MB996SP-6SB & MB992SK-B: Monster storage, tiny bays

A Review On: ICY DOCK MB996SP-6SB Black 6x2.5inch SSD HD 1 x 5.25 Bay SATA Hot Swap Backplane

ICY DOCK MB996SP-6SB Black 6x2.5inch SSD HD 1 x 5.25 Bay SATA Hot Swap Backplane

Rated # 6 in HDD Accessories
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Price paid: $96.99
killnine
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Pros: Uber drive density, high build quality

Cons: Expensive, drive trays can be tricky to install

Introduction

Like the third chapter to some sci-fi series, I am here again with a third review of IcyDock’s ToughArmor series of drive bays. Like any good trilogy, each successive instance has to up the ante to keep people coming back.

Well, we first reviewed a bay drive with two 2.5” slots. In my last review, we doubled that to four 2.5” slots (and the MB991SK-B). Now, we’re all the way up to 6 2.5” slots for your HHDs or SSDs.

Device Overview

Recall that one of the key characteristics of the ToughArmor lineup is that they are tough. Do you think IcyDock would call something that if it was made of wimpy plastic? Therefore, you’re going to be seeing all-metal construction across the whole lineup and the MB996 and MB992 are no exception.

What’s common between the two devices are their drive trays. They are almost half the size of the MB994SP-4SB’s and MB991SK-B’s. The smaller tray’s mounting surface is essentially a flat piece of metal, which I like more than the MB994’s complete enclosure. My M4 didn’t mount too well as the rear of the cage was not deep enough to accommodate the drive and it scratched the case on installation. The cost of the trays’ svelte form is that you won’t be able to use drive thicker than 9.5mm. Before you get too worries, know that virtually any SSD today will fit. However, some 2TB HDDs are thicker and, therefore, won’t fit in these bays.



The trays still feature a power and activity light and a similar eagle-hook mechanism to lock the trays into place. For their lesser size, they feel no less sturdy when a drive is installed. However, I did find them more difficult to insert from the bays than their larger MB994 counterparts. It seems like it’s just easier to misalign the trays when inserting the first one or two.

MB996SP-6SB
The MB996SP-6SB fits in a 5.25” bay. These are much more prevalent in modern gaming cases and I can’t think of another device that would allow you more drives in the same space. 2.5” are not legendary for their storage capacity, with only a handful over 1.5TB per drive. Still, this accessory provides what is likely the most convenient RAID 10 enclosure available for 2.5” drives. In the back of the unit is a single 40mm. The fan seems like a bit of an afterthought in how it juts from the rear of the unit. Luckily, the unit also has a switch that to disable the fan entirely. I am also a little perplexed by IcyDock’s use of regular Molex connectors for power. My guess is that, because of space limitations, they needed the connectors to mount vertically and 4-pin Molex were more convenient than regular SATA power. However, if you need to use their included adapters that can just add more clutter to your case.

MB992SK-B
The MB992SK-B fits in the smaller 3.5” form-factor. If you have a case with an oft-named “Floppy slot”, then this would make the MB992 a solid companion to the MB996 because they share the same trays. It’s really a no-frills device that fits the need of a compact RAID1/RAID0 device. It also has a nice lock and key so you can enforce a little more security of the drives. Unlike the MB991SK, there is no dust cover (something I really thought was neat about the MB991) but you have twice as many drives in the same location. The rear is fitted with two SATA data ports, but the unit only requires a single SATA power connector.


Unboxing


Key Features

MB996SP-6SB

  • All-metal case and tray construction
  • 5.25” form-factor
  • Fits 6 x 7mm to 9.5mm 2.5” SATA HDD/SDDs with removable trays
  • Anti-Vibration Technology (AVT)
  • Active Power Technology (APT) to only power up fan and LEDs if drive is installed
  • Hi/Low/Off 40mm fan control
  • Switch between 4-pin and 15-pin power connection with included adapter.
  • Supports SATA 6Gbps and hot swap












MB992SK-B

  • All-metal case and tray construction
  • 3.5” form-factor
  • Fits 2 x 7mm to 9.5mm 2.5” SATA HDD/SDDs with removable trays
  • 2-segment safeguard key lock
  • Multi-Flow Technology (MFT) to passively cool drives
  • Anti-Vibration Technology (AVT)
  • Active Power Technology (APT) to only power up fan and LEDs if drive is installed
  • Supports SATA 6Gbps and hot swap





What’s Included

MB996SP-6SB

  • MB996SP-6SB Drive Bay with (6) Trays
  • Screws for mounting drives and bay
  • Installation instructions
  • 15-pin SATA to 4-pin Molex adapters (2)


MB992SK-B

  • MB992SK-B Drive Bay with (2) Trays
  • Screws for mounting drives and bay
  • Security Keys (2)
  • Installation instructions


Construction and Aesthetic

I’ve been pleased with all three of IcyDock’s previous offerings in the ToughArmor line. They have generally felt like high-end OEM parts with solid construction and a pretty simple aesthetic.

