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.
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
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.
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