Icy Dock MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard & MB559U3S-1S Ultra Slim External Hard Drive Enclosure Review

ajmatson - 2012-08-12 11:52:06 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: August 20, 2012
Price: $65 - $75

 

Introduction:

With the amount of data being moved each day, everyone needs to have some sort of external storage for their needs. Whether it be a small thumb drive or a larger capacity hard drive, at one point your needs will require something to move data while you are out and about. Backups, file transfers, all of it require this type of movable media, but with the size of today's files smaller portable drives just will not cut it. In comes the full size external hard drives, but with so many choices how do you pick the right one for you? There are many external hard drives on the market but if you are like me, you would rather have full control over the size and features without being limited to pre-designed models. This is where external enclosures come into the picture allowing you to tailor the setup to your specific needs. Icy Dock has been in the hard drive accessories field for a long time and two of its newest products are designed to give you style, flexibility, and a feature set sure to get your full attention.

The two models we will be examining today are the Icy Dock MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard and the MB559U3S-1S Ultra Slim External Hard Drive Enclosures. Both models are designed for the larger 3.5 inch SATA I / II / III hard drives, with capacities up to three terabytes and more. Each one offers USB 2.0/3.0 and eSATA connections for extremely fast data transfers for those larger files such as movies, applications, and more. While similar, both have different selling points and features which set them apart as well. With active cooling, slim design, and more, how about we cut the chit chat and move on to what we all want to see; the designs and features that each one offers.

 

Closer Look:

MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard

First up on the agenda today is the Icy Dock MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard. The Blizzard, as I will refer from this point on as, offers an active cooling solution to help keep those larger high speed drives nice and cool during operation. Unlike the Thermaktake Max 5G we reviewed here last year, which takes a side approach to the cooling solution, the Icy Dock Blizzard uses a forward facing cooling fan that pushes the outside air over the full length of the hard drive covering both sides for maximum efficiency, as you can see on the packaging. On the front of the box is a full size image of the enclosure showing its unique design, which I personally think reminds me of a jet engine intake that shows the true power that the fan has to offer. On the rear of the box are a list of the features and specifications of the enclosure along with a small image of how the drive is inserted. Flipping around to the sides there are images of the back with the ports and of the front showing how the fan looks and the different colors for the temperatures. Included with the Blizzard enclosure are the manual, feet that are screwed on, power cable, USB 3.0 cable, and the eSATA cable.

 

 

 

The Icy Dock Blizzard is one of the larger enclosures I have encountered. It stands a tall 5", is 5.75" wide and is 9.35" long. The width of this one is over three times the width of any other single drive external enclosure I have personally seen or owned. The Blizzard weighs in at 646 grams and is made from a metal frame and ABS plastic shell. From the front you can see the huge 80mm cooling fan that gives the enclosure the "Blizzard" name, which I for one can't wait to validate. At the top of the fan are two barely visible LEDs, a green one for power and a flashing orange one for hard drive activity. There is also a blue/red LED on the inside, which is barely visible and changes based on the temperature of the drive. One quirk I had was the blue LED was barely visible with any ambient light in the room and only if looking at it dead on. Any angle and you cannot view the blue LED. On the rear there is the fan switch for high, low, or auto, the LED brightness wheel, a USB 3.0 port, eSATA port, the power switch, and the power plug port. On the side of the drive there are two thumb tabs. To release the fan you push both in and it pops off.

 

 

 

With the front fan cover off you can see the actual fan close up. There are no markings on the fan what so ever so I was not able to determine the model of it. At the bottom of the fan housing there are two metal contacts that connect to power the fan module when assembled. A look into the inside of the enclosure shows the SATA connector and the backplane. To install a hard drive just line up the SATA connector to the inside and slide it into place. Then push the fan housing back on and gently push until the two thumb buttons click back into place. Then plug her in and have some storage goodness.

 

 

Now that the Blizzard is all unboxed and ready to go we can move over and take a better look at the MB559U3S-1S Ultra Slim External Hard Drive Enclosure.

