RSS Feed

HCW Tech Blog

For the latest info on computer hardware, tech, news, video games, software tips, and Linux, check out our new improved front page: HCW Tech Blog

Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [11.19.04]
Manufactured by: Seagate, Kingston, Vantec

Lowest Price Finder
Seagate Pocket Drive 5GB: $155 @ NewEgg
Kingston Data Traveler Elite 512MB: $60 @ mWave
Vantec NexStar 2 USB2: $36 @ NewEgg
2.5" HotDrive: $37 @

Discuss this article in the forum!


Big and Bad

Our 3.5" USB2.0 / FireWire HDD enclosure arrives via Vantec, with their latest model, NexStar II:

As you can clearly see, the NexStar II is truly a thing of beauty. It is easily the nicest looking HDD enclosure I've come across - the rest look like cheap toys.

Installation is a breeze; all you need to do is attach a pair of rubber brackets (which stink to high hell by the way) and plug in the data and power cables (the brackets also act as vibration dampeners). The NexStar II features an external AC adapter, to keep any extra heat out of the enclosure, which is ventilated but not actively cooled.

It's pretty huge though - 210 x 135 x 40 mm. And with the power cable, adapter, USB and/or FireWire cables, you're suddenly lugging around a lot of equipment. This makes it not-so-portable.

However the one HUGE advantage this has is you are virtually unlimited by what hard drive you put into it. If you have a 40GB drive laying around, you could throw that it. Or if you want, you can go out and buy a spankin' new 160 GB ATA drive (which can be found for as little as $99), and have yourself a ton of backup storage.

As far as cost goes, we weren't able to find the USB2.0 / FireWire combo model on our Price Search Engine. However, you are probably only going to ever need USB2.0, and that model is available for as little as $35.99 at, or $33 at ZipZoomFly. So paired up with that $99 160 GB drive, the cost comes to $0.83 per GB. Compare that to $100 per GB on the flash drives! And there you have the single biggest advantage of a USB HDD enclosure.

Ever So Slightly Smaller

3.5" drives might make for cumbersome enclosures, but they certainly aren't the only hard drives around. Although they are only really intended for the OEM market, you can easily pick yourself up a 2.5" notebook drive, and use it in an applicable controller. For that, we have one that I bought myself, for personal use (since I happened to have a 10GB IBM laying around from an RMA return from my first notebook that I have since abandoned).

The 2.5 Hot Drive is branded as Bytecc in my area, but it could be called anything. In the US, it seems to be called "US Modular". It measures in at 80 x 15 x 143 mm, making it slightly too big to easily fit into a pocket, especially considering the fact that you'll need to carry cables around with it.

In any case, I have been very happy with my HotDrive. Installation is about as easy as it gets; open the case, stick a vibration-dampening foam sticker on the drive, insert it, snap it back up and you're done!

Even though the HotDrive comes with a power adapter, it is not necessary to use. As an optional power source, the included cable comes with TWO USB ports; one is used to power the device, and the other is used for data transfer. Although this makes for more bulk in comparison to flash drives and the Seagate Pocket Drive, it is infinitely better than having to use a power adapter, and it retains its portability.

The unit itself sells for $37 at both and eCost.

Your choices for notebook hard drives currently seems to be limited to 100GB or less. Fujitsu has a 100GB drive selling for $201 at NewEgg. A better alternative might be their 60GB unit, which can also be found at NewEgg, for $98.

So a 60GB combo would be around $2.25 per GB, and the 100GB would be even more, at $2.37 per GB. Although that doesn't touch the $0.83 value provided by a 3.5" enclosure, I'm sure you'll find the portability to be well worthwhile.

Next, we'll look at the product that has the potential to turn this guide upside-down.

Next Page: (Seagate Pocket Drive)