Prior to the rapid rise in popularity of Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, consumers used to store large amounts of data on Direct Attached Storage (DAS) units. While USB 2.0 and Firewire used to be the interface of choice earlier, neither of them could maximize the bandwidth capabilities of the storage units (HDDs). USB 3.0 and eSATA serve the current day consumers in a more efficient way. We believe that the adoption of Thunderbolt in computing systems will make DAS units more relevant as the days go by. Today, we will take a look at the Mediasonic H82-SU3S2 3.5" USB 3.0 / eSATA Probox 8-bay external hard drive enclosure.

Mediasonic's H82-SU3S2 is a branded version of ODM manufacturer Hotway's H82-SU3S2, and utilizes a bunch of JMicron bridge chips. The unit is capable of being connected to the PC through either USB 3.0 or eSATA. The latter case needs a port multiplier aware SATA host controller on the PC side if more than one drive bay is being used. The operation is in single mode (JBOD) only, making the unit quite straightforward to use for the consumer.

Testbed Setup

Despite having a variety of systems with eSATA ports at my disposal, I was unpleasantly surprised to discovered that almost none of them had port multiplier capability inbuilt. These included boards based on the H55 and H65-M Intel chipsets as well as the AMD A50-M Hudson-M1. The A75 chipset in the ASRock A75 Pro4 supposedly has port multiplier capability. Unfortunately, ASRock confirmed that the current BIOS for that motherboard was not capable of supporting port multiplication.

In the process of sifting through the rest of the systems at my disposal, I found that the eSATA port on the Asus P8H77-M Pro that I had used for testing the HTPC credentials of Ivy Bridge was not from the H77 chipset, but, from a Marvell 88SE9172 SATA host controller. Though Asus doesn't specifically claim port multiplier support in the board, the data sheet for the Marvell controller indicated that it was compliant. In my initial testing, the port multiplier feature didn't work, but reinstalling the Marvell Magni driver after setting the eSATA port to be in AHCI mode resolved that issue (to some extent). There were no such issues with USB 3.0

Mediasonic Probox 8-bay eSATA / USB 3.0 DAS Testbed Setup
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K - 3.50 GHz (Turbo to 3.9 GHz)
Intel HD Graphics 4000 - 650 MHz (Max. Dynamic Frequency of 1150 MHz)
Motherboard Asus P8H77-M Pro uATX
OS Drive Seagate Barracuda XT 2 TB
Secondary Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 128 GB SATA II SSD SNV325-S2/128GB
Corsair Performance 3 Series SATA III SSD CSSD-P3128GB2
Memory G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) F3-10666CL7D-4GBECO CAS 9-9-9-24
Case Antec VERIS Fusion Remote Max
Power Supply Antec TruePower New TP-550 550W
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
Display Acer H243H

From the perspective of the Probox enclosure, two sets of SATA drives were used. OCZ provided us with some Vertex 4 64GB units for our NAS testbed (about which I will be writing soon), and I took the opportunity to sneak in eight of them for evaluating the Probox before embarking on that build.

For meansurement of power consumption and performance under normal usage scenarios, a few mix-and-matched 7200rpm 1 TB hard drives (from Samsung and Seagate) were used.

In the next section, we will briefly go over the internals of the Probox and the build quality.


Build Quality and Internals
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  • rahvin - Monday, August 6, 2012 - link

    It's been my experience that if there are drivers in Linux (and these days there almost always is) then they absolutely smoke windows for reliability and quality. The advantage of Linux is that you don't have low bid foreign programmers building drivers in as little time as possible with absolutely no QC like you do in windows. Almost all windows BSOD (or GSOD depending on windows version) is the result of bad drivers.
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link

    Been running USB3 on Windows7 enterprise x64 now for 6-8 months. First, on a laptop through expresscard, and now naively on a laptop that has it on the motherboard.

    Two different systems, two completely different platforms(1 Intel, 1 AMD ). No issues what-so-ever.

    No hands on with Linux and USB3, but I have to call BS on your performance comment. Having been using Linux in some form or another since the late 90's, I hear / see this kind of comment all the time. With no substantial proof to back it up.

    Plus I have done tons of my own performance testing to boot. Using iSCSI, AoE, Samba, and NFS. On both software platforms. It all came down to very similar performance on both platforms. This is also where I ran into a lot of stability issues with Ubuntu. E.G. Some of the software I was using was very obviously not ready for prime time on Ubuntu. Even though Ubuntu was at the time the most advanced Debian flavored Distro.

    So, you see I could say the exact same about Linux. If I wanted to.However, I wont. Simply because I know that the software was not ready for that platform at the given time. Even though it was touted as being ready. This was also more than a couple years ago. I am sure things have improved at least somewhat since then.

    Now days, knowing what I know. I would probably bypass Linux for this purpose all together. And jump straight into openSolaris. That would be my own choice though.
  • rahvin - Thursday, August 9, 2012 - link

    [blockquote]Even though Ubuntu was at the time the most advanced Debian flavored Distro.[/blockquote]

    Wow, that says it all right there doesn't it. I'd be surprised if you understand the difference between the kernel and distribution or performance versus stability and quality given that comment.

