By March 3, 2009

Kingwin BJK-35USBI Aluminum USB 2.0 external enclosure review

Hi, I’m DrFaulken, and I’ve lost a lot of data over the years to not backing things up properly. The worst was losing about 4000 albums and several hundred video files in a major drive array crash, but I’ve had many hard drives die on me throughout the years.

I back up my “fun” files on a semi-regular basis, but one thing I back up every week are my digital photos. Aside from a dozen or so printed images, my /pictures folder is the only photographic record I have of my dogs, my friends, and my motorcycling experiences. I would trade all of the entertainment data for the pictures of my dogs chasing each other.

I had been using the Venus DS-2316CBK hard drive enclosure along with a 320GB drive for almost four years. Inexplicably about six months ago I checked my logs and noticed my backup had failed. The drive couldn’t be found, and I was worried that my external drive had died on me. I swapped the drive out for a spare, and everything seemed to be okay, until about a month ago. The backup failed again, and the hard drive could not be found. I began to suspect my Venus enclosure was to blame. I ordered the Kingwin BJK-35USBI aluminum enclosure from NewEgg for $15.

The Kingwin 3.5″ external hard drive enclosure is the definition of “you get what you pay for.”

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/5763-2/IMG_8101.JPG

I was pretty stoked when I opened the packaging. Look at all of this shit! They even sent me a screwdriver! I knew I wouldn’t need the CD driver disc, but it was a nice touch. The kit includes everything you need to get going.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/5766-2/IMG_8102.JPG

I started to get a little nervous when I saw how the enclosure was put together. Instead of the robust hard drive tray (with fan, no less) on the Venus, the Kingwin has a black plastic “door” on the back. The controlling PCB seems VERY flimsy, perhaps held on by fairy dust and wishful thinking. The IDE ribbon and power cable are both very short, but after trying to put hard drive into the enclosure I found out why. It was a little difficult to attach the hard drive due to the short cables and my clumsy fingers.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/5770-2/IMG_8104.JPG

I soon found out why the screwdriver was included — you have to use some tiny ass screws to attach the rear door. Worse yet, there wasn’t a lot of room left in the case, and I had to squeeze the door flush with one hand while trying to screw the door tight with the other. You can see how the opposite side busts out like a muffin top.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/5772-2/IMG_8105.JPG

This is the back of the enclosure. The good news is that the USB interface is your typical female connector, which makes finding a cable around the house easy if you lose the included one. My other enclosure (and a few other of my USB devices) use the “box” type connector, and I don’t have any spares like that around the house.

However, that’s where the back panel honeymoon ends. The power connector is a non-standard interface; and as you can see in the background the cord that goes from the power converter to the wall uses that flat, two-pronged interface I hate so much. One of my dogs recently ate a cable just like this one that powers my Canon camera battery charger; I had no spares and had to cannibalize a similar cable from another charger.

The worst thing is the power switch. I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but it says “ON/OFF.” Granted, I am a usability nerd, so I pay attention to this sort of thing, but to me that ordering means the switch goes up to turn the unit on, and down to turn it off. In practice, it’s backwards. You flip the switch DOWN to turn it on, and UP to turn it off. I don’t know if my particular unit has a backwards switch, or if all of the BJK-35USBI units are that way. It’s a bad sign either way: either the quality control sucks, or the industrial interface designer on this project is a moron.

All of that aside, this story has a happy ending. I connected the unit to my home media server, and after figuring out the whole power switch deal it was instantly recognized in Windows XP SP2. All of my old data was intact, and I manually started a backup. It was the Venus enclosure after all, and I found a low-cost way to get my archive rolling again.

One last tidbit: the unit is very warm to the touch. This is in part due to the aluminum enclosure, and it’s doing its job by dissipating heat. It’s also due to the lack of any fans, or space inside the unit. I am not sure if this will cause a long term problem with the hard drive’s health, but if I was really worried about it I could turn the enclosure OFF/ON or even put it on a timer.

For $15 plus shipping from NewEgg, the Kingwin BJK-35USBI aluminum USB external enclosure is passable for occasional use. I would be nervous about moving the unit around too much due to how shoddy the rear door is constructed and held closed, but it suits my needs.

Recommended.

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1 Comment on "Kingwin BJK-35USBI Aluminum USB 2.0 external enclosure review"

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  1. Gremlin says:

    Yes, the warm enclosure will kill the hard drive early. USB enclosures are not meant to be left on all the time. Nor are consumer level drives designed to be left on all the time. Plan on replacing that drive at regular intervals.

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