Thursday, 20 December 2012

Review: Zalman ZM-VE300 USB3 Virtual CD/DVD/BR USB Hard Drive Enclosure

The Zalman ZM-VE300 \USB3 




Zalman were kind enough to send a ZM-VE300 USB3 hard drive enclosure the big brother of the ZM-VE200 I reviewed previously here , also the new ZM-VE400................





The VE300 can be seen below to the left  ,and no that's not a new Zalman calculator to the right ,it's the new ZM-VE400!
The ZM-VE400 features all of the upgrades from the VE300 but includes 256bit encryption ,hence the touch keypad for secure access.

The ZM-VE400 will feature in an upcoming review




Supplied by: Zalman
Street Price: £40-45


I won't go over everything in this quick review as the enclosure is near identical to my previous review of the
ZM-VE200 in function, except for menu additions and USB3. If you would like to see more on the virtual CD/DVD .ISO functions you can read the previous review here

" I install allot of different operating systems  and I like to keep my images slip streamed with all the latest hot fixes it can literally save you hours at the end of the install .This is one of the areas that could make the Zalman really shine by not having to burn a new disc every time there a bunch of updates or maybe you just want to try that new Live CD of Backtrack.................

Zalman have introduced a world first - the USB3 ZM-VE300, an external 2.5" HDD enclosure with a Virtual Drive function. Not only will it act like any other external HDD enclosure but you can also store/boot ISO images from your CD/DVD/BD collection."


Features



World's first HDD enclosure with Virtual Drive,Now Connects to your  Hi-Speed USB 3.0
Perfect for mass storage of CD/DVD/Blu-ray ISO images
(While its not really mentioned it does support floppy images)
LCD display allows listing and selection of ISO files
USB powered - no external DC adapter required No special software or drivers needed
Backup button





What Zalman includes in the box ! 


The ZM-VE300 Drive enclosure
Micro USB3 cable (500mm)
Hard slip-on pouch
Mini Screwdriver
4 retaining screws (only 2 are required)
Guide
CD containing Zalmans backup software


Specifications


Dimensions: 135.3(L) x 78.6(W) x 13.1(H) mm

Weight: 96g
Materials: Aluminum Alloy, Acryl, Poly Carbonate
External Interface: USB1.1 Max. 12Mbps / USB2.0 Max. 480Mbps / USB3.0 Max. 5.0Gbps
Internal Interface: S-ATA I/II
Compatible HDD Size: 2.5'
Power: USB
Supported OS: Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, VISTA, 7 / Mac OS / Linux
Color: Black/Silver











The excellent hard pouch that came with the VE200, also comes with the ZM-VE300!



ZM-VE200 Pouch




Starting from the left, we have a a Backup button which works in conjunction with the supplied software,Hard Drive activity LED indicator,Micro USB2/USB3 connector, on the right side of the enclosure is a jog switch to choose between the various functions.

The backup button requires no discussion,  all it does is initiate the installed Zalman backup software window to pop up. 





VE200 versus VE300


The bottom unit of each picture denotes the ZM-VE300




Setting up the hardrive


There are two versions of the firmware for the ZM-VE300 one for FAT and one for NTFS. The unit come shipped with the NTFS firmware but both versions are available on the Zalman website .

Keep in mind that FAT32 has a single file size limit of less than 4GB but has greater compatibility between operating systems.While NTFS has a single file size limit of well over 4GB so again keep this in mind when formatting the hard drive.
The difference in the firmware is denoted by the last letter N=NTFS ,  F=FAT

The hard dive I chose to install was a Samsung 830 128GB SSD,  to get a good indication of speed!



I partitioned the hard drive beforehand but it can be done after the fact.I found no mention in the documentation regarding how the hard drive should be set up ,as it turns out it must be partitioned as "PRIMARY" and the partition set "ACTIVE" for good measure not LOGICAL! 


After the drive has been set up and you can access the drive from within the operating system, to enable the virtual disc side of the ZM-VE300 you must create a folder on the root of the drive called  "_iso" up to 32  ISO image files may be placed in here. More ISO image files are allowed but must be in a separate folder within the _iso folder these folders can then be navigated using the jog button on the left hand side of the unit the hand symbol on the display shows the current  folder .This actually comes in hand as you can categorise the various iso's by the use of these folders which can be navigated from the display.



