Sabrent Thunderbolt 3 docking station review: Lots of storage, fast

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The Sabrent docking station is available in a variety of capacities ranging from 2TB to 16TB and offers numerous connectivity options, including two Thunderbolt 3 40Gbps ports with power delivery and a USB 3.2 Type-C 10Gbps port, among many options.

Internally, this device packs two Sabrent Rocket Q NVMe SSDs, between 1TB and 8TB each. As these are Sabrent Rocket Q SSDs, they each have the expected Phison E12S SSD controller with DDR3L DRAM cache paired with 96-layer Intel/Micron QLC flash, making them a powerful combo that can deliver up to 1 500 Mbps throughput (and a theoretical 3000 MB/s in RAID 0).

The price per gigabyte ranges from $0.16 to $0.25 depending on capacity, with the highest amounts being for the 2TB SKU followed by the 16TB SKU. This makes sense because there is a static cost for docking station hardware even at 2TB, while the 8TB drives in the 16TB model are more expensive given their high capacity.

Features

Product 2TB 4TB 8TB 16 TB
Pricing $499.99 $649.99 $1,299.99 $2,899.99
Capacity (User / Raw) 2000 GB / 2048 GB 4000 GB / 4096 GB 8000 GB / 8192 GB 16000 GB / 16384 GB
Form factor Dock Dock Dock Dock
Interface / Protocol (internal) PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3 PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3 PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3 PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3
Controller Phison PS5012-E12S Phison PS5012-E12S Phison PS5012-E12S Phison PS5012-E12S
DRACHMA DDR3L DDR3L DDR3L DDR3L
Memory Micron 96L QLC Micron 96L QLC Micron 96L QLC Micron 96L QLC
Sequential reading 1500Mbps 1500Mbps 1500Mbps 1500Mbps
Sequential write 1500Mbps 1500Mbps 1500Mbps 1500Mbps
Sequential Read (RAID-0) Up to 3000 MB/s Up to 3000 MB/s Up to 3000 MB/s Up to 3000 MB/s
Article number DS-SKRT-D2TB DS-SKRT-D4TB DS-SKRT-D8TB DS-SKRT-D16TB
TBW 260TBW 530TBW 940TBW 1800TBW
guarantee 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years

Features include:

  • 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, up to 40 Gbps
  • 2 USB 3.2 Type-A ports, up to 10 Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 2×1)
  • 1 USB 3.2 Type-C, up to 10 Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 2×1)
  • 1x USB 3.0 Type-A port, up to 5 Gbps with BC1.2 [email protected] charging (USB 3.2 Gen 1×1)
  • 1x DisplayPort 1.4
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45, 1x 3.5mm audio input, 1x 3.5mm microphone input
  • 1x SD card reader (UHS-II), up to 270 MB/s
  • PD3.0 capacity, up to 96W

The docking station is rated at up to 1,500 Mbps for sequential reads and writes, but it can reach about double that if the drives are placed in a software RAID-0 striped configuration. These latest performance metrics aren’t officially listed, but reflect the nature of each drive that’s assigned two PCIe 3.0 lanes out of a total of four. This is thanks to the Intel JHL7440 controller which also provides two Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) ports, rated up to 40 Gbps, and a single DisplayPort 1.4 output. One of these TB3 ports can supply power and the other can daisy-chain devices.

The docking station additionally has three USB 3.2 Type-A ports, one up to 10 Gbps and two up to 5 Gbps, and a single USB 3.2 Type-C port up to 10 Gbps. s. USB terminology can be confusing, so we’ll describe them in more detail below. Additionally, there is a Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port, two 3.5mm ports for audio and microphone input, respectively, and a single UHS-II SD card reader rated up to 270MB/s. Home can also supply power up to 96W via PD3.0.

The docking station comes with a three-year warranty and an endurance rating (TBW – terabytes written) equal to either of the two drives. For example, as we’ve seen, the 16TB docking station is guaranteed to soak up 1.8 petabytes of write data, as it would with just one of its two internal Sabrent Rocket Q SSDs. 8 TB.

