Saturday, 31 October 2015

Inateck FE2007 - is this the ideal Hard Disk USB 3.0 drive caddy for your Easy2Boot USB drive?

If you follow this blog, you may have read that I was not entirely happy with the Inateck FE200 drive caddy that I purchased a few months ago (previous blog post here),

After some email correspondence from Inateck, they sent me the FE2007 for evaluation.

The FE2007 differs from the FE2005 in several ways:

  • FE2007 has 3 USB 3.0 ports and so can act as a hub
  • FE2007 has a power switch which allows you to remove the power from the internal hard drive to save power consumption if you only need to use the USB ports
  • FE2007 has a 5V power cable for extra power if required - this is a USB-to-caddy cable which 'steals' power from the PC's USB port and is useful if you connect 3 power-hungry USB devices to the 3 USB ports on the FE2007.
  • FE2007 has a removable sliding lid (i.e. two-piece)
  • FE2005 uses the JMicron JMS567, the  FE2007 uses the AsMedia ASMT1153e
  • In the SystemTray 'Safely Remove' pop-up, the FE2005 is displayed as 'Inateck Generic USB Device' but the FE2007 is displayed as 'ASMT1153e' - not very consistent!
I added volume labels for F:/J:/K: so I could tell which device was which!


FE2007 comes with USB and power cable, 'manual' and foam padding.

The cover slides off (no screwdriver required!).

There are some similarities:

  • Both FE2005 and FE2007 have a recessed USB 3.0 connector socket - this means the USB 3.0 plug is not as secure as it could be and it can easily be dislodged. For instance, I could move the enclosure slightly and Windows would disconnect the drive!
  • Speeds are comparable (once fully working!)
  • On my Z87 PC, both devices behaved erratically (under Win8.1 and Win10).  See below for details.
  • The 'instruction manuals' are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard and a waste of good trees!

The extra USB 3.0 ports make this caddy very usable for Easy2Boot because I can just insert a small SanDisk 'Fit' USB drive to one of the three ports as the 'E2B Helper Drive' and just forget about it! This allows me to install from Windows install ISOs from the SSD without needing to convert them to .imgPTN files. It also means that I only need to use one USB port on the target system. 

So, when fitted with an Easy2Boot SSD drive + Helper flash drive, the FE2007 makes for a very handy and fast multboot USB drive.

Note that the icon of a hard disk with an arrow indicates USB activity and NOT just activity of the drive in the enclosure (a symbol of a HDD is thus slightly misleading!). Also note that the power switch is only for the hard disk inside the enclosure and the DC 5V input supplies the whole enclosure in addition to the 5V that it obtains from the USB cable.


Erratic!

I had quite some difficulty in getting the new FE2007 (and FE2005) to 'register' with Windows and install the UASP drivers. Even after this, I was getting very slow performance. After some more 'fiddling' with driver installation/removal and disconnecting/re-inserting, etc. I managed to achieve the expected full-speed transfer rates (see previous blog post for Crystal DiskMark benchmarks). Even now, Windows sometimes seems to decide to 'drop' the device and then re-connect a minute or so later, especially if I move something on the desk which moves the USB cable leading to the enclosure.

I suspect this is not a problem with the USB controller in the Inateck caddies, but more a problem with the Windows/Intel UASP drivers for Haswell/Z87. If you don't use an SSD, you may not see this problem.

To check it was not a connector problem, I removed the PCB from the enclosure and connected the SSD drive and the USB cable to the PCB. Even so, I still had 'driver' issues with both OCZ and Samsung SSDs in both enclosures.

This problem did not affect booting because only non-UASP protocols are used by the BIOS/firmware.

Have you had any similar experiences with UASP-enabled HDD enclosures under Win8/10? If so, let me know.

Fast!

When it works, it's great! Copying large ISOs and running WinContig is really quick.

I use the Inateck + SSD combination for nearly all my testing of Easy2Boot now. Typically I use a USB 3.0 port on my Z87 PC and test using VirtualBox+VMUB. It saves so much time - for instance I can boot from the FE2007+SSD using VBox+VMUB to a Win10 install ISO and get to the 'Select language' first Windows Setup screen in under 10 seconds. I can copy a 6GB ISO to the Samsung SSD drive in well under 30 seconds (avg. 200+MB/s).