USE



There are 3 modes available to the ZM-VE300

Hard Drive mode

As the name suggests the Drive will just show as a normal USB hard drive in the operating system

(This mode can be quickly selected by holding the jog button downward while powering the unit up but can be set from the on-screen menu)

Dual mode
this is a combination of Hard drive mode and ODD mode both the hard drive and ODD virtual drive will be visible to the operating system

(This mode can be quickly enabled by holding the jog button in from the center position while powering the unit up but can be set from the on-screen menu)

ODD mode (VHDD)

This is the virtual disc side of the ZM-VE300 and only the currently mounted  .ISO image from the "_iso" folder on the drive ,will be visible to the operating system as a CD/DVD/BR etc.

(This mode can be quickly enabled by holding the jog button upward while powering the unit up but can be set from the on-screen menu)


 The various modes are accessed like the VE200 from side jog switch, Zalman actually has an flowchart to get to grip with the functions.
The new menu system is a lot more intuitive than the VE200 and menu selections become a trivial affair.



It does all become second nature, selecting between the various functions..........






Notable additions over the VE200 menu  system on the ...






V.irtual H.ard D.rive D.isc, 

One point to note with this menu is that if the virtual drive is ejected in windows, the .ISO will also be unmounted on the drive.To access the image again it needs to be reloaded ,by pressing the middle of the jog button.







USB Menu




 The below screen is linked to the above USB menu.It shows the highest and lowest Voltages recorded on the USB port.This can be good for connection trouble shooting.
In theory USB ports specs generate 5 volts DC in reality the average seems to be around 4.8 volts for most PC's,there are allot of  deciding factures to do with cable quality,length and resistance.The lowest voltage can be explained by the spin up or initial power up of the drive installed on the port.





S.M.A.R.T hard drive functions






Display/Sleep related menu






Testing

CPU: Intel Core  i7 960
Motherboard : Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3
USB3 Chipset: NEC USB3 Controller D720200F1 (now called Renesas  uPD720200)
USB3 Driver: Version 2.1.39.0 Windows 7 64 Bit

Zalman ZM-VE300 Firmware: R1115N
Hard drive : Samsung 830 128GB  Read 520MB/s, Write 320MB/s SATA3


Nero 11 Disc Speed - Virtual DVD drive USB2-3 Performance


 USB2 Mode (DVD IMAGE) 1x DVD = 1.39MB/s






 USB3 Mode (DVD IMAGE) 1x DVD = 1.39MB/s




USB3 HD Tune Results










The USB3 results would be improved when using a separate PCI-Express card  or motherboard on a PCI-E 3.0 bus.Toms Hardware has an informative article on how not all USB3 implementations are created equal



USB2 HD Tune Results (with USB2 Micro USB cable)








Even if you do not yet have access to USB3 ports ,there  is still an advantage to owning the VE300. You can see from the above results the USB2 bus is saturated ,with a nice flat line response.



Pros

Great USB3 Data Transfer Rates ,Especially when using a SSD
Manual sleep function
Dual Mode
Remembers previous menu selections
Aluminium Construction.
Works with NTFS allowing for file images over 4GB
Carry an unlimited amount of  CD/DVD/BR images
Hard pouch
Micro USB3 Leads Included (later models the black USB3 lead is allot more flexible)
Informative LCD screen
Lightweight
Write protect Function
Works with MACs
USB2/USB3 connection indicator


Cons

No Power input for an external PSU to boost low USB port power levels 
As with the VE200 the VE300 has the same flimsy Jog switch!.  Buttons would have been more robust
No mention of how to set up the hard drive partitions
No instruction on Firmware Recovery procedure 
No capacity percentage indicator

Conclusions and Thoughts

On the whole its a very nice upgrade over the VE200's USB2 implementation ,plus a more intuitive menu system.

The Backup button, like most USB drives seems a bit of a useless addition on a device like this, given the crowd the VE300 is aimed at, an E-SATA connector would have been far more useful, as on the VE200.

The Zalman ZM-VE300 is a very smart, well priced product that has great USB3 speeds and does "what it says on the tin".

Yes its quite a bit more money than a traditional USB enclosure, with USB3 2.5" drive enclosures dropping in price over that last 6 months, now USB3 has gone mainstream ,the Zalman gives you a set of indispensable tools for the enthusiast or I.T professional for a few dollars more.


Other reviews

Review: Zalman ZM-VE200-SE V1.1 Virtual CD/DVD/BR USB Drive

Review: Zalman ZM-VE400 Virtual CD/DVD/BR USB Drive

Guide: How to install windows 7 from a USB3 Port