Closer Look:

MB559U3S-1S Ultra Slim

Now that we had a good look at the Blizzard we can move on to the little brother, the MB559U3S-1S Ultra Slim Enclosure or Ultra Slim as I will be calling it from now on. The Ultra Slim Enclosure is a more compact design in comparison to the Blizzard and offers a modular hot swap design for better productivity. On the front of the Ultra Slim box there is an image of the enclosure in the two available colors, which are black or pearl white. On the back of the box there are the features and specifications that the enclosure has to offer. If you flip around to the sides of the packaging the features are expanded to show off some of the more distinguished aspects including the spring loaded mounting feet, the passive cooling vents and the hot swappable modular hard drive sled. Included with the Ultra Slim enclosure is the manual, screws for mounting the drive into the sled, rubber feet for lying the drive on its side should you choose, the power cable, USB 3.0 cable, and the eSATA cable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

The Ultra Slim enclosure from Icy Dock comes in both black and pearl white colors. We received the black model, which looks very sleek in the design. On the front of the enclosure there is the locking arm and lever for the hard drive sled, which comes out to install and swap drives as needed. On the rear of the enclosure from left to right is the push button to release the retractable feet, a Kensington lock hole, the eSATA connection, the blue USB 3.0 port, the power port, and the on / off switch for the drive. On the top of the unit are the passive cooling ventilation holes. Since warm air rises this should allow the drive to remain cool without the buildup of warm air in the enclosure.

  

 

The standing feet are a bit unique on the Ultra Slim enclosure. To extend them just push the button on the bottom back of the enclosure and they flip out. They are designed to be discrete but effective. Surprisingly there is good balance to the unit with the feet extended. While not immune to being knocked over if bumped, the enclosure is quite stable for normal use and the occasional shimmy. To retract the feet just use your fingers to push each one back in. The main selling point of this enclosure is the removable drive tray. The tray is held in with a locking arm. To release just slide the button holding the arm down and pull the arm towards you, then the drive sled will slide out for removal. To install a hard drive use the included mounting screws to secure the drive to the sled, then slide it into the enclosure and close the locking arm into place. Now you are ready to use your new Icy Dock Ultra Slim enclosure.

  

  

 

Now that we have seen the ins and outs of both of the Icy Dock enclosures we are ready to begin the testing.

Specifications:

 

 Device

MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard

MB559U3S-1S Professional Ultra Slim

Model Number :

MB080U3S-1SB

MB559U3S-1S

Color :

Black

Pearl White / Black

Drive Fit :

Single 3.5" SATA I / II / III hard drive

Single 3.5" SATA I / II / III hard drive

Drive Capacity :

3TB+

3TB+

Host Interface :

1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port

1 x USB 3.0 port (USB 2.0 compatible)

1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port

1 x USB 3.0 port (USB 2.0 compatible)

Transfer Rate (max. bus speed):

Up to 3Gb/s via eSATA

Up to 5Gb/s via USB 3.0

Up to 480Mb/s via USB 2.0

Up to 3Gb/s via eSATA

Up to 5Gb/s via USB 3.0

Up to 480Mb/s via USB 2.0

Drive Cooling :

80mm fan

Aluminum heat dispersion w/ top ventilation panel

Fan Speed Control :

High/ Low/ Auto

N/A

Insert & Extract connection Via :

Direct SATA hard drive connection

Direct SATA hard drive connection

HDD Access Indication :

Flashing orange LED

Device Power: White LED

Drive Activity: Flashing White LED

Power Indication :

Green LED

Over Heat Indicator :

Red ambient LED light (when temperature reach 50° C)

N/A

OS Requirement :

Windows XP/ 2003/ VISTA/ 7

Mac OS 10.22.8 and higher

Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP/VISTA/7

Mac OS 9.0 or higher

Power Supply :

12V/2A power adapter

12V/2A power adapter

Structure :

ABS shell with metal frame

Aluminum and ABS Plastic

Dimension (L x W x H) :

237.5 x 126 x 146 mm

191 x 142.6 x 31.2 mm

Weight :

