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REVIEW:
FirmTek's SeriTek/2eEN4
'Direct-To-Backplane'
Four Bay Serial ATA Hot-Swap Enclosure

Posted October 4th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

You may have read my review of the SeriTek/1EN2 Dual Bay Hot-Swap SATA Enclosure. The thing I stressed in that review was the "direct-to-backplane" design. The new Four Bay SeriTek/2eEN4 Hot-Swap SATA Enclosure features the same "direct-to-backplane" design.

You see, every other company's SATA enclosure connects the drive to the backplane ports using short internal cables. If you don't believe me, open your multi-bay enclosure and look. FirmTek feels that internal data cabling invites potential problems with Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and degrades the signal. So they have gone the "extra mile" and fabricated their SATA enclosures with no internal cables. The drives plug directly into the backplane.


The enclosure is attractive with brushed & anodized extruded aluminum case for maximum rigidity and heat dissipation. It is very much in tune with the look and materials used in Power Macs and PowerBooks.

Because of the direct-to-backplane design, the SeriTek/2eEN4 is not as "deep" as most multi-bay enclosures, thereby resulting in a smaller footprint than the other external four bay SATA enclosure we've tested. However, they still managed to put a server class power supply inside. This usually means a noisy fan or fans to cool the power supply and the drives.

Not so with the 2eEN4. It has an exclusive Heat Management System ensures hard drives (and power supply) are kept cool and reliable while keeping noise to a minimum. This is accomplished by utilizing three whisper quiet fans and special warning indicators. In the unlikely event a fan fails or temperatures become too extreme, fan or temperature LEDs will light and a "mute-able" audible alert will warn the user.

We measured the decibels at 6 inches to be in the low 40s. The G5 Power Mac was louder even in "resting" mode. Similar enclosures have been measured as high as 65 decibels.

It features quick release hot-swap drive trays which can be locked for security. Extra trays can be ordered from FirmTek. It comes with a Kensington security slot so you can cable down the enclosure so it doesn't walk away.

We tested various brands of drives using either one or two SeriTek/2eEN4 enclosures. Using up to two new SeriTek/1eVE4 host adapters (eSATA connectors).

GRAPH LEGEND:
Max4 = one SeriTek/2eEN4 with 4 Maxtor MaXLine III 300GB drives
Sea4 = one SeriTek/2eEN4 with 4 Seagate 7200.8 400GB drives
Hit4 = one SeriTek/2eEN4 with 4 Hitachi 7K500 500GB drives
Max8 = two SeriTek/2eEN4s with 8 Maxtor MaXLine III 300GB drives
Sea8 = two SeriTek/2eEN4 with 8 Seagate 7200.8 400GB drives
Hit8 = two SeriTek/2eEN4 with 8 Hitachi 7K500 500GB drives
Rap8 = two SeriTek/2eEN4 with 8 WD Raptor 10K 74GB drives

ANALYSIS
The FirmTek SeriTek/2eEN4 Hot-Swap SATA four bay enclosure is skillfully engineered and built with quality. The "direct connect" backplane gives it an important advantage over other SATA enclosures.

The latest eSATA version of the SeriTek/1VE4 PCI-X host adapter (1eVE4) makes for a winning combination with its "intelligent" Hot-Swap and the ability to boot OS 9 or OS X from any drive connected to the adapter. Yes, the SeriTek line is the only Mac compatible SATA host adapter that will boot the Mac OS.

The 2eEN4 has no real weak points -- other than the cryptic model name. It's a name only engineers would love. That's probably because FirmTek is a "no frills" pure engineering company formed by very talented former Apple and Quantum engineers.

TAKE A PEEK
I've made a big deal of the "direct-to-backplane" feature of the FirmTek enclosures. Below are two photos. The left photo shows the SeriTek/2eEN4 with no data cables between the drives and the backplane. The right photo is of the inside a competitor's enclosure with short SATA data cables going from the drives to the connectors on the backplane.

SeriTek/2eEN4 -- versus -- Other Enclosures

By the way, you know the hoopla surrounding eSATA connectors and eSATA cables? Those internal cables you see are the "old" style "L" SATA connectors. Which begs the question, "Why do I need eSATA connectors outside when there are no eSATA connectors inside?" Actually, the cables and connectors have nothing to do with transfer speed. Transfer speed has to do with the host adapter.

TEST MULE
Testing was done with an Apple G5/2.5GHz Power Mac (8GB memory, Raptor 74GB boot drive.)

TEST SOFTWARE
DiskTester is unique drive testing utility that is run using Terminal. It gives you many options to chose. We typically run the area test so we could sample various zones on the volume from "empty" to "full" (outer tracks to inner tracks). For the graphs above we used a 1GB test file, 3 iterations, with system cache disabled.

FINDER DUPLICATE of a 1GB document is our old reliable test that forces the drive to read from and write to itself simultaneously and furiously. It's a reliable predictor of overall performance.

WHERE TO BUY THE FIRMTEK SATA ENCLOSURES AND ADAPTERS

FirmTek sells the 2eEN4 four bay enclosure and 1VE4 PCI-X hots adapter direct from their website. They have these and other Serial ATA products listed on their SeriTek page.

FirmTek's Serial ATA products are also sold by the following companies:

FWDepot (enclosures and host adapters)

Other World Computing (enclosures, bare drives, and host adapters)

MacGurus (host adapters, enclosures, bare drives, coolers, hot-swap trays, cables, converters)

WHERE TO BUY OTHER SERIAL ATA PRODUCTS

Granite Digital (enclosures, host adapters, brackets, and cables)

Kano Technologies (enclosures and host adapters)
Use "BAREFEATS" coupon code to get 10% off the X-SPAND or 5% off everything else

MaxUpgrades (internal drive kits for G5)

Small Dog Electronics (enclosures and host adapters)

TransIntl.com (miniG in two and four bay SATA; sell the Swift Data 200 internal drive kit; FireWire 800 version available)

Wiebetech.com (enclosures and host adapters)

LaCie (enclosures and host adapters)

Sonnet Technology (host adapters, enclosures, and cables)

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist