OWC USB-C Dual-Bay Drive Dock Review
Editor's Note: This review was originally published at TekRevue and is republished here with permission.
Industry trends, such as increasingly compact PCs and Macs that are incapable of being upgraded, and faster connections to network-attached storage devices, have made the traditional “bare” 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drive far less common in typical homes and businesses. But for those who still use bare drives for backup, archiving, data transfer, or troubleshooting, the importance of a solid drive dock is crucial.
These devices, which generally accept the SATA connections of bare mechanical and solid state drives and allow access to the drives via a more handy external I/O protocol, have been around for years, with certain devices offering access via USB 2.0, FireWire, eSATA, USB 3.0, and even Thunderbolt. But the ones you find today in typical online marketplaces often suffer from reliability issues or limited functionality, such as the inability to boot from a connected drive.
One company that has long offered a range of external drive docks is OWC, and although it has been several years since I used an OWC drive dock, I recall that the company’s products suffered none of the aforementioned drawbacks. And so when my most recent USB 3.0-based drive dock from StarTech recently died, I was interested to see that OWC had continued to update its drive dock product lineup, adding a USB 3.1 Type-C option last year.
I spent the last few weeks evaluating a review loan of this latest OWC Drive Dock, and found it to be a well-built, high-performance device that is a significant upgrade over my previous drive dock. Read on for my more detailed impressions of the device’s design and performance.
Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2019 - 04:03 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: usb-c, SXFI Amp, Headphone Amp, Creative, Aurvana Trio, Aurvana SE, audio
There was a dearth of USB-C audio devices shown off at CES, with wireless connectivity and other ways of dealing with the removal of the audio jack from phones getting far more attention. However, Creative were up to the challenge and showed off their new USB-C to 3.5mm SXFI Amp for headphones as well as the Aurvana SE over the ears headset and Aurvana Trio earbuds.
The amp is quite impressive, with an Asahi Kasei Microdevices AK4377 32-bit DAC that can drive headphones with up to a 600Ω impedance, and provide 120dB SNR from 24 bit/96 kHz input and provide 2.0, 5.1 or 7.1 channel sound. TechPowerUp took a listen to all three products and compiled a review for those who want high quality audio from their phone.
"Creative finally brings to market its Super X-Fi technology built over 20 years of R&D. It aims to be a radical new change to the audio world by not only offering extremely convincing surround sound using stereo headphones, but generally enhancing the audio experience even for mono recordings provided you have a certain set of compatible devices."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Logitech G533 Wireless 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset @ OCC
- The Logitech G Pro Headset Review – Built for Pro Gamers @ BabelTechReviews
- DUNU Falcon-C Hi-Res Earphones Review @ NikKTech
- Asus STRIX Fusion 700 Wireless Headset @ Guru of 3D
- Edifier AirPulse A300 Premium Speakers @ Techspot
Subject: General Tech | January 3, 2019 - 12:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: DRM, usb-c, usb-if
2019 is already shaping up to be an odd year as the USB Implementers Forum has proposed a way to utilize DRM for good! Instead of focusing on preventing you from displaying media in inventive ways, they seek to use it to prevent dodgy USB-C cables from releasing the magic smoke from your favourite electronic devices. They propose to include a bespoke 128-bit encryption key in the USB protocol which will only allow power to pass over a cable which can match a valid key, with the option to allow sysadmins to create their own to prevent non-approved USB devices to connect to secure systems.
The Inquirer does bring up one possible fly in the ointment, the proposed standard encompasses USB 3.0, USB 3.1, HDMI, DisplayLink and Thunderbolt; which may lead to some interesting repercussions.
"But the USB-IF working group, which represents manufacturers of products that offer the standard, aren't giving up, with plans to create an "Authentication Program" to ensure that only reliable products can be used."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Samsung Announces Its First Exynos-Branded Auto V9 Processor, Partners With Audi @ Slashdot
- Data of 2.4 Million Blur Password Manager Users Left Exposed Online @ Slashdot
- Valve data shows PC VR ownership rose steadily in 2018 @ Ars Technica
- Insiders! The good news: Windows 10 Sandbox is here for testing. Bad news: Microsoft has already broken it @ The Register
- Hackers are using Chromecasts to broadcast security risks about Chromecast @ The Inquirer
It's no secret that streaming video games on the internet is immensely popular now due to the rise of services dedicated to game streaming like Twitch and Mixer. A combination of commodity capture cards and software capture solutions have made it easier than ever to start streaming.