Like its brethren, both the MB996SP-6SB and MB992SK-B are painted in a slightly textured, matte black. Their cases are metal in their entirety, which adds quite a bit of weight but also makes both units feel like they could take some serious abuse and operate just fine. In fact, IcyDock touts the ToughArmor line as being ideal for strenuous medical and military applications.

Overall, both of these devices are sturdier than the majority of gaming hardware on the market and that’s an important factor to me when talking about the device that houses all my system’s data.











Performance

Speed



When compared between the control (drive directly connected to motherboard) and to the MB996 and MB992, there is essentially no difference in speed. This is same result we saw with the MB994 and MB991, and is what I fully expected to see. As a backplane, the accessories are simply routing data, not speeding it up or slowing it down and that's okay.

If you're wondering why my performance is so *ahem* lackluster, I am executing these tests on a backup HDD I had available while my main Crucial M4 is on RMA because of a firmware bug.

Temperature



As far as temperature is concerned, the MB992 is essentially on par with running the bare drive in a case. As for the MB996, there is a slight drop in the temperature under load. However, I believe that this is simply because there is more open space around the drive than in the MB992 and, when populated fully, the MB996 would probably perform about the same as we saw in the MB992. When the fan is enabled, there is a noticable improvement in temperature performance.

If you are using this accessory with HDDs, or are in a server environment where noise doesn't matter much, I'd say go to town on the fan. It's not obtrusive. But if you're using SSDs, or not stressing your drives a great deal, I wouldn't worry about the fan and just opt for a more quiet system.

Performance Conclusion

In all, if you're wondering how these drive accessories are going to affect performance, take note: they won't affect things one way or another. If you use the MB996SP-6SB with the fan, it'll help your HDDs run cooler, but that's a wash if using SSDs or using the MB992. The real beauty of these drives is in their utility, not performance-enhancements.

I have needed to swap drives a many times in the past year or two and it’s always been a lot easier to pop out the trays of my ToughArmor drive bay than it would be to dig around in a mATX case. For your typical gamer, this means that a carefully cable-managed case stays pristine and clean.

Conclusion, Pricing, Availability

For the third review in the ToughArmor series, I think these accessories are a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. If you are looking for the most number of drives in the least amount of space, the MB996 is fantastic option. It’s sister drive, the MB992, is a pretty slick companion letting you potentially fit a removable RAID configuration in an otherwise-overlooked 3.5” slot.

Any caveats for these offerings? Well, as has been the case for the other ToughArmor products, both are on the expensive side for removable drive bays. The MB996 retails on Newegg for $96.99 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817994147). The MB992 retails on Newegg for $39.99 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817994148&Tpk=MB992SK-B). A quick poke around Amazon shows that Thermaltake and AMS have similar products but neither appear to have the all-metal construction that the ToughArmor lineup boasts. If you are in the market for these drives, I'd encourage you to sign up for IcyDock's newsletter as they often run promotions that can save you a few bucks on the drives via mail-in rebates.

Another gripe is that miniaturizing the trays has made the fit into the bays themselves less consistent.

Lastly, I just happen to love the dust cover on the MB991SK-B and there just isn’t room for a similar system on the MB992SK-B, unfortunately.

With those caveats aside, the build quality is top notch -- something I’d expect to see on a OEM build.

MB996SP-6SB
Pros:
  • RAID10 in 5.25” form-factor
  • Incredibly sturdy construction
  • Installing drives into trays less problematic than with MB991TRAY-B
  • Awesome convenience in drive-swapping


Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Sliding trays into enclosure more problematic than with MB991TRAY-B
  • Doesn't play nice with 90 degree rotated SATA cables

MB992SK-B
Pros:
  • RAID0/RAID1 in 3.5” form-factor, making use out of an otherwise unused case slot
  • Solid construction
  • Convenient backup solution

Cons:
  • Sliding trays into enclosure more problematic with MB991TRAY-B
  • No dust cover like MB991SK-B

If you’re looking for these devices, they are available today from a host of retailers including Newegg and Amazon. For more information, check out IcyDock’s website for each product:

IcyDock MB996SP-6SB

IcyDock MB992SK-B

5 Comments:

how about a recomendation for a motherboard that can hold 6 of those ssd onto raid 0
@ferjero: Any motherboard is going to be using software raid and is probably not ideal for 6-disk RAID 0. Go all the way and pick up a dedicated RAID card (pci-e) and you'll probably be better off. However, don't forget to look into other RAID configurations to make sure your data is safe. If any of those disks in a RAID 0 array died, your whole array would be kaput.
Great review! I use the 4-bay to hold my drives and get any and all drive cages out of the interior of the case. It makes swapping easy and the internal space cleaner. And like you said, the build quality of the Tough Armor line is top notch, it feels like server-grade stuff.
Also people should watch out for the older stock that does not have the fan switch -- the little 40mm buggers are easily the loudest thing in my system when turned on.
Yeah, 40mm have a particular 'whine' that people find grating. If you're using SSDs, there's really no need for the fan.