Romtec Trios - Hard Drive Selector - Page 1
January 5, 2002

Product: Romtec Trios
Manufacturer: Romtec
Price: $79.95
Author: Brian Lee
Page: 1

Note:  All the images in this article can be enlarged to 640 x 480 in a new window by clicking on the thumbnail.

Let's get right into it.  The Romtec Trios Hard Disk Selector allows you to boot from up to three different hard disks at the push of a button.  Each button represents a different bootable hard drive and each hard drive is fully independent from one another.  This could be very useful in a variety of situations.  You could load a different operating system on each hard disk and not worry about partitioning a single hard disks and fussing with boot managers.  Or you could designate one hard disk as your children's game hard disk and password protect the other two hard disks so that you don't have to worry about them accessing or destroying your data.  There are a variety of uses for such a hard disk selector.

As a gross overview, you plug the Trios unit to the motherboard and power connector.  You connect up to three hard drives (all set to master) to the Trios with the data cable and power connectors.  You then set your BIOS to auto detect your hard disks.  When you turn on your computer, it will boot from the hard disk that is selected by one of the buttons on the front of the unit.  You could load a different operating system on each of the three hard disk and control which one you boot into by pushing the appropriate button.  You could have one hard disk setup as a workstation, another setup as a gaming station, and the third as an experimental station with Linux, Unix, etc.  The beauty is that you choose which one to boot into at the push of a button AND each hard disk is completely independent of the others so you don't have to worry about cross contamination by hardware failure, viruses, or user mistakes.

The Romtec Trios comes with a retail box that includes all the cables and adapters you'll need.

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The Trios is compatible with ATA 33, 66, or 100 and includes the proper cables.  The top cable in the picture connects the Trios to the motherboard.  Notice that it only has space for one IDE connector, not two.  Romtec does not recommend that you put anything between the Trios and the motherboard because of conflicts.  Of course I never listen to such warnings and just for tests, I used my own IDE cable with two IDE connectors and put a CD-ROM between the Trios and the motherboard.  When I did this, my motherboard took an inordinately long time to detect the hard drives and boot, but once it did finally boot, everything seem to work all right.  I decided that I didn't feel like waiting for 45 seconds just for my hard disks to be detected so I'm assuming that Romtec knows what they're taking about when they want you to only have one IDE device on the cable. 

The other three cables are also ATA 100 cables and connect the Trios to up to three hard disks.

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Romtec also includes power cables for your hard disks.  The top power cable goes from your power supply (standard molex head)  to the Trios unit (smaller head).  The bottom power cable connects the Trios (smaller head) to up to three hard disks (standard molex head).  This setup is nice so that you don't run out of power connectors in your case.  While we are on this topic, it would have been nice if the Trios were designed so that only the selected hard disk was powered up.  Having three hard disks powered up all the time, with only one of them actually being used puts unnecessary wear and tear on the drives and strain on the power supply unit.  The selector unit itself requires power because there are electronics on board as well as LED's indicating which hard disk is currently being used.

Romtec also includes a bag of self taping screws that bite into the side of the plastic selector unit.

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The front of the unit has three buttons which allow you to select which hard disk will be active.  Right now you might be asking the question, "What happens if you select a different hard drive when the computer is already booted up?"  Ahh, the Romtec engineers have anticipated this problem and designed the Trios so that you can only switch hard disks when the unit is complete turned off and then on again.   Pushing the buttons when the computer is already on does nothing.  In fact, the computer must be turned completely off and on again for you to choose a new hard disk.  If you select the "restart" option in Windows where your system restarts but never actually powers down, you will not be able to change drives.  You must select "shutdown" and wait for your computer to turn off, and the manually push the power button for the Trios to boot from your new selection.

Next to each button is a LED which indicates which hard disk is active regardless of which button is depressed.  In other words, the LED indicates which hard disk is active, not which button is depressed.

The unit itself is made of plastic with the electronics enclosed inside.  The plastic unit is fairly sturdy, but in my Inwin S500 which uses side rails that are held on by pressure and not screws, the Trios started to flex and bend as the unit was slide into an empty bay.  It didn't break or crack, which is a good sign.  The self taping screws that Romtec include are necessary since the plastic case has holes, but the holes aren't threaded.

Aesthetically, the blue/teal color really catches your eye.  This could be a good or bad thing.  At first I didn't really like the color, but after a while, I got used to it.  However, I still think that they should add an all beige and all black version of the Trios.  This would make it look more professional, especially in a corporate setting.

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