8/16/2008 @ 12:00 pm by Daniel Eisner
The VOX External Hard Drive (v1) is a solid is a great and near-silent external hard drive for almost any purpose. Like other external hard drives, it will work with all the major operating systems: Linux, OS X, Windows XP, and Windows Vista without any problems. It comes pre-formatted as a single NTFS partition. The model I got was a 750 GB drive, and had 698.64 GB available, and of course you can reformat it using whatever filesystem is convenient to you. Nowadays, there are generally no problems reading and writing from an NTFS drive from OS X or Linux, so you may find no reason to do so. In fact, there’s a lot to like about this drive, and the only real problem I found was that there isn’t a clear model name to refer to it, and “VOX External Hard Drive v1 USB 2.0 & SATA” is a mouthful, so I’ll be referring to it as the “V1″ throughout this review.
First, there are currently two types of external hard drives in the market today. The first kind use laptop hard drives, which offer less storage and slower performance, but are physically small, light, and silent. The second type, which the V1 belongs to, use desktop hard drives. These offer much larger capacity and much higher performance than the first kind, but the tradeoff is that they are physically larger, usually more noisy, and require an external power plug in addition to a USB connection. The VOX V1 however bucks this generality. It is smaller than other external desktop drives (you can see a comparison picture in the photos), and also runs nearly silent. This is partially because the VOX V1 is a sealed case. There is no fan for airflow, and heat is dissipated through the walls of the enclosure. While I wouldn’t recommend putting the V1 in a desk drawer, this does mean that you generally don’t need to worry about available airflow where you place it as much as you would have to with a different brand.
The external hard drive market is very crowded, and vendors have to try to differentiate themselves from the competition. While the V1 supports all the standard things you would expect from a modern external enclosure, including an SATA connector, VOX also supplies a Windows-only backup software package. This software installs on Windows XP or Vista and allows you to push the (only) button on the V1 to initiate a system backup. This is a nice feature, and one really shouldn’t mind that this software is Windows-only as OS X has Time Machine, which is just about the best backup software for home computers in existence. Linux users are unfortunately left to find their own software solution for backups, although there are several solutions available for free.
As mentioned earlier, the VOX V1 includes both USB and E-SATA connectors. It’s nice to see the E-SATA connector as USB2 can’t supply data as fast as the drive can. Unfortunately, E-SATA was a standard that never really took off. It would have been better to include a newer SATA2 connector. Having said that, for whatever reason most modern laptops and desktops do not include external E-SATA or SATA2 ports, so either way you either need to purcahase an adapter card, or simply wait for the standard to catch on. What would have been really exciting was if the V1 included a Firewire 800 port, as those are much more common (especially on laptops) that any sort of SATA port. Regardless, this isn’t a problem just with the VOX V1, but with most external hard drives today. The takeaway here is that it is probably worth the investment for you to purchase an external SATA card rather than rely on the USB connection.
One additional comment is that, while the drive does come with a complete set of E-SATA, USB, and power cables, the included cables are on the short side. Even the power cable, which is typically the logest of the bunch, was under 6 feet long, including the power brick. This makes it a little annoying when using the V1 with a laptop, as you may not be that close to a socket (if the cord is 6 feet you need to be within 4 feet or less of the socket).
Another small note is that the manual said it was supposed to come with a screw driver and screw set, which mine didn’t. However, as there’s no reason to open the case, I don’t see why you would need one anyway. The only reason I mention it is because the manual said it should. Probably, they should just change the manual to not say that.
The above are relatively minor complaints however, and overall the V1 is a pleasure to work with. It is by far the quietest of the 7 other external drives I use, and 750GB of capacity provides a lot of space to use. The fact that it is more compact than my other drives is good (although it is a little bit taller), and the E-SATA port means that the drive will probably last me until my next computer. In fact, in several years or whenever it has reached the end of its lifetime, I’ll probably be able to upgrade the disk inside of it and re-use the case, which is a good thing.
Overall, the VOX External Hard Drive V1 USB 2.0 & SATA has a silly (but descriptive) name. More importantly, it does exactly what it says it does by providing a compact, quiet, and high performing external hard drive. The build quality is excellent, and I look forward to using the V1 for a long time to come.