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Kingwin Dock Master USB 3.0 HDD Docking Station

Manufacturer: Kingwin
Supplied by: Kingwin
Street Price: $49 (USD)

by Dean Barker (3/14/2010)

Introduction

When I sat down to review Kingwin's new Dock Master USB 3.0 hard disk docking station it occurred to me that USB has finally started to show some real speed.  Originally introduced back in 1996, the seldom seen USB 1.0 sported a maximum transfer rate of 12 Mbits/sec.  As improvements to the technology developed, more top tier manufacturers got onboard with the maturing of USB 1.0 to the USB 2.0 standard many of us cannot live without today.  USB 2.0's advent in April of 2000, showed the hardware world an incredible speed advantage over USB 1.0.  Surprisingly it still felt a hair awkward at 480 Mbits/sec.  A speed almost fast enough to do big things with but at the end of the day, almost still rates as a not.

Present day: USB 3.0 has been out for a year or so but it is just now that we are beginning to see USB 3.0 products coming to market.  Bringing a ten fold increase in performance to the table, USB 3.0 sports a maximum throughput of 4.8 Gbits/sec.  USB 3.0 crossing the Gigabit barrier (in spades no less) taking product application and speed to an entirely new level.  There are a number of USB 3.0 ready motherboards on the market now and that number will grow geometrically in the coming months.

Kingwin has a rich history of producing some outstanding accessories for persons looking to find that sweet spot encompassing both quality workmanship and a low price point.  Bringing many of the features from their very successful EZ-Dock unit, Kingwin has melding them with USB 3.0 gives us our first look at a new plateau in performance oriented storage.  Today, we have a sample of the new Kingwin Dock Master USB 3.0 HDD Docking Station on the bench for a once over.  Let's get to it.

Specifications

  • Application: 2.5" and 3.5" SATA Hard Drives

  • Interface: USB 3.0 (backwards compatible)

  • Interface Speed: Up to 4.8 Gbits/sec (in USB 3.0 compliant systems)

  • Dimensions: 146 (W) x 115 (L) x 71 (H) mm

  • Construction: Plastic

  • Plug and Play Operation

  • LED for HDD Access and Power Indicator

  • OS Supported: Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7 Mac OS 10x & Above

What you get

Not a lot of extras here but what kind of extras would you expect with a HDD dock.  We have a color instructional guide, power adapter, a 40 inch USB cable stamped SS (Super Speed) in addition to the Kingwin Dock Master itself.  The SS or "Super Speed" is not a Kingwin marketing idea but rather it references to the raw transfer speed of the USB 3.0 bus as styled by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).  The USB-IF are the folks who decide what the universal USB standards are and will be.  This SS labeled USB plug is backwards compatible but it is minimally different so that when plugged into a USB 3.0 compatible device, the deeper plug comes into contact with all the connection points giving end users full speed functionality.

The Unit

Designed in the same basic style as Kingwin's EZ-Dock, the Dock Master employs an upright drive load set up that is great for both aesthetics and ease of use.  I don't think anyone will go back to the old style enclosures of years gone by.  True tool-less operation is the only way to fly.

Looking closer at the top of the Dock Master we see how a hinged flap makes it positioning easy for 2.5" SATA hard drive owners.  Installing a 3.5" drive is just as easy as the flap folds back allowing access and keeping the unit's looks very straightforward.

  

The reverse of the unit has the power button, DC current in port as well as the USB 3.0 port.

It just didn't seem right to not have a picture of a SATA drive dropped in place here.  It does give you a sense of scale for the Kingwin's compact 146 x 115 x 71 mm size.  Not that it matters too much, but the Dock Master tipped our scales at a trim 16.6 ounces (without a drive installed of course).

Operation and Conclusion

Installing the Kingwin Dock Master went flawlessly on three different test beds to confirm compatibility with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.  Data transfer rates were exactly as we expected them to be.  Not having an Intel P55 based motherboard in the shop at the time of this writing, we were not able to test out the 4.8 Gbit/sec speed that USB 3.0 promises.  But therein lies the caveat of USB 3.0 and the Kingwin Dock Master.  The new standard is here but only waiting on the hardware community to upgrade to the next level with the Intel P55 or AMD equivalent.  When I upgrade I look to make sure I'm going to get years of use out of a product.  With that in mind, no way am I picking up a non USB 3.0 compliant unit.  In the case of the Kingwin Dock Master, we have upright loading, backwards compatibility with USB 2.0, the ability to accept 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives all at a street price of $50 (see Tiger Direct).

We will be updating this review in the coming weeks as we are slowly upgrading all our test beds and can then take this beast out on the track.  The Kingwin Dock Master embraces proven ergonomics and function while giving the promise of being extremely future proof with the newer and highly desirable 4.8 Gbit/sec USB 3.0 standard.  Did I mention that the USB 3.0 maximum transfer rate is ten times that of USB 2.0?  With that type of speed boost, large video files, intensive business data sets and the like will have expanded access in the modern work place.  Two thumbs up to Kingwin for bringing new opportunities that much closer.

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