646g

526g

 

Features:

Icy Dock MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard

 

All information courtsey of Icy Dock @ http://www.icydock.com/goods.php?id=147

 

 

Icy Dock MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard

 

All information courtsey of Icy Dock @ http://www.icydock.com/goods.php?id=145

Testing:

Now we get down to the testing phase of the review. For the testing I will be running the two enclosures through a series of benchmarks designed to push the hardware to the limits bringing out their full potential. For the hard drive I choose a modest but very common Seagate ST200DL003-9VT166 two terabyte drive with a spindle speed of 5900 RPM. I chose this drive because it is a good mix of high capacity with low heat and power draw. Since the Icy Dock Blizzard and Ultra Slim enclosures offer both USB 3.0 and eSATA the tests will be run with each connection. I will also be comparing them to the Thermaltake Max 5G USB 3.0 enclosure, the Thermaltake BlacX 5G USB 3.0 tock and also to an internal SATA connection.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Docks:

 

Drives used:

 

Benchmarks:

 

 

HD Tune:

HDTune allows you to do many things with hard drives beyond benchmarking, however, for the purposes of this review I just used it for benchmarking. After the benchmark finished I recorded the Average Transfer Rate, Access Time, Burst Rate, and CPU Usage.

 

 

 

Since this is an actively cooled enclosure I wanted to show the temperatures both in an idle and load state. For this test I used HDTune and let the drive site idle in the enclosure for 20 minutes and took the temperature. Then to simulate the loads I ran HDTune 5 times and again recorded the temperatures at the end of the 5th run.

 

 

SiSoft Sandra:

SiSoft Sandra allows you to run a veriety of hardware benchmarks on your PC. For the purposes of testing I investigated Physical and File Systems in both Drive Index and Access Time. Upon completion of each test I marked down testing statistics

 

 

 

Real Time File Transfer:

For the Real Time File Transfer tests I used TeraCopy to mearue the amount of time and the average MB/s that it took to transfer a 100MB, 500MB and 1GB file.

 

 

 

 

 

ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.47:

Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0:

Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

Overall both Icy Dock enclosures faired quite well. On eSATA they were the fastest comparing to an internal SATA connection. For USB 3.0 they both were on par or fairly faster than the Thermaltake offerings we compared against. One thing of note was the temperatures. When the Icy Dock Blizzard was put against the Thermaltake Max 5G, the active cooling features of the Blizzard were cooler by 2°C, which in the world of computing are a big difference.

 

Conclusion:

It was a real joy testing the Icy Dock MB080U3S-1SB Blizzard and MB559U3S-1S Ultra Slim Enclosures. They are very well made and durable, which means that you will not have to worry about small thin plastic pieces breaking off accidently. Surprisingly even with the bulky size of the Blizzard enclosure it fits well on a desk and does not take up too much room. I would have like the Blizzard's internal LED light to be a bit brighter by the switch or have the LEDs placed more up front to see the blue/red glow, but that is more just personal preference. Others may like the dimmer look.

When it came to the cooling efforts of the Blizzard however; with its bulky and unique design, the drive under load stayed approximately 2 °C cooler, which is proved the design features work. To comment on the Ultra Slim's design as well, the sleek and compact size allows you to place this enclosure anywhere even on top of a tower or, as I like it, underneath a monitor. The removable tray allows you to hot swap drives, providing your motherboard supports it and you are setup in AHCI mode. Installation for both were a breeze. The Blizzard was completely tool-less and takes only a few seconds to add or remove a hard drive. The Ultra Slim, even with the few screws you need to mount the drive to the sled, is practically tool-less as well considering you can have multiple sleds ready to swap out.

The performance of both enclousres were very close to each other. A few times they even over took the comparison drives in the eSATA portions. If you are in the market for a new external enclosure I highly suggest looking into these. If temperature is a factor then you cannot go wrong at all with the Icy Dock Blizzard especially for higher PRM drives such as the Raptors, which put off a lot of heat. Other than a few preference changes there are no drawbacks to these two enclosures and end users will not be disappointed.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: