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ICY DOCK Blizzard MB080U3S-1SB Black External Enclosure

Description:
AC Adapter: 12V/2A power adapter Material: ABS shell with metal frame Dimensions: 9.35"" x 4.96"" x 5.75"" Internal Interface: SATA I/II/III Fan: Yes Specifications: Fan Speed Control: High/ Low/ Auto HDD Access Indication: Flashing orange LED Power Indication: Green LED Over Heat Indicatior: Red ambient LED light (when temperature reach 50 Degrees C) Maximum Capacity (per Bay): 3TB+ Features: Unique & Elegant design. Massive 80mm fan for optimal cooling. Direct airflow design to completely cool all sides of the hard drive. Completely screw-less / tool-less design for any 3.5"" SATA I/II/III HDD. USB 3.0 & eSATA interface for the fastest connections anywhere. Backward compatible with USB 2.0 for wide-ranging use. 3 Speed Adjustable Cooling Fan, including auto setting featuri...

Details:
DetailValue
ManufacturerICY DOCK
ConditionNew
Model NumberMB080U3S-1SB
ClassificationExternal Enclosure
 

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Icy Dock Blizzard

review by killnine

Introduction

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing Icy Dock?s Blizzard 3.5? eSATA/USB3.0 external hard drive enclosure. The Blizzard is unique in that it integrates an 80mm fan into the front of the unit to pull air through the case and keep your drives cool. It also has an interactive system of LEDs that typically glow blue when operating within nominal temperatures, but change to red when going beyond the 50C temperature mark. Targeted at professionals in IT and media production, read on to see how the Blizzard stacks up against two other external drive solutions: an all-in-one Seagate drive and another DIY bare enclosure from StarTech.

Unboxing and Initial Impressions



Unlike the MB994IPO?3SB that I reviewed the few weeks back, the Blizzard has a package that appeals to the consumer and isn?t just an OEM brown box. There are a lot decals displaying the various features of the unit. Here?s a basic run-down:

  • Unique & Elegant design.
  • Massive 80mm fan for optimal cooling.
  • Direct airflow design to completely cool all sides of the hard drive.
  • Completely screw-less / tool-less design for any 3.5? SATA I/II/III HDD.
  • USB 3.0 & eSATA interface for the fastest connections anywhere.
  • Backward compatible with USB 2.0 for wide-ranging use.
  • 3 Speed Adjustable Cooling Fan, including auto setting featuring.
  • Smart Cooling technology. Smart Cooling Technology is active in auto mode and accurately adjusts the fan speed according to your hard drive?s needs.
  • Cool blue ambient LED with adjustable brightness control.
  • Smart-Temp functionality ? Front LED changes from blue to red when over 50? C.
  • Supports SATA 6Gbit hard drive up to 3TB capacity.
  • Great for Media and IT Professionals.
  • Designed for PC & Mac systems.


Opening up the box there is an instruction manual showing you how to install the drive into the unit as well as enumerating the accessories that come with the kit. These accessories include the base unit itself eSATA and USB3.0-compatible cable, power adapter, and small plastic feet to hold the base unit upright.





The unit itself was smaller than I imagined it would be and that?s good because I feared that the fan would make the unit bulky and cumbersome. Two buttons on either side of the unit allow the front face to be removed, exposing an 80mm fan and docking tray where the hard drive is held.



Without the need for any tools whatsoever you simply slide the drive into the base of the unit where it syncs with the backplane to power the drive and communicate with the PC. Even without any screws, the drive feels secure and will not fall out if you hold the base of the unit upside down and gently shake it. I can't stress enough how easy it was to get this thing running. This is definitely the simplest DIY-enclosure I have used.


Blue is the default color of the LEDs. This is with the unit's brightness full-tilt. Even at this level, the brightness is only really intense when directly looking down the enclosure.

The enclosure has a host of LEDs when powered on. Of course there are the obligatory Power and Activity LEDs which are green and amber, respectively. The real treat, though, is the blue LEDs deeply recessed within the cavity of the enclosure. Their brightness is adjustable through a dial on the rear of the unit and they change from blue to red when the drive steps over a 50C threshold.



After replacing the front face it takes a little bit of maneuvering to get the release buttons on either side of the base to return to their normal position. However, once they are the unit feels very secure. Unlike my previous review of the internal drive bay, the Blizzard is all plastic construction and looks like you would scuff fairly easily. That said, the plastic is not glossy so you don?t have to worry about fingerprints.

Overall, the construction on the unit feels quite good.

Test Setup and Methodology

In order to test the unit, I wanted to put it in a severe, but not entirely implausible scenario. I don?t think any location fits this better than my attic office, which is uninsulated and gets quite hot in the summer.
The Blizzard?s competition are the following two units:

  • Seagate FreeAgent Desktop 500Gb: ($100 new, 2008) This is an all-in-one solution from Seagate. It comes with the drive installed and Seagate-branded backup software. It only has a USB2.0 interface and is a very no-fuss solution. It?s drive is not easily replaceable but it also has the nice feature of powering down the drive when it is idle for long periods of time.
  • Startech InfoSafe 3.5? Enclosure: ($40) Startech?s enclosure is a metal enclosure for the 3.5? form-factor. Pretty much your default enclosure you?d find at any local PC shop. Bright blue power LEDs illuminate the base and there is a separate blue LED that displays drive activity.

