|SilverStone SST-EC03 USB 3.0 PCI-E Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Accessories|
|Written by Marc Fructman|
|Sunday, 27 November 2011|
Page 8 of 8
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. The author's experience with the product may differ significantly from your own. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. All testing used the Windows 7 64-bit OS. Testing was not performed for any other operating systems.
The EC03 dual port USB 3.0 PCI express card (internal) is designed to give users access to two USB ports using the supplied 3.5” bay. And that is exactly what it does.
USB 3.0 is a vast improvement over USB 2.0. Theoretically USB 3.0 is capable of 4.8 Gbits/s (600Megabytes/s) versus high-speed USB 2.0 which is limited to 480Mbits/s (60 Megabytes/s). Protocol overhead will limit the actual bandwidth significantly. A PCI Express 2.0 “lane” can provide 500MB/s in one direction (1000MB/s in both directions).
Now that we have the EC03 to compare against the onboard USB 3.0 of the EVGA SR-2, we can see that USB 3.0 performance of the onboard SR-2 is only slightly better than the USB 3.0 speeds of the EC03 card. For anyone who lacks USB 3.0, the EC03 is a really good solution. In fact, there are many users out there right now who would like to get access to USB 3.0 and were dreading the added cost of a new computer build, who can now get access to USB 3.0 for around $32 (see below).
Even though SATA 3.0 (SATA 6 Gbits/s) only has a theoretical advantage of 20% over USB 3.0 (5Gbit/s), we are seeing that SATA 3.0 performance far exceeds the expected USB 3.0 performance (onboard or add-on). So, clearly if you are thinking about buying external drives vs internal, and you want maximum speed you have the information you need to make a good decision.
The EC03 itself is a PCI express card with no obvious issues with the exception that rarely a device would not register unless it was first inserted into a USB 2.0 port. The included external 3.5” bay is somewhat thin and easily bends. The ports mount on with a decent size plastic pin, and 1 screw but they do not prevent motion of the USB ports and overall the EC03 feels flimsy.
While I do value the 3.5” form factor, many cases do not use this and if they do, these cases are likely to have only a single bay that is populated with a floppy disk drive. That means in order to install the EC03, many people will have to buy an additional adapter to fit a 5.25” bay. And this will result in those same individuals looking for USB 3.0 cards with 5.25” bays rather than 3.5” bays. In the long run, a free 3.5” bay will not do SilverStone's market as much justice as a bump in price for a 5.25” bay. At that point, using a complete 5.25” bay might not be a good use of space, so perhaps they can come up with a USB 3.0 card that provides 4 slots and can optionally use up to 4x PCI-E lanes. There are already 4 port USB 3.0 devices in the market, and SilverStone should look in that direction. This seems like a leap of the product niche, but looking at it from a market point of view, most people will want more than 2 USB 3.0 ports on a large 5.25 bay. In fact, there are already people asking for USB 3.0 ports on card readers, so this might also be a great area to move to. In general, the mere fact that this product is using a 3.5” bay is not counted as a deduction. However, if SilverStone had included a 5.25” adapter with the 3.5” bay, this would have been mirrored with a significant increase on the value side of the score.
The Supplied USB connector cable (24”) was not quite long enough for my EVGA SR-2. As a result I was not able to mount the bay in the standard location. It would be better if the cable was longer. However, if you are not running a huge case or HPTX motherboard then, it should be adequate as long as you don't mind the cable going across your motherboard.
The EC03 can supply up to 3600 milliamps of current when using the supplied molex connector. This is more than adequate for most uses.
Overall, performance was good. It came very close to the onboard USB 3.0 of the EVGA SR-2 board, and even exceeded its performance for some benchmark tests.
The unit tested with only an occasional issue. As mentioned, rarely, a USB device would not register in the 3.0 port initially. If I removed the device and placed it in a 2.0 port, then re-inserted back into the EC03, it would show up.
This review was also brought about because in the review of the SilverStone TS07 External USB 3.0 Enclosure, there was some thoughts that perhaps the limit on transfer speed was related to the onboard USB 3.0. SilverStone graciously volunteered the EC03 to test this theory. But clearly, the TS07's limit of around 234MB/s based on the benchmarks still stands. This does not rule out the possibility that the TS07's asmedia chip is the culprit. Therefore, additional testing is still warranted. The good news is that the SilverStone EC03 dual port USB 3.0 PCI Express Card was able to come very close to onboard USB 3.0 speeds.
It is important to note that the negatives and the positives listed here may not be the same as your own. There are some minor deductions for the flimsy feeling of the external bay. While the bay is marketed as “free”, the reality is that without the external bay and supplied connector, the internal USB 3.0 is not very useful. In that respect, I consider that it should be part of the package (as evidenced by the manual), and not some “free” add on to give additional value. Providing just a 3.5” bay is not a deduction, but the value of the product could have been higher if a 5.25” adapter was included. On the plus side, performance almost matches the motherboard USB 3.0 speeds. Also, a plus goes to improving access to power thru the molex connector. Each plus or minus listed should be measured by your own personal meter, and then you can decide if this case is worth your money.
Overall, for a USB 3.0 card providing 2 ports specifically to 3.5” drive bay $32.50 (Amazon) is a fair deal, and the performance of the EC03 is good.
+ Good Value (if just using 3.5” bay.)
- USB cord not long enough for larger desktop installs.
Final Score: 8.45 out of 10.
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