As internet speeds increase (at least in some parts of the world) combined with newly available capture hardware, it's only a matter of time before we start to see more of a push towards 4K streaming in the coming years.
However, until now, one of the biggest emerging trends in both console and PC gaming, HDR, has been ignored by capture gear.
Today, we're taking a look at two 4K HDR products from Avermedia, the Live Gamer 4K, and Live Gamers Ultra.
Since it's introduction in early 2015, the modern iteration of the Dell XPS 13 has been one of the most influential computers in recent history. An example of the rise of desirable Windows-based notebooks back into the premium market, the XPS 13 has done what only a few OEMs have been able to—inspire knockoffs. Now, the market is filled with similar designs including ultrathin bezels (and some even copying the compromises of webcam placement), at similar price points.
Even though it's been regarded as one of the best PC notebooks for its entire tenure, it was clear for a while that Dell must move the brand of their flagship notebook forward, and here it is, the redesigned XPS 13 9370 for 2018.
From a quick glance, the 2018 XPS 13 is quite similar to the outgoing 9360 model from last year. Apart from this new, radical Alpine White and Rose Gold color scheme of our particular review unit, you would be hard-pressed to spot it as unique in public. However, once you start to dig in, the changes become quite evident.
While the new XPS 13 maintains the same physical footprint as the previous iterations, it loses a significant amount of thickness. Still retaining the wedge shape, although much less exaggerated now, the XPS 13 9370 measures only 0.46" at its thickest point, compared to 0.6" on the previous design. While tenths of inches may not seem like a huge difference, this amounts to a 23% reduction in thickness, which is noticeable for a highly portable item like a notebook.
CalDigit Tuff Rugged External Drive
There are a myriad of options when it comes to portable external storage. But if you value durability just as much as portability, those options quickly dry up. Combining a cheap 2.5-inch hard drive with an AmazonBasics enclosure is often just fine for an external storage solution that sits in your climate controlled office all day, but it's probably not the best choice for field use during your national park photography trip, your scuba diving expedition, or on-site construction management.
For situations like these where the elements become a factor and the chance of an accidental drop skyrockets, it's a good idea to invest in "ruggedized" equipment. Companies like Panasonic and Dell have long offered laptops custom-designed to withstand unusually harsh environments, and accessory makers have followed suit with ruggedized hard drives.
Today we're taking a look at one such ruggedized hard drive, the CalDigit Tuff. Released in 2017, the CalDigit Tuff is a 2.5-inch bus-powered external drive available in both HDD and SSD options. CalDigit loaned us the 2TB HDD model for testing.
Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 11:47 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb-c, Snapdragon 821, pixel, Kryo, google, android assistant, adreno 530, 802.11ac
Google introduced its own premium smartphone today in the form of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Running Android Nougat 7.1, the Pixel smartphones will not only run the latest operating system but will be the new premium experience with the best Android features including Google Assistant and Smart Storage with unlimited cloud storage of photos and videos.
Google is definitely taking a greater interest in promoting Pixel than they have with even their Nexus devices. It will be interesting to see how other Android manufacturers react to this news but I would imagine that they are not all that pleased and Google will be in a similar position to Microsoft with its Surface products and Nvidia with it's Founder's Edition graphics cards.
Google's Pixel lineup includes the Pixel (5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3") and the Pixel XL (6 x 2.9 x 0.2-0.34") that wrap their respective 5-inch 1080p (441 PPI) and 5.5-inch 1440p (534 PPI) displays in a full aluminum and glass unibody design that will come in one of three colors: Very Black, Quite Silver and Really Blue. The smartphones feature curved corners and rounded edges with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and half of the back. Google has put a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone and power, volume, three microphones, a USB-C port, and, yes, a 3.5mm audio jack.
