Saturday, 29 December 2012

Review: Zalman ZM-VE400 Virtual CD/DVD/BR 2.5" USB3 Drive Enclosure with AES Hardware 256bit Encryption


Hot on the heels of the ZM-VE300 reviewed earlier this month at runawaybrainz, we take a First look at the all new Zalman ZM-VE400, for the security conscious I.T Nerd.









Introduction:


Previous reviews:
ZM-VE200
ZM-VE300

Supplied by: Zalman
Street Price: € 53.95
Colours: Black or Silver
Availability: February 2013


Zalman have introduced another world first, with the USB3 ZM-VE400, an external 2.5" HDD enclosure with Virtual Drive function, touch number keypad and 256bit AES hardware encryption.

Not only will the new VE400 act like any other external HDD enclosure, you also have the ability to store/boot and load ISO images from your CD/DVD/BD collection, just as if it was a physical optical drive!

Features:


  • HDD enclosure with Virtual Drive,Now Connects to your Hi-Speed USB 3.0 and USB2
  • 256bit AES Hardware Encryption
  • Capacitive Touch Keypad
  • Perfect for mass storage of CD/DVD/Blu-ray ISO images
  • (While its not really mentioned it does support floppy images)
  • LCD display allows listing and selection of ISO files and settings
  • USB powered - no external DC adapter required No special software or drivers needed
  • Backup button


What Zalman includes in the box !



  • The ZM-VE400 Drive enclosure
  • Micro USB3 cable (500mm)
  • Hard wallet type pouch
  • Mini Screwdriver
  • 4 retaining screws (only 2 are required)
  • Guide







Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 146(L) x 80.8(W) x 14(H)mm
  • Weight: 91g (except hard disk)
  • Materials: Aluminum alloy, Acryl, Poly Carbonate (PC)
  • External Interface: USB1.1 Max. 12Mbps / USB2.0 Max. 480Mbps / USB3.0 Max. 5Gbps
  • Internal Interface: S-ATA I/II
  • Compatible HDD Size: 2.5'
  • Power Input : USB Powered
  • Supported OS: Window 98 / ME / 2000 / XP / VISTA / 7, Mac OS, Linux
  • Color: Black/Silver













The evolution of the Zalman virtual drive series (ZM-VE200 / ZM-VE300 / ZM-VE400)




Setting up the hardrive:


Judging from the firmware releases the new ZM-VE400 is limited to using only an NTFS file system, unlike Zalman's earlier ZM-VE200/300 enclosures which also featured FAT32 .

Keep in mind that FAT32 has a single file size limit of less than 4GB but has greater compatibility between operating systems.While NTFS has a single file size limit of well over 4GB so again keep this in mind when formatting the hard drive.

The hard drive I chose to install was a Samsung 830 128GB SSD, to get a good indication of speed!



First you must partitioned the hard drive .

The hard drive must be partitioned as "PRIMARY" not "LOGICAL"! and set "ACTIVE".

After the drive has been set up, you can access the drive from within the operating system, to enable the virtual disc side of the ZM-VE400 you must create a folder on the root of the drive called "_iso", up to 32 ISO image files may be placed in the folder. More ISO image files are allowed but must be in a separate folder within the root of the _iso folder. These folders can then be navigated using the touch keypad on the front of the unit, the hand symbol on the display shows the selected current folder .This actually comes in very handy as you can implement categories, which can then be navigated from the display.


USE:


There are 4 modes available to the ZM-VE400

Hard Drive mode

As the name suggests the drive will just show as a normal USB hard drive with in the operating system


Dual mode:


This is a combination of Hard drive mode and ODD mode both the hard drive and ODD virtual drive will be visible to the operating system.



ODD mode (VHDD):


This is the virtual disc side of the ZM-VE400 and only the currently mounted .ISO image from the "_iso" folder on the drive ,will be visible to the operating system as a CD/DVD/BR etc.

Real Time 256-Bit AES Hardware Encryption


256-bit AES encryption (Advance Encryption Standard) is an International standard which ensures data is encrypted/decrypted following this approved standard. It ensures high security and is adopted by the U.S. government and other intelligence organizations across the world.


Hardware based encryption is where data which is transferred to and from the encrypted drive is automatically encrypted/decrypted through a hardware based AES chip built on the drive.


This is much faster and more secure than a software based encryption system, where data is encrypted/decrypted through software on the computer.


The new menu system much like the VE300's, is a lot more intuitive than the VE200, the only real difference between the VE300 and VE400 apart from the encryption menu, is the manner in which you load the ISO's. On the VE400 to load an ISO you simply press the number "5" on the touch pad



The various modes are accessed, unlike the VE300 ,from the touch pad. Selecting between the various functions becomes second nature within a few minutes.


Below is a flowchart to get to grips with the various functions.






Here you can select between the different drive modes mentioned above.






Notable additions on the ZM-VE400 menu system, over the ZM-VE300 

Unlike on the VE200/VE300 to load the selected .ISO image, the number "5" on the keypad has to be pressed






The new encryption menu (more on that later)




Testing:


  • CPU: Intel Core i7 960
  • Motherboard : Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3
  • USB3 Chipset: NEC USB3 Controller D720200F1 (now called Renesas uPD720200)
  • USB3 Driver: Version 2.1.39.0 Windows 7 64 Bit
  • Zalman ZM-VE400 Firmware: R030N (NTFS)
  • Hard drive : Samsung 830 128GB Read 520MB/s, Write 320MB/s SATA3
  • Nero 11 Disc Speed Benchmark USB2 Mode (DVD IMAGE) 
  • 1xDVD = 1.39MB/s



Nero 11 Disc Speed Benchmark USB3 Mode (DVD IMAGE)

1xDVD = 1.39MB/s





USB3 HD Tune Results









USB2 HD Tune Results (with USB2 Micro USB cable)











Enabling AES Hardware 256bit Encription









At this point any data on the drive will be erased





Once encrypted, if the drive is removed and inserted with in another enclosure or PC it will only show as unallocated space.



Upon powering the encrypted drive you will now be asked to enter the chosen password every time.




Disabling AES Hardware 256bit Encryption is the reverse of enabling it, by using "Reset Encryption" from the menu.
Once again the drive will be erased, a password will no longer be required to operate the drive.




Pros:

  • On the Fly AES Hardware 256bit Encription performance
  • Touch Pad control
  • Secure AES Hardware 256bit Encryption with no performance hit
  • Modern Design
  • Great USB2 and USB3 Data Transfer Rates ,Especially when using an SSD
  • Dual Mode
  • Carry an unlimited amount of CD/DVD/BR images when folder are used
  • Hard Wallet Pouch
  • Micro USB3 Lead Included (On later models the black USB3 lead is allot more flexible)
  • Informative LCD screen
  • Lightweight
  • Write protect Function
  • USB2/USB3 connection indicator


Cons:


  • No mention of how to set up the hard drive partitions
  • No FAT32 compatible Firmware
  • No Power input for an external PSU to boost low USB port power levels 
  • No instruction on Firmware Recovery procedure 
  • Finger print magnet


Conclusions and Thoughts:




When i first saw the ZM-VE400 ,I laughed to myself and thought it looked a rather like a calculator! ,but on holding the enclosure it grows on you.

I think they could have made the keypad smaller, and more sensitive to the touch! as it has a tendency to sometimes feel a little vague in use.

On the whole the ZM-VE400 offers all the great functionality of its brothers, the more intuitive menu system from the VE300, plus the added protection of hardware encryption without a large performance hit or increase in price.

There really is something for everyone through out the ZM-VE range!


Guide: How to install windows 7 from a USB3 Port