Ultra Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure

Oct 17th, 2004 | By

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Ultra Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure

: 10/17/04 – 04:52:29 AM


: Cases

Page 1 : Introduction

: Ultra Products

: $59.99

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When Ultra Products approached Overclockers Online to review the Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure 3.5", it was another chance for us to explore different kinds of Case articles.

Today we present to you our experience with this new entry from Ultra.

Page 2 : Package

Some time ago, UPS left a brown cardboard box at my door. Little did I know that inside was the
Ultra Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure
. The enclosure was shipped in its retail packagine. With Ultra being such a common name around here, I knew everything was going to be in order. I tore apart the plastic wrap to get at the goods.

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On the top of the box are the title, a picture of the unit and a small list of specifications. Not shown, the retail box ships with a seal over the lip. This signifies it hasn't been opened since Ultra shipped it to the retailer. It also makes it look more professional.

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Once you break the seal and open the box, there is a bag full of various documents. We also have the power adapater, a small bag of screws and the enclosure itself.

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Closer view of the manual, driver CD, and registration card that are included.

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USB and IEEE 1394 FireWire cables included.
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The power adapter has a dongle that allows for on/off toggling.
Once you take out the enclosure, you'll find the On/Off switch, USB cable and IEEE 1394 FireWire cable at the bottom.

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And finally we have the enclosure itself. To tell you the truth, I was surprised with the size of this thing. I was expecting a bulkier unit, but as you will see, this enclosure practically hugs the 3.5" drive you place inside.

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The front of the enclosure has two blue LEDs for indicating power at the top of the unit and two red LEDs for indicating hard drive activity just below that. The back of the enclosure, starting from the top, has a small 40 mm cooling fan, two IEEE 1394 FireWire ports, one USB port, and finally the DC power port.

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The side of the enclosure has very little to discuss, but does list the product name and it's features – in case you happen to forget. The bottom has padded feet that are able to be unscrewed so that the enclosure can be taken apart and the inside reached. The padded feet serve two purposes: dampening any vibrations and reducing the ability for the unit to slide around on your desk.

That sums up all the goodies you get, so let's go to the next page to see what they all do.

Page 3 : Specifications

Information gathered from the Ultra Products website:

Compact, External Hard Disk Enclosure with Cooling Fan
Its compact, its sturdy and its incredibly mobile. The Ultra Mini Portable Disk Enclosure is a perfect fit for anyone on the go. Supports any 3.5 hard disk drive. Comes with built-in, heat-dissipating cooling fan to keep your hard drive in tip-top shape. With lightning-fast USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces, the Ultra Mini Portable Disk Enclosure offers you super-speedy data transfer and remarkable versatility. Plug and play! Comes with external power supply and USB and FireWire cables. Instant backup! Instant storage! The Ultra Mini Portable Disk Enclosure – the incomparable mobile solution for the person on the go!

Supports High Speed USB2.0 USB1.1 and Firewire
Hot-Swappable – Plug-n-Play
Compatible With 3.5" IDE Hard Drives
Built-in Cooling Fan
Easy Installation
Supports 3.5" ATA 133/100/66/33 Drives
Max Capacity Supported: 300GB
Dimensions: 190 x 125 x 45mm
Weight: 240g
Compatible OS: Window 98SE / ME / 2000 / XP, Mac OS 8.6 & Above

Although it isn't mentioned here, it is clearly visible on the Ultra Products front page that you can Daisy Chain up to 3 hard drives using the IEEE 1394 FireWire setup. Unfortunately, we were unable to get this to work on our testbed.

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Page 4 : Installation

This part of the process consists primarily with opening up the enclosure, putting in a hard drive, and connecting it by a preferred interface. For users of Windows 98SE, drivers will have to be installed from the included disk.

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The first step to getting this thing open is removing the screws to the feet and then the feet themselves. Next step was to seperate the two sides. Seperating the two sides was easier said than done for me, because I ended up damaging both of the enclosures that were sent to me trying to get them open. Perhaps more detailed instructions in the manual are in order? This didn't alter the look or function of the enclosure much, but the joint between the two halves are no longer so tight together. Once open though, putting in a hard drive and attaching the cables is no problem.

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Once the hard drive is attached to the cables and put in place, the drive gets secured with screws (included) along the sides. All that is left to do is to snap the other half back on and reattach the feet.

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Once plugged in and turned on you get to see the unit in action. I managed to grab this picture while the hard drive was experiencing activity. Now, lets see how things perform.

Page 5 : Testing

To examine this drive enclosures performance, we wanted to concentrate on the difference between the USB and FireWire transfer speeds when the system and drive are held constant. To do this we used a free and popular hard disk drive benchmark, HD Tach 3.

The tests were conducted using the following system specs:

Control Setup:
Pentium 4C 2.4 GHz @ 3.2 GHz
Zalman CNPS7000A-AlCu
2*512 MB PDP Systems PC3200LLK DDR Memory
Western Digital 60GB 7200RPM 2MB Cache Hard Drive
Abit IC7-G i875 Motherboard
Hercules 8500LE Video Card
Cooler Master 350 W Power Supply
Windows XP Pro SP2 + Latest Drivers, Updates

External Storage:
Ultra Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure +
Western Digital 80GB 7200RPM 2MB Cache Hard Drive

Here are the results after many test runs to assure consistency:

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Looking at these results, it can be determined that IEEE 1394 FireWire is marginally faster than USB with this enclosure. The largest advantage to be seen with FireWire is in it's low CPU utilization compared with the USB percentage. This can easily vary with systems however, due to the different chipsets that motherboard makers choose to use for such connectivity.

Page 6 : Conclusion

Ultra Mini Portable Hard Drive Enclosure
is a good solution in my book. While it is certainly not perfect, it's small size, simple looks, connectivity, and performance are enough to leave me feeling satisfied using this as a portable storage solution. The convenience of being able to carry so much space over to the next room, a friends house, or on vacation and simply plugging it in makes it extremely useful. If it weren't for the install problems I experienced trying to get the thing open, the daisy chaining not working for me, and the somewhat high price I would have no problem awarding this enclosure. As it stands, I'll leave the reader to judge for her/herself whether or not this is the right enclosure for them.


Plug & Play
FireWire & USB 2.0 connectivity
Solid transfer speeds & access times


Hard to open the enclosure
Relatively high priced

I'd like to thank Ultra Products for their ongoing support of Overclockers Online and making this review possible.

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