So external storage, blah blah, it’s boring, for the most part it is. However this little guy, throws RAID 0 into the mix. Coming from Silverstone, a company well known for making quality cases and power supplies, as well as other pc related odds and ends, is the DS223, an external USB 3.1 Gen2 type C, dual 2.5” external enclosure. Well so what right? Well with so many 1TB 2.5” SSDs getting cheaper and cheaper by the day, it’s starting to make a lot more sense to have an SSD for external storage than a normal mechanical hard drive of years past. Sure you could have tons more capacity with a mechanical hard drive, but at the cost of speed. Speed, of which is USB 3.1 Gen2’s forte, 10 Gbps, or about 1250 MB/s. So with high end hybrid mechanical hard drives like the Seagate FireCuda running at 5400 RPMs, hybrid SSD caching, speeds get up to about 140 MB/s on reads and writes and with capacities up to 5 TB in the 2.5” variant. RAID 0ed, maybe the configuration would hit 275 MB/s respectively. Take the WD Black 2.5” mechanical hard drive. Running at 7200 RPMs, speeds really aren’t all that much different at 120 MB/s on each the reads and writes. So what can saturate the pure potential of the USB 3.1 Gen2’s bandwidth? Mmmm…..Lightbulb! SSDs. SATA 6Gbps SSDs top out at around 550 MB/s on reads and writes, however we get closer the 1250 MB/s number when we RAID0 them, almost fully saturating the bandwidth of the DS223’s USB 3.1 Gen2 Type C connection.
So the construction of this little enclosure is really good, made from machined aluminum with a tool free installation by design, swapping out drives is really no issue at all. In the front is a tasteful Silverstone branding and well as USB 3.1 branding in the upper right corner. Also present is the light indicators for power, disk1 and disk2. Flipping the DS223 to the rear, is a power switch, a 30mm low noise fan, USB 3.1 Type C connection, a DC + 5V power input, set button, and options for disk configurations. Non Raid, RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD are set via dip switches. Today, we will be using the RAID 0 configuration, which is 1 up and 1 down.
Included with the DS223 is a T5 screwdriver, screws to mount HDs/SSDs, and USB type C to type C cable. It’s nice to see the cable included as it would be a major PITA to find one if you didn’t already have USB Type C in your possession already. I should also mention that you do get a user’s guide/manual as well.
Ok let’s get to the good stuff, installation and performance of this tiny beast. Installation is done by unscrewing the four T5 screws in front of the DS223. The front plate comes off relatively easy, exposing a rectangular foam pad to aid in lessing any vibrations that might occur when using mechanical hard drives. We won’t have to worry about that using SSDs.
Once inside, you will see two 2.5” drive sleds, made from plastic, they do the job just fine. Peering inside you will see the PCB where the two SATA 6 drives will connect to along with their respected SATA power plugs. Once the drives are installed, which the drives I used are two ADATA SU800 1TB 3D Nand SSDs with SLC caching.
Photo courtesy of Silverstonetek.com
Setting up the drives in RAID 0 from what I remember was harder than I recall. Attempting to go via Disk Management on my Windows 10 Acer Predator Helios 300 laptop, was a no bueno. Wow has it really been that long since I did this? But to my defense, I always setup RAID arrays in the BIOS anyways. Off to the manual I went. So setting up RAID is easier, who woulda known? All you have to do is flip the dip switches on the back to whatever RAID configuration you want, and with the USB type C cable plugged in, hold the SET button until your computer pops up with a new drive(s). Then all you need to do is set your drive size and you are done! It’s that easy!
Now onto performance. Keeping in mind that USB 3.1 Gen2 isn’t so common, I plugged the USB C connection to my Acer Predator Helios 300 laptop expecting over 1,000 MB/s reads and writes. WRONG. Getting about 430 MB/s sequential reads and writes, isn’t what I had in mind. Come to find out that the type c port on my Acer Predator Helios 300 is only USB 3.1 Gen 1! So what's the difference between Gen1 and Gen2? Well Gen1’s bandwidth tops out at 5Gbps, or about 625 MB/s. Thankfully the OCN test bench, which consists of a 8700K on a Asus Z370 Maximus X Code, does have the blessed USB 3.1 Gen2 Type C and A ports via the rear IO, this fared much better in benchmarks with 1,008 MB/s reads and 884 MB/s writes in AS SSD. In Anvil Storage Utilities, it was pretty much the same story. So I guess it is possible to break 1k MB/s reads via an external enclosure.
Acer Predator Helios 300 w/USB 3.1 Gen1 Type C
TestBench with Asus Z370 Maximus X Code w/USB 3.1 Gen2 Type C
So on with the pros and cons. Starting with the pros, the DS223 is a very small and well built external enclosure that has great options in terms of storage flexibility. The USB type C connection for most people is going to be a bit of a new thing, but is getting more common as newer devices are coming out everyday. I know I am on my third USB type C Android phone, so yeah. The cons, or should I say con as in singular. The screws, yes the screws are not consistent throughout the DS223. On the outside of the DS223 are T5 screws, with the included T5 screwdriver, I was expecting more T5 screws to hold the drives in. Nope, I was wrong. The included screws are Phillips head screws. Now that’s not a huge deal, just not consistent. So now I had to go get a small Phillips head screwdriver to complete installing the two ADATA SSDs. Again not a huge deal, but just something to note.
So the Silverstone DS223 is quite an interesting device. It’s small enough to be very minimalist on a desktop, or small enough to be travel worthy. The DS223 gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 flames from me. Very solid. Well done Silverstone.
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