Software and accessories

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The Sabrent Rocket Dock comes with a 150W power adapter, including a detachable power cable and a single 27-inch ThunderBolt 3 cable. No software is included, but, as usual, we highlight the myriad of free solutions available. For RAID, it is possible to use Windows to create a software array via Disk Management or Storage Spaces. Similar options exist with other operating systems, such as Disk Utility on OS X.

To look closer

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Although we have already covered the available ports above, we can see that Sabrent has clearly labeled their ports for user convenience. We can, for example, determine which port TB3 is supplying power.

It’s worth pointing out again that the USB spec has been confusing for some time now – Sabrent labels all ports as USB 3.2, showing Gen1 or Gen2 and the speed. USB 3.2 Gen1 ports are Gen 1×1, equivalent to USB 3.1 Gen 1 or USB 3.0, while USB 3.2 Gen2 ports are Gen 2×1, identical to USB 3.1 Gen 2 or USB 3.1. The former is rated at 5 Gbps with 8b/10b encoding for an actual output of around 450 Mbps, while the latter is rated at 10 Gbps with 128b/132b encoding for over 1000 Mbps.

The dock easily opens to reveal two separate boards, connected via PCIe slots in a folded fashion to reduce bulk, and a heatsink for NVMe drives and structural support. There is also thermal padding and additional component protection.

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Removing the heatsink shows that there is good contact with the SSD controllers and sufficient contact for the DRAM, although the flash package engagement may not be tight enough. Typically the controller on the SSD runs the hottest when it comes to thermal influence – i.e. the controller is the biggest contributor to throttling. We wouldn’t expect throttling to be an issue with this type of contact, especially since speeds will be limited by the interface.

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

A closer look at the major components gives us an idea of ​​how the dock fits together. First up, we have Intel’s JHL7440 Thunderbolt controller, aka Titan Ridge, which provides the most important docking station features, including bandwidth and connectivity for the two internal SSDs.

Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort video outputs support 4K displays at up to 60Hz or 8K displays at up to 30Hz, with HDR, HDCP 2.2, and Adaptive Sync compatibility. TB3 also supports other peripherals, including four PCIe 3.0 lanes used by internal SSDs. Daisy-chaining of up to six devices is supported, as is powering up to 96W or 15W for bus-powered devices. Thunderbolt comes at 20 or 40 Gbps and is bi-directional with up to 10 Gbps connection support for USB or Ethernet.

USB ports are provided by two 2/4-port USB hub chips manufactured by VIA Labs, or VLI, with USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.2 Gen 1×1) VL817 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (USB 3.2 Gen 2×1) VL820 ports – Q8. Additionally, these controllers support Battery Charging Specification 1.2 (BC1.2), which would output up to 2.4A at 5V but may scale depending on device support.

Realtek’s RTS5329 SD4.0 controller provides the SD slot. Additionally, the CMedia CM6533 is used for both audio ports. Finally, the Realtek ERL8153b is the Gigabit Ethernet controller.

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Sabrent TB3 Docking Station

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Here we have the two Sabrent-branded NVMe drives. These appear to be standard 8TB Sabrent Rocket Qs with Sabrent-branded Phison E12S controllers, Kingston DDR3L – in 512M x 16b or 1GB modules – and 8TB of 96-layer flash supplied by Intel/Micron. These are solid options if your goal is to maximize the amount of storage in a small space, such as with a NUC or inside a dock. 16TB of total space is a substantial amount considering the small footprint. There is also always the RAID option, for example, software RAID-0 to double the capacity and performance. RAID-1 or a mirror is also a compelling option for redundancy.

It’s worth mentioning that RAID-0 is technically prone to higher failure rates because a problem with either disk in the array will cause data loss due to striping. Similarly, RAID-1 should not be used to secure your data as it is a form of redundancy and not a backup solution.

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