Ultra Stackables Page: 1
Introduction

Ultra Products is known for its computer cases, power supplies, and accessories. Ultra is dedicated to offering customers the most innovative and high quality products they can, or as they put it:
Ultra Products is constantly monitoring industry developments to guarantee the product lines are up-to-date with the latest innovations; products are manufactured and engineered to exceed customer application requirements. Ultra currently offers: case fans and lights, CPU designer cases, DVD products, hard drive coolers, media drives, complete memory solutions, memory coolers and power supplies.

Today, I'll be looking at a new release from Ultra, the Stackables. These aesthetically pleasing accessories are a set of external enclosures, media readers, and USB hubs, all of which are powered individually or with the matching 180-watt power supply designed for the units. So without further ado, let's take a quick look at the Stackables.

 
 
So what are they?

The idea behind the Stackables is to be both useful and pleasing on the eye. They are accessories that match and fit together nicely in a 'stack', hence the name Stackables. I've been supplied with two external enclosures (one SATA and one PATA) and a media card reader. These all cleverly plug into an optional power supply designed to power the Stackables.
 
Head over to the next page to check out them out.


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Presentation

Let's start with the basics on the Stackables. It definitely does not hurt to have matching accessories sitting next to your computer, and personally I'm a black enthusiast when it comes to PCs, so these nicely influence my love of black. They are sleek and stack together nicely to fit next to my monitor.

The 'stack' starts with the power supply, and then is followed by whatever combination of the other Stackables you'd like to add. I chose to arrange them with the two external hard drive enclosures on the bottom, followed by the media reader. The media reader was much skinnier than the other two Stackables, so I though that looked best. Each Stackable comes with soft plastic feet that you can attach to the bottom of the unit, which fit nicely into the rivets on top of each unit, allowing you to use any order you'd like.


The power supply is a nice aluminum unit, with a great black finish. The rest of the Stackables cases are plastic with a texture to them best described as 'rubbery suede'. Personally, I would have preferred all of the units be aluminum or plastic in order for them to match, but the logic behind this is most likely that aluminum would be too heavy for the Stackables, but not the power supply.

Also, for added functionality, each Stackable comes with a power cord so you can use it individually without the power supply. This allows you to just buy the external enclosure or media reader/USB hub. Each Stackable also comes with 2 small stands allowing you to stand it on it's side if that looks better to you.

Another nice addition is the Three-Year Warranty supplied by Ultra Products for every Stackable.

Power Supply

The power supply is 180-watts, which is more than enough power for all your stackable needs.
OutputMinMax
12V +/- 5%1A15A

Packaging

The power supply came in a nice box, with information in both English and Spanish. A few pictures of the power supply are included on the box, and a picture of what a stack with every Stackable available would look like.



Everything comes tidily wrapped and placed inside the small package, and the package seemed relatively damage resistant, a drop probably wouldn't effect the contents.

Inside the box you will find the Power Supply Unit itself, 1 power input cord, 6 DC power cords (to power each stackable), 2 stands for the unit, and a manual. The stands give the power supply unit something to sit on and have  little rubbery grips on the bottom to keep your stack in place. The power cords supplied for each stackable very in length to reach the furthest Stackables, and still be tidy for the closest.

The Unit

The power supply unit has a nice aluminum finish. The blue LEDs on the front correspond to the power outlets on the back, and light up when a Stackable is drawing power. The unit goes along with the black box theme of the Stackables, but, as I mentioned earlier, the aluminum does not match the other Stackables. The power supply powers every stackable you'll use effortlessly, and it's a great addition if you plan on buying two or more Stackables because it cuts down on the amount of wires. It gives off a fair amount of heat out of the back, but nothing prohibitive or highly noticeable, which is to be expected from a power supply.
 



Enough of the power supply, on to the next page to see the Test Setup and Notes.


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A middle to high range PC was used in the testing of the Stackables:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 2.75 Ghz
Motherboard: Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI
Memory: 2gb G.Skill DDR2 800 5-5-5-15
HDD: OS - 320gb Seagate Barracuda SATA II
Power: Coolermaster iGreen 500w
Cooling: Scythe Infinity
 
Software Tested
 
HDTach
Sisoft Sandra Lite
 
Hardware Tested
 
40gb 2mb cache Seagate PATA hard drive
160gb 8mb cache Seagate SATA hard drive
2gb Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 flash drive
1gb Wii SD Card
 
Notes
 
For the hard drives, I ran both HDTach and Sisoft Sandra on each hard drive both internally and externally. Each test was run three times to insure the up-most accuracy. These were also on done on blank unformatted drives with the main OS being a fresh install of Windows XP Pro SP2. The flash drive and SD card were both tested the same way.
 