    Try starting with this thought, Linux is the Kernel. GNU/Linux is the base GPL system that makes up the base system environment and userland (an alternative to this would be Android with a different system and base written from scratch by google on top of a Linux kernel). A distribution is a combination of GNU/Linux system and userland along with a multitude of other software with varying amounts of free software but typically comprising the X-Window system and a selection of standard FOSS applications though certain distributions include proprietary or non-free components. Ubuntu has NEVER been "the most advanced Debian distribution" unless you are creating your own definition of advanced that doesn't match the standard definition.

    Installing Linux and playing around with it for five minutes every now and then doesn't mean you've done anything but experiment with it. I'm by no means an expert but I've been running a Linux system continuously since about 1998. In that time I've had one kernel oops (the rough equivalent of a windows BSOD) and that was due to me screwing up a kernel replacement. In that same time period on other systems I've had a multitude of windows BSOD's. I've never encountered a situation where a closed source windows driver was better in any way than an open source driver in Linux and I doubt anyone ever has. In fact Valve recently discovered that their Source Engine designed and built for Windows and DirectX performed better on Linux with FOSS drivers in OpenGL and in fact was something like 40% faster.
  • bobbozzo - Sunday, August 5, 2012 - link

    OpenFiler Linux works with PM SATA, depending on the host controller, of course.
  • PubFiction - Sunday, August 5, 2012 - link

    In reality most of the many of the devices are both DAS and NAS. But at the same time I think that NAS still makes alot more sense. The type of people who are using that much data are usually interested in serving it to more than 1 machine, be it a media center, small company, family etc.... I think that in reality DAS was just a relic of all those people who did not have a network or had no idea how to set them up. But as time went on routers with 4 wired / 4 wireless connections became unavoidable and people who now connected xboxes, phones, tablets and everything else to thouse routers have now become used to that process. Now they just dont have much of a need for DAS. And I thin that trend will continue unless networks fall very far behind in bandwidth and somehow the content generated sky rockets.
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link

    Just because the DAS only connects to one system, does not mean that it can not be shared over a network.

    Key points in favor of DAS over a NAS are flexibility, performance, and power consumption. Not necessarily in that order.

    A DAS could also be used to expand on an already full NAS for that matter . . . This is how SAS, iSCSI, and a lot of other external drives can be / are used.
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - link

    I guess it depends on the user, but I don't see this as being useful. I built a cheap Windows Home Server box, with 6 SATA ports, for less than $200 (using a few spare parts), and have used drive extender to easily add storage space over the years. It acts as a media server (via Serviio), and automatically backs up 6 PCs in the house. I can access files from the internet as well. I can add external USB hard drives to expand the storage pool as well, so there's room to add more drives beyond the 6 SATA port on the motherboard.
  • ypsylon - Monday, August 6, 2012 - link

    And I have no more interest in this. Probably worst storage chipset ever created. Furthermore who need 8 bay JBOD enclosure? No redundancy, just buy bigger case if you need so many HDDs without any protection. And those plastic handles. C'mon plastic!?! Tiny bit of aluminum wouldn't hurt. Like many of such enclosures it is cheap to the extreme - Chinese copy of a copy of a copy. Nobody really knows who is the author of this design.

    As for opinion (above) that DAS is a relic and NAS is more logical choice. LOL have you ever tried to copy TBs of data every single day over Ethernet? Obviously not. I don't need network, but I do copy plethora of things each day. I would die of boredom while waiting if I used (even 10Gb) NAS. DAS all the way on my front but with NICs at the back if sometimes network is needed.

    Both DAS and NAS have space on the market, but both are completely pointless when no redundancy is present (excluding of course single drive mobile enclosures ;) ).
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link

    I agree with you on the NAS / DAS comment above lol.

    Anyhow not trying to talk you into liking this tower. But read newegg reviews on it. Some people actually seem to like the plastic case door etc. While others hate it. But I do agree with you.

    Another thing I do not like about it is that it is a single wide tower. In my own humble opinion, this is retro, or just old. Sure these could fit into a 1U rack, but why not come up with something new ? Like a double wide ( heh ) 4 bay high tower ? Personally, I would find that more attractive If this is done, then you open up a whole new area of cooling options. 1-2x 120mm fans in the front . . .etc etc.

    Yeah anyway. I dont know. it seems people in the industry have lost, or never had any imagination.
  • PureHazard - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - link

    The plastic handles are meant to dampen the noise from hard drive vibration after being squeezed in by the metal swing door. I would assume aluminum handles wouldn't make sense for noise reduction.

    As for it being cheap, this is a Taiwanese made enclosure that's built by Hotway (as mentioned in the review if you cared to read it properly) and as sturdy any enclosure from a tier one manufacturer.

    These 4 and 8 bay DAS enclosures complement existing servers and things like prebuilt WHS machines fairly well.

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