DockCase’s USB-C M.2 SSD enclosure: How does it stack up? | #itsecurity | #infosec


DockCase is back with its latest product, a USB-C M.2 SSD enclosure. The device packs some great SSD protection and monitoring features into a sleek metal and glass enclosure with a small screen to keep you updated on your SSD’s health. But are these features worth the $99 price (only $69 on Kickstarter), or are you better off looking elsewhere?

Last year, I took a look at DockCase’s smart hub. Like the launch of that product, DockCase’s NVMe/SATA SSD enclosure is launching first on Kickstarter. While DockCase has been reliable with launching its products, and this latest campaign is already fully funded (having raised over $100,000 from nearly 1,000 backers), it is still a Kickstarter. Shipping is expected to start next month, after the end of the campaign in just a few days. Just be aware that buying the enclosure isn’t exactly like buying one of the company’s finished products off Amazon (though DockCase is running some Kickstarter-exclusive discounts).

The SSD enclosure comes with a removable USB-C to USB-C cable with a convenient built-in USB-A adapter. From the moment you plug it in, the most noticeable feature is the enclosure’s screen. The screen displays various info about the SSD and enclosure, and the single button on the side allows you to access even more information. Right at the top of the screen, the enclosure displays the state of its power loss protection – one of the main features of the SSD.

The screen is smaller than the one on DockCase’s hub, in line with the slimmer enclosure, and also more noticeable when the device is turned off.

DockCase’s hub (top) and SSD enclosure (bottom).

Installing the SSD

DockCase’s SSD enclosure doesn’t feature a tool-less design like many other enclosures. Instead, on the rear of the device, there is a small Philips head screw holding on the heatsink. The device ships with a screwdriver.

Once you take off the back, you can take a look inside the enclosure. Installing the SSD is simple, with a Philips head screw to hold it down, but I really think a tool-less design would have been a nice addition. Before getting this enclosure, I used a similarly priced Sabrent Thunderbolt 3 enclosure. It uses a totally tool-less design and includes multiple thermal pads of different thicknesses that you stick-on yourself. DockCase’s SSD enclosure has the thermal pad pre-installed on the heatsink.

While DockCase’s enclosure may not be tool-less, that design has its own advantages, as you can install SSDs of various lengths. It supports 2230, 2242, 2260, and 2280 SSDs while the Sabrent enclosure only supports 80mm 2280 M.2 SSDs.

DockCase has clearly made the enclosure to appear beautiful, even when opening it up. The contrast between the black PCB and golden contact pads and lettering truly looks beautiful. It’s in stark contrast to the cluttered-looking but functional blue PCB in the Sabrent enclosure.

Safety features

Using a capacitor, the enclosure can keep the SSD powered up for a few more seconds after it’s unplugged. While this won’t let you transfer any extra information from your computer, it will allow the SSD to clear the data that is stored in its cache. Power loss protection also helps ensure the SSD’s mapping table (basically a table of contents on where data is stored on the SSD) remains intact.

The large capacitor in either of DockCase’s enclosures (the enclosure comes in five-second and ten-second power loss protection versions) could help prevent issues resulting from unplugging the device unexpectedly.

The capacitor in the DockCase enclosure that provides the power-loss protection.

When the enclosure is opened, the large purple capacitor providing that power-loss protection is on full display at the end. It’s labeled “SUPERCAP (EDLC).” The leads on this capacitor are visible, though covered by another flap of metal so you can’t accidentally touch the leads while installing your SSD.

DockCase’s enclosure is pretty special in its additional power loss protection. I’ve never run into issues with other external SSD enclosures, but that extra peace of mind is nice.

The display also is able to share a lot of information about the installed SSD at a glance. Everything from the size, type, storage remaining, and partitions to more detailed information like the firmware, power-on hours, and data written/read. While using a MacOS’s Disk Utility or Window’s Disk Management makes most of this information available, it’s nice certainly nice to have just a button click away.

Performance

Performance is one of those areas in which DockCase’s USB-C enclosure, unfortunately, falls behind. Its two main limitations are its USB-C 10Gbps connectivity and the 2TB max capacity. The enclosure uses the RTL9210b control chip, which is a Realtek USB to PCIe / USB to SATA chip also used in other M.2 SSD enclosures as inexpensive as $20.

With more and more PCIe 4.0 SSDs like Kingston’s KC3000 being released, which can reach speeds up to 7,000MB/s, higher-speed Thunderbolt connectivity would have made this a much more compelling option for those looking to get the most out of their SSDs.

Is DockCase’s USB-C M.2 enclosure worth it?

All things considered, for me, DockCase’s USB-C M.2 SSD enclosure is absolutely worth it even at $99, and it’s currently available on Kickstarter for just $69. I have higher speed options available, which I will definitely still use on occasion, but the power-loss protection, excellent build quality, additional features, and Apple-like aesthetic make the enclosure the perfect addition to my setup. Much like DockCase’s hub has become my primary connectivity device, I fully anticipate an SSD in DockCase’s SSD enclosure remaining my go-to external storage device.

If the additional power-loss protection and slick design don’t speak to you so much, you can go with one of the cheaper options and spend as little as $20, or you can get a higher-performing device for a similar cost, but those have their own drawbacks. The $99 Sabrent enclosure I’ve used doesn’t have standard USB support, requiring Thunderbolt 3 compatibility on whatever device you plug it into, while the $79 OWC Envoy Express has a non-removable cable.

If at any point DockCase comes out with a more expensive Thunderbolt version of this, I will be first in line to make the switch, but until that point, the 10Gbps USB-C connectivity is enough to make this the latest addition to my desktop setup.

Get DockCase’s USB-C SSD enclosure for $69 on Kickstarter.

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