The Vantec NexStar Hard Drive Dock makes it easy to connect an internal hard drive to a computer, which would otherwise require you to open the computer case and fumble with the cables inside. The device supports USB 3.0 and can handle both 2.5-inch (laptop) and 3.5-inch (desktop) SATA hard drives. Costing around just $40, the NexStar is well worth the investment, especially considering its fast performance with USB 3.0. It also works with USB 2.0 ports.

On the downside, the NexStar is a little bulky compared with other similar docking stations. It also doesn’t support FireWire or eSATA connections and legacy IDE hard drives. Nonetheless, the device still makes a great hard drive docking station for anybody who works with internal hard drives. If you’re looking for something similar that’s a little more compact, we’d recommend the Ineo USB 3.0 HDD Docking Station. If you work with a lot of legacy IDE hard drives, the WebbieTech UltraDock V4 is a better choice.

Design and features
The Vantec NexStar Hard Drive Dock shares a similar design with the Ineo USB 3.0 HDD Docking station but is about twice the size, making it a little bulky; it measures 5.4 by 3.2 by 3.4 inches. However, the NexStar looks good and is more stable, especially when holding a full-size 3.5-inch hard drive, thanks to its added height and wider base.

It has a toaster-style design, with the hard-drive slot on top. You can insert an internal hard drive vertically into this slot, much like you would insert a piece of bread into a toaster. The opening of the slot features a spring-loaded latch that automatically secures the hard drive, regardless of its thickness. You won’t be able to use legacy IDE hard drives with it, however.

On the front, the NexStar has a big, round power button with a blue LED light ring surrounding it. This light shows the power status of the unit and is rather bright, which is distracting if you want to keep the room dark. Underneath, you’ll find another horizontal blue LED light, which is also very bright. This one blinks to show the hard drive’s activities.

On the back, you’ll find a regular USB 3.0 port. The device comes with a USB 3.0 cable and works with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. It doesn’t support any other connection types, such as eSATA or FireWire. However, we don’t see this lack as a big shortcoming as USB 3.0 is by far the fastest peripheral connection to date. We do wish the device came with a USB 3.0 add-in PCI card, though, as most existing computers don’t have support for USB 3.0.

Like most docking stations, the Vantec NexStar requires no setup and there’s no software to install. All you need to do is connect it to a computer via a USB port (preferably a USB 3.0 port), insert a hard drive, and power it on. The computer will then recognize it and you can work with the hard drive as though it were connected to the computer internally. The device works with Windows XP or later and Mac OS 10.4 or later.

Performance
We were happy with the Vantec NexStar Hard Drive Dock’s performance. We tested it with Windows 7 64-bit and a few different internal hard drives.

When tested with a USB 3.0 connection, the device registered sustained throughput speeds of 99.8MBps for the write test and 113.1MBps for the read test. When used with a USB 2.0 port, the NexStar also did well with 26.71 MBps (write) and 37.8MBps (read). These score were within the average of the fastest USB 2.0 external hard drives we’ve tested.

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