Review: Akitio SK-3501 Super-S3

Quiet fanless hard drive enclosure to expand your storage needs. (November 17th, 2011)

This external hard drive case includes everything you need to install your own drive. You can install any unit ranging from 80GB to 3TB quickly. The 4-port case is stackable, offers passive cooling, and works with Mac OS X 10.2 and up.

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Akitio

Price: $149.99 US

The Good

  • Very quiet.
  • Good performance.
  • Comes with needed cables.
  • No annoying status light.
  • Works well.
  • Easy to install/remove the disk.

The Bad

  • Expensive-you pay a premium for USB 3 support.

As you may know, when you need additional hard drive space, it is sometimes cheaper to buy the drive you want, and put it in an external case, purchased elsewhere. The Akitio SK-3501 Super-S3 is an external case for 3.5" hard drives. The case is 8.7" x 4.5" x 1.5", just barely wide enough for a hard disk inside. The Super-S3 has four connectors on the back: USB 3.0, eSATA, and two FireWire 800 ports. Power is supplied by a small "wall-wart style" external power supply. The Super-S3 is made of Aluminum, and has a set of Aluminum ridges on the bottom for heat dissipation. This keeps the hard disk inside the case cool without the need for a fan.

In addition to the case and the power supply, the Super-S3 comes with a full set of cables in the box: eSATA, FireWire 800, and USB 3.

 Akitio SK-3501

Unlike many cases, the Super-S3 does not have a power or access LED light. For some people, this may be a disadvantage, but for me, it is a plus. I have several cases with blue LEDs that are on all the time, and they are universally too bright. I have taken to disconnecting the LEDs, when possible, or I put tape over the LEDs to dim the lights.

Installing a hard disk in the Super-S3 is very easy. There are four Philips-head screws on the bottom of the case. After you remove them, the Aluminum shell slides off, and the platform that the hard disk sits on is revealed. You use the included four screws to attach the hard disk to the platform. You only need to connect two cables, the power and SATA, and you're done. Slide the shell back on, and attach the four external screws to keep it in place, and you're ready to go. The Akitio SK-3501 Super-S3 comes with four rubber feet you attach with adhesive to the bottom of the case, and they cover the screws. These feet protect your desk from scratches, and absorb the vibration of the spinning drive. According to the site, you can install a drive up to 3TB.

sk33501-install


For performance testing I used a Seagate 7200.11 1500 GB 7200 RPM drive, connected over FireWire 800 to a Mac Pro. To get an idea of the performance of the Super-S3, I ran the timing tests twice, once with the drive in the S3, and again with the same hard drive in a "toaster-style" hard drive case. The goal was to see if the S3 case would perform better then the 3-year-old toaster, and I am glad to report that it did.

Speed Test

For the benchmark scores, I used XBench 1.3. The differences between the two enclosures are very small, less than the variance in the XBench scores except for sequential reading and writing, where the Super-S3 was had better scores. For gross testing, I took a 64 GB disk image, and copied it to the freshly erased hard disk. After it was copied, I duplicated it in the Finder. I timed the tests with a stopwatch. In this case, the Super-S3 performed noticeably better than the other case.

Copying a 64 GB file: 14 minutes, 11 seconds vs. 16:16
Duplicating a 64 GB file: 31 minutes, 19 seconds vs. 34:04

I do not have a machine that has a USB3 port or eSATA, so I could not test performance using those interfaces. I did verify that the USB port works just fine when connected to a Mac Pro (USB2), but that connection is significantly slower than FireWire 800.

sk3501-supers3-overview
When in operation, the Super-S3 is very quiet. There is no fan, so you don't get any fan noise. The case muffles the sounds of the drive better than many other cases, so that keeps the overall operation quiet. The Information Center on the site offers instructions for how to format an external drive for Intel only (GUID) or for PPC and Intel use (APM).

sk3501-supers3_angle

The Super-S3 lists for $150, but various online retailers sell it for less than $100. Akitio also sells the SK-3500, which has eSATA, FW400, FW800, and USB2, without USB3, for $100 MSRP ($75 from Amazon). You pay a significant premium for USB3 support, which Mac users do not need unless you have a PCI card for USB 3. I like this drive case and can recommend it with confidence in the short run, but cannot attest to its reliability over the long term.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Marshall Clow


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