ATN-999 Black Mobile Rack Review

Bosco - 2007-01-28 14:01:36 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: Bosco   
Reviewed on: May 25, 2003
ATN-999
GF City Computers
Price: $40 USD

Introduction

Whether for aesthestic reasons, or for extreme air-cooling, such individuals are always looking for methods to keep their systems cool without having to go through the tedious process of preparing and maintaining a watercooling system of some sort, and yet retain a very nice appearance on their cases. Most users would agree that the once-not-so-hot hard drive is now possibly among the top 3 hottest components in a system, competing with the graphics card and CPU. Don't forget that the hard drive is also mechanical, so even the friction of air is enough to generate alot of heat from the spinning of the platters. While 50° Celcius is considered to be "normal operating temperatures" for a typical 7200RPM hard drive, hardcore cooling enthusiasts will want to keep that number down. This is where a hard drive cooling rack comes into play.


The package!


The unit inside a plastic cover

The ATN-999 LCD Mobile Rack is your typical hard drive rack that comes with a fan and thermocouple, which are connected to a mini-LCD display that monitors the internal environment of the rack, where the hard drive sits.

Specifications

40X40X20mm Ball Bearing fan
5000 RPM on the fan
13 CFM
26 DB
0.72 Watt Power consumption, 12VDC
Width: 5.25"
Depth: 10.1"


The HD Rack


A close up of the front panel


A fan is located underneath the unit


The back of the unit

With a depth of 10 inches, it is considerably longer than a CD-Rom drive, and if your case is not an "extended depth" one, the unit may be bit cramped, or depending on the motherboard size, may even prevent you from installing it.

Installation

Installation of this unit is very simple. A a gentle lifting of the handle will "disengage" the housing unit from the connector, and allows you to slide it out of the rack.


Raising the handle


The connectors on the two pieces


The housing unit

The top cover of the housing unit can be easily opened by pressing down on the clip that keeps it in place. Inside, we find the rest of the product's items, mainly the keys, a small instructions leaflet, and enough screws to mount the hard drive to the housing unit, and the rack to the drive bay, as well as some moisture-absorbing desiccant (no, it's not edible).


Sliding cover


Everything's here

Inside the housing unit, we see the IDE and power connectors, the "topside" of the exhaust fan, as well as a small thermocouple that's fixed to the circuit board behind it. The fan itself is connected by a 3-pin motherboard connector, and allows for RPM monitoring via the blue-backlit LCD screen.

NOTE: The thermocouple (at best) will only touch the shell of the hard drive unit - by no means is that adequate enough to determine the temperature of the unit, and is better suited for reading the ambient temperature of the housing instead. Although the housing unit is also equipped with an psuedo buzzer alarm, it is set to go off only in relation to the ambient temperature of the housing, *not* to the actual temperature of the hard drive. This causes the overheating alarm to be very inaccurate and very delayed, as ambient temperature does not rise as quickly as an overheating hard drive does, and by the time the alarm sounds, the hard drive itself may have already overheated to damaging temperatures. However, the alarm also goes off in the event that the fan spins slowly or not at all.


The fan and the connectors


The thermocouple

Getting the housing ready with a hard drive is as simple as connecting an HD to the connectors and securing them with screws.

NOTE: You must make sure that the hard drive is secured by the screws before attempting to close the cover. With my Maxtor hard drive, I noticed that the hard drive can still slide back a little ways if it is not secured, enough for the drive's edge to sit right underneath the locking clip. If you allow the hard drive to slide back into this position with the lid closed, then the drive will obstruct the clip when you try to push down on it, effectively preventing you from opening the housing cover, unless you manage to get the hard drive back down to its normal position, which is *very* difficult to do, since the IDE and power cables have a tendency to push the hard drive towards the circuit board. A very poor design flaw here.


Nice and snug


This is asking for trouble - the thermocouple barely touches the hard drive as well

Heading back to the rack, install this part of the unit into a free 5.25" bay as you would with any other drive of that size. After that part is complete, simply insert the housing unit back into the rack. Once it feels like it cannot go in further, push down on the handles back into the closed position, and the hard drive will lock into the connectors. Finally, using the included keys (or your own creative lockpicking methods), turn the lock into the closed position. Part of the circuitry is fixed to the lock, and unless you lock the housing unit to the rack, the entire unit and hard drive will not power up. This is to prevent accidental removal of the housing unit while the system is still turned on, causing a power cut to the hard drive, and possibly damaging it in the process. However, when I tried to raise the handle with the lock engaged (with my system turned off, of course!) it still appears that the drive has come out far enough for the connectors to lose contact, but I have not verified this.


All connected


Installed into the bay


Turned on

Notice the slight protrusion of the unit. If you install this unit at the top drive bay of a Chenming (Antec, Enermax, Aspire, etc.) case, the protrusion will prevent you from closing the door completely. If you use any other bay, you can avoid that problem. There's a possibility that this problem will occur on any other similar case with a front door.

The backlight on the LCD appears to be from two LEDs, and together make the display readable even with the lights out, although a fullscreen backlight such as IndiGLO would probably be nicer.

Testing

As I cannot use the unit's thermocouple to determine the temperature of the hard drive, I used an IR temperature sensor instead.

Test System:

  • Intel Pentium 4 2533MHz
  • ASUS P4S533 Motherboard
  • Maxtor 80GB 7200RPM ATA133 Hard Drive
  • Running Windows XP Professional
  • All inside an Aspire Turbo Gamer case, system fans OFF
  • For the idle temperature, I let the system idle for at least 30 minutes. For simulating hard drive load, I used SiSoftware Sandra's File System benchmark test. For my particular setup, I noticed the thermocouple temperature rise from 26°C to 29°C, and the speed of the fan from 2700RPM to 3800RPM during the load simulation.


    Some pretty nice results here. In both idle and load moments, the difference is around 8° Celcius. Fan noise was negligible as well, as I did not notice any significant increase in noise. Very well done here.

    Conclusion

    While the unit excels at its job of keeping the hard drive temperatures lower than usual, its installation annoyances greatly detract from the overall experience of the product. A longer thermocouple (or one that is connected to a cable) would've allowed the user to relocate it to a hotter spot on the hard drive. However, a hard drive rack also has a secondary use: It allows the user to swap drives without needing to open the case - definately useful as an emergency hard drive bay, or a great way to test a friend's hard drive without having to open up your own case, provided that your primary drive is not using it already. So even if additional hard drive cooling is not your primary concern, if you find yourself swapping hard drives alot, consider using this unit to help you with your swapping tasks.

    Pros

  • Cools the hard drive effectively.
  • Can act as a simple method of exchanging hard drives without opening the case.
  • Cons

  • Thermocouple can only monitor the housing's ambient temperature
  • Housing lid can be shut "permanently" if the hard drive is not properly secured.