brick, instruction manual, driver/utility disk and four snap on brackets for setting the unit flat without fear of ruining the finish of your office furniture. All in all you'll get everything you need to be up and running except the drive itself.
Since most of the included items are self explanatory, I'll focus mainly on the unit and the installation procedures.
Similar in design to the original version, the NexStar 2 has a removable cover plate that will be secured with screws after the drive is installed. One huge advantage from the beginning is the screws used for this task, they are normal sized and don't require a special small sized screwdriver to insert and tighten. The last unit we looked at had tiny screws and getting them seated was a monstrous task if you're like me and have larger than average hands. The revised model makes use of larger screws that are easily inserted and tightened. Already things are looking better!
Also like the older brother, the top of the unit is clearly marked with the ports on the back side of the device. Lets take a quick look at them, shall we?
Nothing out of the ordinary here. You have the socket for main power, a USB 2.0 port and a pair of Firewire ports. Since Firewire works in a daisy-chaining type setup, there are two ports so you can hook up this enclosure to your system and then run another cable from a different peripheral to create a chain of components.
Also included on the back is a power switch. Just like the original revision, you can turn the unit on and off from the device itself. This can be a nice and easy touch if you don't want folks to access the data of the drive but don't want to unhook it all the time. Turning off the power forces the operating system to think it has been disconnected and the drive is no longer visible through Explorer. While it is simple to just turn on the power to the device to get the data again, most other folks don't know this and it can be a simple means to keep the kids away from your personal files and games.
The front of the unit is rather plain, but you really don't need much here. The HDD Activity lights are a series of small windows that flash when the drive is being accessed. They do not flicker independently, so the entire row flashes together during activity.
Here is a new feature of the second revision of the NexStar, rubber mounting pads. Though a simple design, they worked surprisingly well. Simply install the pads to the rear two mounting holes of the hard drive and insert it into the enclosure. Not only does it keep the drive firmly in place, the rubber dampens any noise and vibration that will be created when it is being accessed. It keeps the drive quiet and keeps the unit stable so it won't move around when the drive is working.
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