Now let's take a look at the SATA external enclosure on the next page...


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3.5" SATA External Enclosure

First up is the SATA External Enclosure, here we have a matching (of course) external enclosure for those of us who need a bit of storage on the go. It fits 3.5" internal hard drives, and obviously supports SATA interface. This is great for anyone with a large media collection or if you just need to back up large amounts of files on a regular basis. Let's move on to the packaging...

Packaging

Just like the other Stackables, we are presented with a nice small box that's relatively damage resistant.





Package Includes:
(1) 3.5" HDD Enclosure
(1) AC Adapter
(1) USB 2.0 Cable (5 feet)
(1) eSATA Cable (6 feet)
(4) Horizontal Positioning Stands
(2) Vertical Positioning Stands
(1) Manual
(1) Drivers (Windows 98)
and hardware (screws)

The Unit

The unit is aesthetically pleasing with a nice black color to it. One nice thing included with this Stackable, and every Stackable are the vertical stands, just in case you would like to use your Stackable alone, it is held up nicely on it's side. It also includes its own power adapter for using it alone.
 



As for the front of the enclosure, we see two rows of LED light, the blue to let us know when the unit is getting power, and the red to let us know when the hard drive is being accessed. When it comes to connections, the enclosure comes with an eSATA PCI adapter which fits nicely into an open PCI slot and then connects directly to an open SATA port on your motherboard; however, if you can't use the eSATA, you are not out of luck, Ultra has also included a USB 2.0 Port so you can use your external enclosure just about everywhere. Also included is, of course, a power switch.
 


The enclosure slides apart easily, so it's no problem to open up and install a hard drive, and after installation you can screw the case on so it doesn't come apart by accident. Inside we find a SATA power and a data connector with six screw points to install your drive.

Heat

When it comes to heat, the enclosure includes a nice 30mm fan to keep air moving through, and little 'gill' slots on the front to take air from. Of course, warm air is output by the fan, but the hard drive never gets hot enough to overheat, and is kept only warm to the touch. It would be nice to have a small temperature sensor, but it's not to be expected.

Noise

The noise output by the enclosure is no more than one would expect from an external enclosure, and Ultra did a good job making including a quiet fan. Although I do not currently have the equipment to measure exact noise levels, I will say the the unit is quiet, and surely not distracting.

Now let's move onto the testing on the next page...


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HD Tach
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. It is used to measure the Burst Speed, Average Read Speed, and Random Access Time of the hard drive. In this case, it has been used on the same hard drive both internally and in the external enclosure.
 




 

As you can see, the inclusion of the eSATA interface for the external enclosure was surely a good idea, and it offered almost equivalent average read speed as if it were internal. The burst speed did not reach  the same level as the drive reached internally, but that's respectable from an external drive. Let's move on to our next test.


Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. For our Seagate SATA II hard drive we ran the read speed utility both internally and in the external enclosure, three times each to ensure accurate results.





Once again we see the external eSATA connection being just a bit slower than an internal hook-up, and the access time shows the same. We can conclude that all though the external enclosure with use of eSATA is not quite on par with the internal drive, there is a negligible difference in most cases.
 
General Usage
 
The enclosure fairs well with general performance. I must note that after using the enclosure for an extended period of time, I noticed some stuttering here and there, and every so often the drive would show up 'Not Responding' for no more than 30 seconds, then would come back online for normal usage. I wouldn't consider this a huge problem, and it could possibly be isolated, but it's good to note. Other than that, I found the drive to be a great addition to my set up, and great for taking files on the road.


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3.5" IDE External Enclosure

Moving on to our next item, a matching external enclosure, but this time we have an IDE interface. This one's for those of use who don't have an extra SATA hard disk lying around, but have an IDE hard drive about. We once again have a matching enclosure that fits in perfectly with the theme of the Stackables, and is in fact identical to the SATA enclosure from the front side. Let's take a look at the packaging...