There are both front and rear cameras and Google is claiming that the rear camera in particular is the best smartphone camera yet (with a DxOMark score of 89 points). The rear camera (which sits flush with the back of the phone) is rated at 12.3 MP with a f/2.0 aperture, and 1.55µm pixels. The camera further features an IMX378 sensor. electronic image stabilization, and both phase detection and laser auto focus. The Pixel can take HDR+ photos and videos at up to 4K30, 1080p120, or 720p240. Users can adjust white balance and use automatic exposure or auto focus locking. The front camera is less impressive at 8MP with fixed focus lens and f/2.4.
Internally, Google has opted to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) which is a 2+2 design that pairs two Kryo cores at 2.15 GHz with two Kryo cores at 1.6 GHz along with an Adreno 530 GPU, an impressive 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, and either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage which is regrettably non-expandable. The smartphones can tap into up to Category 11 LTE (Cat 9 in the US), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC. Sensors include GPS, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, and hall sensors.
The Pixel features a 2,770 mAh battery and the Pixel Xl uses a slightly larger 3,450 mAh battery. In either case, Google rates the Pixel and Pixel XL at 13 hours and 14 hours of internet browsing and video playback respectively. Further, the batteries are able to be quick charged enough for up to "seven hours of use" after just 15 minutes of charging time using the included 18W USB-C charger.
Pricing works out to $649 for the 32GB Pixel, $749 for the 128GB Pixel, $769 for the 32GB Pixel XL, and $869 for the 128GB Pixel XL. In the US Google has partnered with Verizon for brick-and-mortar availability in addition to it being available on the Google store and other online retailers.
Google is banking a lot on these devices and asking a very premium price tag for the unlocked phones. It is certainly a gamble whether users will find the unique features enough to go with the Pixel over other flagships. What do you think about Google's increased interest in the smartphone space with the launch of its own hardware? How well will Pixel fit into the existing environment – will Pixel lead Android hardware and the OS to success or simply fragment it more?
I do like the look of the Pixel (especially the blue one) and the feature lists sounds good enough that maybe I could live without a removable battery and non-expandable storage (I'll be holding onto my old T-Mobile unlimited plan for as long as possible! heh). Pricing is a bit steep though and I think that will trip a lot of people up when searching for their next device.
A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt
Today at Computex, Intel took the wraps off of the latest iteration of Thunderbolt, a technology that I am guessing many of you thought was dead in the water. It turns out that's not the case, and this new set of features that Thunderbolt 3 offers may in fact push it over the crest and give it the momentum needed to become a useable and widespread standard.
First, Thunderbolt 3 starts with a new piece of silicon, code named Alpine Ridge. Not only does Alpine Ridge increase the available Thunderbolt bandwidth to 40 Gbps but it also adds a native USB 3.1 host controller on the chip itself. And, as mobile users will be glad to see, Intel is going to start utilizing the new USB Type-C (USB-C) connector as the standard port rather than mini DisplayPort.
This new connector type, that was already a favorite among PC Perspective staff because of its size and its reversibility, will now be the way connectivity and speed increases this generation with Thunderbolt. This slide does a good job of summarizing the key take away from the TB3 announcement: 40 Gbps, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, 100 watt (bi-directional) charging capability, 15 watt device power and support for four protocols including Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB and PCI Express.
Protocol support is important and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C will be able to connect directly to a DisplayPort monitor, to an external USB 3.1 storage drive, an old thumb drive or a new Thunderbolt 3 docking station. This is truly unrivaled flexibility from a single connector. The USB 3.1 controller is backward compatible as well: feel free to connect any USB device to it that you can adapt to the Type-C connection.
From a raw performance perspective Thunderbolt 3 offers a total of 40 Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth, twice that of Thunderbolt 2 and 4x what we get with USB 3.1. That offers users the ability to combine many different devices, multiple displays and network connections and have plenty of headroom.
With Thunderbolt 3 you get twice as much raw video bandwidth, two DP 1.2 streams, allowing you to run not just a single 4K display at 60 Hz but two of them, all over a single TB3 cable. If you want to connect a 5K display though, you will be limited to just one of them.
For mobile users, which I think is the area where Thunderbolt 3 will be the most effective, the addition of USB 3.1 allows for charging capability up to 100 watts. This is in addition to the 15 watts of power that Thunderbolt provides to devices directly - think external storage, small hubs/docks, etc.