UltraDock v4 with Combo Adapters v4 – Review

UltraDock v4 with Combo Adapters v4
Company: WiebeTech

Price: $200 to $800

A drive dock is a generic-looking electronic contraption that allows a bare, exposed, internal hard drive to be mounted for read/write on any computer, using any interface: USB, SATA, and FireWire 800 or 400. In my professional capacity as a computer tutor, trainer, and troubleshooter, I use UltraDock or one of its WiebeTech predecessors several times each week. My personal backups and archives also rely on WiebeTech drive docks, and on their RTX series drive bays, which MyMac reviewed previously.

WiebeTech’s new UltraDock v4 has built-in connectors for 3.5 inch IDE/PATA drives, and for both 3.5 inch and laptop size 2.5 inch SATA drives. With all power, FireWire, USB, and SATA cables included, this drive dock ships fully equipped to attach an exposed external drive to a computer for testing, cloning, data transfer, or any other purpose.

MyMac has used and evaluated every drive dock from WiebeTech since the company’s inception early this decade. Some of their drive docks are better than others, but the new UltraDock v4 is the best of the bunch, and well worth its $200 price tag. Intrepid techies and repair shops will bundle this dock’s purchase with one or more v4 Combo Adapters. Most expensive and top value is an ultimate bundle for around $800 (see below).

WiebeTech considers its drive docks to be professional equipment, as compared to consumer quality docks from competitors such as NewerTech. I don’t know if WiebeTech is the industry leader in this professional category, but they make outstanding gear that is priced fairly and is supported by rapid and reliable customer service. UltraDock v4 is all metal, and has the requisite LEDs that would make any science teacher grin from ear to ear. My personal and review units occasionally need to be repaired or replaced, as will yours. Response time and results are always satisfactory.

MyMac tested an UltraDock v4 with and without several of the newest v4 Combo Adapters, using each of the possible port connections. FireWire 800 remains our optimal favorite for use with most Macintosh computers. Two of our evaluation v4 Combo Adapters appeared to be defective. WiebeTech replaced them immediately, and made certain the newer adapters were fully functional. Product development is ongoing, meaning the company is always working on better ways to deliver efficient hardware solutions. You may find that a replacement item is slightly different than the original one, which in this case has always meant it has been improved during the interlude.

The v4 Combo Adapters I use most often in real life are for pre-SATA laptop internal IDE/PATA drives, camera storage cards, and internal iPod drives. The aforementioned adapter set includes equipment to connect speedily all the above to an UltraDock v4. The physical rig looks weird, but works like a charm.

An UltraDock with or without an adapter is not elegant, and will never win any Apple Design Awards. Technicians are comfortable using such equipment, and don’t think twice about swapping internal drives and their exposed circuitry hour after hour, day after day. Techies make mistakes just like normal people do, but WiebeTech’s v4 UltraDock and Combo Adapters usually won’t themselves cause careless errors.

Many of you will have exposed internal computer or iPod/iPhone drives in your lives, even if you are not the slightest bit interested in mounting them on a computer using a drive dock. Don’t simply smash your old faithful drive, or toss it into the dumpster, or give it a nice warm bath, or leave it sitting on a dusty shelf. Work with a technician who will erase or repartition it, and then will either use it him/herself for bench testing, or will encourage you to put it to good use for additional storage. WiebeTech can provide cover plates to protect the guts of internal drives and make them almost bulletproof-handy for a life out of the box. Take note of the many accessories offered at UltraDock’s product web page.

Our MyMac rating of WiebeTech’s v4 UltraDock and Combo Adapters is 4.5 out of 5. This equipment is essential for serious technical work on internal drives of every possible flavor. Using UltraDock with or without an adapter, external drives mount on a Mac quickly, without any nasty or annoying error messages most of the time. If your tech bench qualifies for a superior array of handy drive mounting hardware, the modest price of this dock and its adapters is a bargain. Strong recommendation.

UltraDock v4 product page, including all accessories
MyMac reviews of RTX drive bays

WiebeTech’s Product Development and Support Manager tells MyMac: “Here’s what you’d need to order to get everything, Nemo:

Caption: Photo provided by WiebeTech

UltraDock (PN 31200-2409-0000, $199)
Pelican 1450 case with custom foam (PN 31310-0000-0005, $204)
All seven Combo Adapters (PN 31100-0000-0004, $420)
Total:  $823

You don’t actually need the SATA adapter, so you might save a little money buying the six other adapters separately instead of together. That would reduce the total price to $792.”

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