Packaging

As we've seen before, we have another small but damage resistant box for this enclosure. Just so you know, there is a cardboard piece inside which gives every included bit it's own nice little compartment.
 
 


Package Includes:
(1) 3.5" HDD Enclosure
(1) AC Adapter
(1) USB 2.0 Cable (5 feet)
(1) FireWire Cable (5 feet)
(4) Horizontal Positioning Stands
(2) Vertical Positioning Stands
(1) Manual
(1) Windows 98 Drivers CD
Includes Hardware

Specifications

As provided by Ultra:

* Plug and Play USB 2.0 and Firewire Interface
* Support 3.5" ATA 133/100/66 Hard Drives
* Maximum Capacity Supported: 750 GB
* 30mm Cooling Fan
* Front LED Indicators
* Dual External Firewire Ports
* USB 2.0 Transfer Rate: 480Mbps
* Firewire Transfer Rate: 400Mbps
* DC Power: 12V

The Unit

The matching flat black color once again. The look is the same as the SATA enclosure with different connections in the back. Included are those vertical stands for use of this without the stack, and horizontal stands which are little pads that work as feet and fit nicely into any Stackable below it, or even on the desk.
 
 
 

The front once again has the familiar LED lights for power and access and is indistinguishable from the SATA enclosure. When it comes to the connections, are two FireWire connections which allow you to DaisyChain up to 3 devices together, which is great if you have multiple PATA enclosures. Then, for those of us without FireWire, there is of course the USB 2.0 slot which can be used just about anywhere.

Just like the SATA enclosure, we are presented with an easy to open case with the ability to fasten it down with screws after installation of your hard drive. Inside are a 4 pin molex connector and an IDE connection.

Heat

Once again we have the included 30mm fan and front gill slits, which allow air to flow nicely through the small enclosure. This keeping the drive at a nice operating temperature that you can leave on for hours without worry.

Noise

Once again, no different than the SATA enclosure. Of course, we can hear the drive at an audible level, but it is in now way intruding, and no quieter than you would expect. The fan on the enclosure, is generally unnoticeable and quiet.

Now let's take a look at the testing on the next page...


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HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. It is used to measure the Burst Speed, Average Read Speed, and Random Access Time of the hard drive. In this case, it has been used on the same hard drive both internally and in the external enclosure. Just the same as with the SATA enclosure.
 
 
 
 
Obviously, the external USB interface surely slows down the overall performance of the drive. The external connection was beaten out in every category, which is not all too surprising. The burst speed between USB and internal differed greatly, but USB is known for lack of great burst speeds. Of course, it would be recommended to run the hard drive internally for maximum performance, the enclosure surely isn't below par when it comes to external enclosure speeds over USB.
 
Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. For our Seagate PATA hard drive we ran the read speed utility both internally and in the external enclosure, three times each to ensure accurate results. Here we run it again like before with the SATA enclosure.
 
 
Here we see once again that the drive performs better inside the system, and I would have to blame that speed decrease on the transfer through USB itself. However convenient USB 2.0 may be, it can still greatly hinder performance such as this.
 
General Usage
 
After prolonged use of the enclosure and drive, I've found no problems in operation or performance. The enclosure and drive a pretty much rock solid, and have no problem between systems. I would rather use the SATA enclosure for speed alone, but if you have an extra Ultra ATA drive lying around, it sure doesn't hurt.
 
Let's move on to the Media Reader/USB Hub on the next page...


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Media Card Reader/USB Hub

So now we come to the media reader and USB hub. This nice little Stackable is great for photographers or those of us with an obsession for portable storage. It's also a great 6-port USB hub for easy addition and removal of USB devices. Of course, we are presented with that flat black, 'suede-rubber feeling' look and feel we've come to love. Let's take a look at the packaging...

Packaging

Once again we see the matching Stackable box, same size and set up. Like we've seen in the past, damage resistant.
 
