Voyager Q Conveniently Docks Your Extra SATA Drives

| In-Depth Review

The Voyager Q dock from NewerTech allows you to access a 2.5- or 3.5-inch SATA drive with a Mac (or PC) using a conventional connection, USB, FireWire or eSATA. It's a boon for those moving on from the old Mac Pros but want to keep a SATA drive or two active. NewerTech's implementation is very good, but not without some minor issues.

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Basically, this is a powered dock that accepts 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA drives. It can be used with SATA revision 1,2 or 3 drives, that is, 1.5, 3, or 6 GBps. There's a spring loaded cover plate with an aperture that cleverly holds either sized drive nicely in place. There are several models from NewerTech, and if all you need is USB 2/3, the Voyager S3 sells for under US$40. The one I'm reviewing here, the Q, has the following connections.

  • USB 3 (backwards compatible to USB 2.0)
  • FireWire 800
  • FireWire 400
  • eSATA

Operation

The Voyager Q provides the SATA connector inside, power to the drive, and bridge circuits to provide for the external interfaces. Only one of the external interfaces can be active at a time. If you connect more than one, the fastest interface will be auto-selected.

The ports on back are very close together and uneven.

The procedure is to make sure the unit is connected to power and the Mac with the selected interface, make sure the power is off (there's a blue LED power light), insert the SATA drive, then press the power button. The drive spins up and mounts just as if it had been inside a PC or a Mac tower.

There's an issue at this point that needs clarification. The Voyager product page currently says, "Accessing multiple drives couldn't be simpler as Voyager's unique design makes hot-swapping drives a breeze." This wording, in NewerTech's language, means the host (say, a Mac) doesn't need to be rebooted when properly swapping out SATA drives. But by using the term "hot-swapping," an inexperienced user may wrongly conclude that SATA drives can be safely dropped in and pulled out (hot-swapped) at will when the Voyager is powered up. Not so.

In fact, the User Guide makes a strong point about having the power off when inserting or removing a SATA drive and then only applying power when it's seated. You should follow the User Guide's advice. Also, the User Guide should add a section 2.3, "Drive Disconnection" that emphasizes the sequence of 1) dismounting the drive in the OS, 2) turning off the Voyager's power, then 3) pressing the mechanical eject button.

In fact, for those who may forget the sequence, a simple decal on the front that says, "Power must be off before inserting or removing drive," would be a terrific idea.

Also, if the Voyager is part of a FireWire 800 daisy chain, NewerTech recommends it be the only or the last device in the chain in order to avoid disrupting the connection to other drives in the chain when the power is killed.

Given all that, in the process of testing the Voyager Q, I repeatedly disconnected and reconnected a SATA drive using the proper steps. It has my iTunes library on it, and I was constantly interrupting, then relaunching music playback and there was never a hiccup or failure to operate as expected.

Next: Example Uses and Design

Product: Voyager Q

Company: NewerTech

List Price: US$67.74

Pros:

Very good design, engineering and quality. All needed connectivity cables are included. Two color LED status indicator plus eject button. Compatible with a wide range of operating systems and connectivity technologies. A good paper User Guide is included. Extensive technical information posted for prospective purchaser.

Cons:

Power adapter extender cable not included. Connectors are closely spaced and not aligned. Doesn't look as good as previous models. User needs to be mindful of correct sequence of operation

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Comments

cisbell

I can vouch for the quality and reliability of this product. Been using it as my primary backup solution for over three years now. I have over two dozen 1-3TB drives in deployment. The older models Voyagers can not format drives over 3GB, so make sure you purchase the newer models if you want hardware over 2GB.

That said, your first page hits the nail on the head. It’s all too easy to forget your chain and the process. I have three voyagers, daisy chained via FW800. You do need to be diligent in remembering to follow procedure, AND remember the order of your chain. On a couple occasions I’ve accidentally unplugged a drive in the middle of a chain and had the other two drives dismount without warning.

While potentially problematic in doing so, I’ve mostly dodged the bullet. However, on at least two occasions, I’ve had drives inadvertently write the directory from one drive over another. i.e., I’ve had a drive’s directory wiped out and completely written over with the directory from a different drive on the chain. Scared the hell out of me! Especially when you do not have a backup of that data!

If this happens, immediately unmount and protect your lost drive, then plug it in by itself (no other drives on the chain) and use a file recovery program to get the drive back. It’s worked both times, as the data is safe, just the directory is damaged. With 2+GB drives, that’s a good 24 hr. recovery job! So be smart and follow directions if you 1. have multiple drives in a chain, 2. get flippant with unplugging drives in a hurry.

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