Nowadays, many computer manufacturers are saving weight and space on their laptops by removing some features that many of us had gotten accustomed to having. Optical drives and USB ports seem to be the most popular candidates for removal. What if you want to have your external HDD and a flash drive attached, but your laptop only has one USB port? Inateck has come up with one solution to that problem, an external drive enclosure that also includes three USB 3.0 ports. We gave this interesting combination device a workout and here's what we found:
Unboxing & Hardware Specifications
The FE2007 enclosure arrived in a plain, sturdy brown cardboard box with a white label featuring a drawing of the device and some of its technical specifications.
Inside the box we found the enclosure, a USB 3.0 cable, a USB power cable with a round mini plug, a foam sticker used to help 7mm drives fit the enclosure (it is designed to hold both 9mm and 7mm drives), and a brief user manual. The enclosure is an attractive matte black that should be fingerprint resistant, and the ports and switches are clearly labeled.
The enclosure is made of lightweight plastic that seems very sturdy. It is 145mm x 80mm x 15mm (5.7 x 3.15 x 0.6 inches) and weighs 81 grams (0.08 oz). You can find a full description and list of specifications on the Inateck web site. For the purposes of testing, we used a Kingston 240gb SSDNow 300 drive. This is a 7mm drive, so we attached the foam sticker to the case.
The Enclosure At Work
As we found in our previous review of the Inateck Tool Free USB 3.0 Enclosure, installing the SSD in the enclosure was incredibly easy. Just open the top by sliding the panel away from the USB-port end, slide in the drive, put the cover back on and away you go.
We did our testing with a Lenovo B590 laptop running Windows 8.1 and a Macbook Air running OS X Yosemite. As with the previous review, the Lenovo laptop did not recognize the SSD until it had been formatted by the Mac. This appears to be a known problem with Windows and SSDs (a Google search for "Windows does not recognize unformatted SSD" produced a lot of results, many of which contain language not suitable for a family friendly sites like this one). And nobody seems to have come up with a universal solution for the problem. Using Disk Management produced a message saying that the disk had to be initialized, but clicking on OK didn't do anything at all.
However, once again our intrepid tester fixed it by thinking outside the Windows box and it was smooth sailing from then on out. There was no problem with access to the SSD, but then any enclosure that isn't dead should produce that result. We wanted to see what would happen when one, two, and three flash drives were plugged in. Would the single USB cable be sufficient, or would we have to use the other included cable to provide additional power?
Adding Some Flash
We started with the Lenovo and a combination of flash drives, first one 16gb drive, then two 8gb drives, then the two 8gb drives, then two 8gb drives and one 4gb drive, and finally two 8gb drives and the 16gb drive. Here are the two 8s and the 4.
And here are the two 8s and the 16.
In no case did we have to plug in the power cable. Windows 8.1 recognized all the flash drives immediately and we were able to access their contents without trouble.
Keep in mind that the Lenovo B590 is a business class laptop, so it has plenty of power. It was good to see that one hard drive and three flash drives didn't strain the power supply at all. We thought the situation might be different with the Macbook Air, which was designed to be as light and portable as possible. However, once again, we could attach two 8gb and one 16gb drive with no extra power necessary.
Finder recognized all the drives and we were able to access the contents.
Granted, a flash drive doesn't draw much current from the computers and even three at once clearly didn't overtax the power supply available. It might be different with devices that are more demanding, but that is why the power cable is included in the box. On both computers it was possible to eject the hard drive without also ejecting the flash drives, which could save some power if you're not using the hard drive. As with all devices that draw power from the computer, your battery will run down faster when this enclosure is in use, regardless of how many devices are connected.
Pros And Cons
All in all, a very positive experience! The Inateck FE2007 USB 3.0 HDD Enclosure with 3-port USB 3.0 Hub was easy to set up and a snap to install (except for Windows 8.1 being surly about recognizing the drive, and that's not the fault of the enclosure). It's a versatile combination and we think it will be especially useful with the Macbook Air, because the Air has only one USB port. We can now use the SSD in the Inateck FE2007 enclosure and not have to eject the external drive in order to use a flash drive. Win win. There are two downsides to this device. One is that it is noticeably longer than other drive enclosures and it will not fit in a standard portable HDD case.
Unfortunately, although Inateck does carry some attractive portable HDD cases, they don't provide one for this enclosure. The second problem is that the metal connectors on the flash drives got quite warm while they were in use (although the enclosure itself did not). This might be a problem if you keep everything connected for long periods of time.
This is a great combination device that should be useful for just about everyone. Even a non-technical person can slide the drive into the enclosure (in fact, since the cover slides open completely, it is even easier to place the drive in this enclosure than in others we've tried). It doesn't overload the USB port, although the included power cable is a plus (and you can use any standard 5 volt USB charger to power the enclosure). It is attractive, lightweight and fingerprint resistant. It would be nice if Inateck could supply a case for it in the future, which would make it just about perfect. If you have any questions or comments about this device, please let us know in the comments below.