The Seagate has a drive I can?t replace, but the InfoSafe enclosure does. I will use the same hard drive for both the Blizzard and the InfoSafe (A Seagate 7200RPM 3.5? 320GB spare I had around) to keep the test as balanced as possible between the units. Between tests I will let the drive cool to ambient before swapping between enclosures.



To test idle conditions, I will power the units up, but not place any load on them and let them sit for two hours.

To test load conditions, I will use IOMeter to place a load on the drive with a mixture of 4K and 16K reads and run the test for 20 minutes on the drives. Where I can, I will take surface readings of the drives using my IR thermometer. Otherwise, readings will come from Speedfan?s SMART diagnostic panel.

Analyzing 'Performance'

When you boil it down, the Blizzard?s primary selling point is it?s ability to actively cool a drive down. Therefore, I want to put it to the test in the best way I know how. My attic office is 84F on the day of testing; again, this is a function of not having insulation in the attic (hooray!). That?s much higher than I would assume most users? ambient temperatures are. However, it?s not an unreasonable temperature for use.

Results

Temperature
With respect to its key metric, the Blizzard trounces the competition in keeping its drive cool. In fact, I actually had to run the tests between the Blizzard and the InfoSafe twice because the first drive I tested within the InfoSafe (a Seagate 7200.10 1TB 3.5? drive) failed after I ran a battery of tests on it. I can?t prove that heat was the cause of death, but at 125F at last check, it probably didn?t help.

This is NOT a reading from the Blizzard. The InfoSafe's original test drive actually failed after a few hours running on the test bench. After I pulled the drive out, this was the temperature it was reading. Pretty astounding, seeing as I used this enclosure full-time before the Blizzard.




The Blizzard was able to keep the test drive very close to ambient and for that it receives top marks.

In the idle tests it's impressive to see even at the low setting, it is able to keep the drive as cool as it did with the auto setting, which appeared to be running full-bore. However, this suggests to me that the 80mm fan isn't running as fast as it physically can at full speed. The internal controller probably limits the maximum speed due to noise concerns.

With respect to the load temperatures, we see what a decent amount of air cooling can do. With the FreeAgent as my primary backup device, I was surprised to see how high the temperatures rose after the test. Yet, the Blizzard kept things remarkably cool even in the sweltering attic environment.

Noise
Temperatures and noise go hand in hand. While the Blizzard is able to keep your drive cool, does it cost a lot in terms of noise? The simple answer is, not really. Unless you work in a silent environment, the fan does not put out much noise. Furthermore, the 80mm size of the fan means its a low whoosh and not the whine of 40mm or 25mm fans on graphics cards and small cases.

My one gripe with the fan is the Auto-Low-High settings. In my testing, the Auto setting reached high speed just at idle. To me that suggests that either the highest setting is too slow, or the curve at which it starts to increase fan speed is too steep. I would have expected the fan to hit full-tilt when it reached 50C, corresponding to the ?red glow? warning indicator.

Overall, the fan speed was not obtrusive, but for silent-PC enthusiasts, the ability to keep a drive only slightly above ambient does come at a price.

Light (Brightness)
The LEDs on the Blizzard are adjustable and never reach the obnoxious levels that the InfoSafe?s base does. In fact, the LEDs only make for a soft blue glow unless you are looking directly into the unit itself. At its lowest level, it wouldn?t be difficult at all to sleep in the same room as the Blizzard (typically my test for brightness).

The ability to show the user that a drive is reaching a dangerous (arguably...) threshold is also pretty neat. However, I did have to use a hair dryer to reach that temperature.


The enclosure being 'stimulated' by my hot-air device. Yes, it's a hair-dryer. No, I didn't choose the color. Notice the LEDs are red once the drive has reached it's 50C temperature threshold.

Conclusion and Pricing

Icy Dock?s latest consumer enclosure definitely has a lot of novel features to bring to the table. There?s no arguing that it is an enclosure that is effective at keeping your disk drive cool and keeps you posted on the current temperature status to boot. Despite being largely plastic, it still felt more solid than the aluminum InfoSafe (and certainly beat the pants off it in every other respect).

This is, after all, a premium product by Icy Dock that is targeted towards IT and media pros, so it's not entirely a surprise that the street price hovers around $70. That put it on the expensive side if you don?t already have a drive to put in the unit. There are a number of all-in-one offerings that are only slightly more and include a 1TB drive. Whether it is the right fit for you largely depends on what your needs are. If you?re looking for USB3.0, are concerned about the longevity of your drive, or are need an enclosure that looks pretty slick on your desk, this might be the device for you. Regardless, as far as performance in the cooling and build quality departments are concerned, the Blizzard is really a top contender.

The Blizzard is available now and you can find it at most large e-tailers including Amazon, Buy.com, Newegg and ANTonline.com.

ProsCons
Incredibly functional, tool-less, simple to usePlastic, fan may be overkill, pricey

Ratings
Overall4
 

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Icy Dock Blizzard

review by killnine
Great review, this and your last one. I have been watching this company for a while now. They showed great things at Computex, glad we got someone testing them.
 

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Icy Dock Blizzard

review by killnine
Yeah, I found out about them last year and their products have made me a believer.
Talking to their engineers has shown me they take feedback seriously and want to
make very solid products. So far I have been quite impressed.
 
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