 

Package Includes:
(1) Card Reader & 6-Port USB Hub
(1) AC Adapter
(1) USB 2.0 Cable (5 feet)
(4) Horizontal Positioning Stands
(2) Vertical Positioning Stands
(1) Manual
(1) Windows 98 Drivers CD
 
Supported Media Types

Secure Digital
Smart Media
Memory Stick Duo MagicGate
Secure Digital HC
Smart Media C
Memory Stick Duo Pro
Compact Flash I
Memory Stick
Memory Stick Duo Pro MagicGate
Compact Flash II
Memory Stick MagicGate
Memory Stick ROM
Micro Drive
Memory Stick Select Function
Magic Store
Multi Media Card
Memory Stick Pro
TransFlash
RS Multi Media Card
Memory Stick Pro Ultra II
XD
Multi Media 4.0
Memory Stick Pro MagicGate
XD - Type H
RS Multi Media Card 4.0
Memory Stick Duo
XD - Type M
 

Specifications

* USB 2.0 Interface
* 6 Port USB 2.0 Hub (480Mbps transfer speed)
* All-In-1 Media Card Reader
* DC Power: 12V


The Unit
Another Stackable, another matching flat black color. The Media Reader is a bit thinner than the external enclosures, but it still runs with the theme of them. As we've seen before, we are probided with both vertical stands and horizontal stands, depending on how you want to use it.
 
  
 
On the front we see four slots for all your media card usage, with nice little blue LEDs next to each slot to let you know when one is being used. Four 'Plug and Play' drives show up on your PC, one for each slot. The back of the unit, has 6 USB ports, and acts like a USB hub, which is a great feature because a port on your desktop is much more convenient to access than one on your actual PC. All in all, the Media Reader is great for someone constantly using portable media, or someone just looking for a bit of convenience.
 
Heat and Noise
 
Without any moving parts, and no real bulk to the Stackable, both heat and noise aren't even worth mentioning. Little to none of either are output, so if you were worried for some reason, worry no longer.
 
Now let's move onto testing some portable storage...


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Media Reader Performance
 
The media reader transfered at USB 2.0 speeds just fine, and fit almost any portable storage media you can think of. The particular SD Card I tested was actually a Wii Compatible SD card, which lies around the middle range when it comes to SD card performance. When tested with SiSoft Sandra, that proved to be true, seeing speeds and endurance around the middle of the field when compared to other SD cards.
 
Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 Flash Drive Testing
 
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. It is used to measure the Burst Speed and Average Read Speed of the flash drive. In this case, we've used it on the flash drive while connected to the hub, and while connected directly to a USB port on the motherboard.
 
 
 
Well here we can see that using the USB Hub versus the on board USB port showed absolutely no difference in performance, so it's safe to say you can't get much better than that. Definitely great to see with any USB hub, especially when it's not even the main draw towards the product.
 
Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. Once again for the flash drive we ran the benchmark three times to ensure accurate results, and here they are:
 
 
Here, we see the slightest difference with the port on the motherboard beating the hub by about 120 kb/s, this difference is obviously not even noticeable, but it is a difference nonetheless.
 
General Usage
 
The USB hub proved to be quite handy swapping portable media in and out. It was even used to connect my mouse for a brief period of time without problem. Surely can't list anything bad about it.


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Conclusion
 
With all the different computer accessories out on the market, USB hubs, external enclosures, and media readers are almost always mismatched and look rather ugly when all connected. Ultra Products has solved this problem with the Stackables. These small little accessories, great for the storage junkie on the go, have proven to be quite on par with other accessories, with the added bonus of looks.
 
All units tested performed as well as one can expect, and therefore would be a great addition to any setup. I personally found these to perform quite well and were very convenient when transferring files or bringing pictures and other files anywhere I went. They aren't particularly portable in the size department, but just because they won't fit in your pocket doesn't mean they can't be moved around. The media reader was great for uploading pictures onto my PC, and it really could take just about any kind of portable media you could imagine. Everything was USB 2.0 compatible for maximum compatibility with all systems, and Windows 98 drivers were even included.
 
The Stackables can be bought from Ultra, and the price varies depending on what setup you want, but the setup reviewed costs a total of about $220, and they don't seem to be readily available in the UK as of yet.
 
Pros
- Matching so they all fit in on our desk.
- Great eSATA performance
- Great for use on the go.
- Media reader reads almost all kinds of portable media, and includes a USB hub.
- Customizable to your personal needs and taste.
 
Mediocre
- Perfomance on par with other accessories of their type.
 
Cons
- SATA enclosure wasn't always consistent during general use.
- PSU did not match the other Stackables.
 
 
 
Overclock3D would like to thank Ultra for providing the Stackables for review
 
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