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ICY DOCK ToughArmor MB998SP-B and MB993SK-B Review - Space Efficient Hot-Swappable SATA

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ICY DOCK

Installation and Testing

Installation

First a look at the front and rear of these two units:

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From the front, we find all real estate occupied by 2.5" x 7mm hot swap bays. The trays are labeled - the 8-bay model had labels pre-installed, while the 3-bay came with a plastic 'tree' of the same 8 numbered snap-in labels, which I have installed here for comparison.

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At the rear, we find a pair of low speed 40mm fans, surrounded by a pair of SATA power connectors and 8 SATA data ports. The rear of the smaller 3-bay unit reveals my only real gripe with either of them - why go with an older 4-pin floppy style power connector on a brand new SATA device? There appears to be more than enough room for a standard SATA power connector back there. While server chassis likely maintain at least one of these connectors, some current gen desktop-class power supplies might not. This would not be as much of an issue if there was an adapter in the box, but that is not the case with this particular model.

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The 8-bay MB998SP-B uses the EZ-Slide Nano Tray, which is common to, and can be moved across other models within the MB998 series.

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Due to the more restricted space available when cramming three 2.5” SSDs into a standard 3.5” bay, the MB993SK-B does not share the same tray design. Here ICY DOCK had to opt for a design that attaches at the sides of the drive as opposed to the bottom. For the moment, this tray appears to be limited to only this particular model.

Testing

Since these enclosures have a 1:1 SATA port at the rear for each empty bay, there is no real interface to speak of. This means that the information is passed directly to/from the installed drives. I ran a few quick tests on both units just to confirm no slowdowns or SATA 6Gbit negotiation issues. The tested drives went the exact same speeds both in and out of the enclosures, as expected. Sorry for the lack of pretty charts and graphs, but in this case, there is simply nothing to write home about - your internally mounted SSDs will perform just the same in these housings.

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While on the bench, I snagged a pic of the bays ‘lit up’. Installed / powered drives get a corresponding green LED indicator that remains lit when idle and flashes at various speeds based on activity. This image from the ICY DOCK product page will give you a taste of the look when active.


May 4, 2016 | 07:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Did you do any extensive testing of SSDs in these? I had no end of trouble with another model of ICY DOCK dropping drives in such a way as to cause the whole machine to hard lock. (Both mirrored and non-raided drives.) I had to replace the unit with a 4 bay Super Micro that worked flawlessly.

May 4, 2016 | 07:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Super Micro's offerings.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/chassis/mobileRack/

May 5, 2016 | 07:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The offerings in those are a bit different, mainly the size the bays take up. The Icydock product in the review takes up less space than those in those links.

May 4, 2016 | 08:42 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I put a couple of hours on both of them without issue. Since there is no real logic in these, dropouts might have been caused by a weak / long SATA cable or controller. I've seen that sort of thing with other docking solutions in the past.

May 4, 2016 | 09:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hopefully they just improved these models over past models. I guess I didn't feel the need to go through all the troubleshooting steps but the setup didn't start working until I took the ICY DOCK out of the equation. The same drives and cables worked properly with another enclosure but the ICY DOCK didn't work with different cables.

May 5, 2016 | 07:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Have you tried contacting Icy Dock tech support? They helped me out when I had an issue with one of their products and stand by their warranty.

May 4, 2016 | 08:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hell yes!

May 5, 2016 | 12:58 AM - Posted by Hakuren

I have couple of those 8 bay filled with SSDs. Couldn't be happier.

If you want to use fans, replace the default set with something less noisy. Standard fans spin up to 4800 rpms, used 2800 rps Noiseblockers as a replacement.

May 5, 2016 | 01:31 AM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

Are we at the point where we can use 2.5" HDD's in things like this for a home server? It sure would let me use a much smaller case.

May 5, 2016 | 09:21 AM - Posted by rhekman

That was my first thought as well. I'd be curious as to the heat, power, and noise from 8 2.5" HDDs fully loaded. For a home server, the sequential performance for a set of RAIDed drives in an enclosure like this would certainly exceed gigabit ethernet and might be a nice option. Unfortunately the overall capacity and capacity per dollar both land somewhere between SSD and 3.5" HDD pricing. Also 2.5" HDDs still seem to be optimized for laptop use -- I haven't seen a "NAS" drive in that form factor.

Which is a shame. I recall Google has proposed a new form factor for spinning disks optimized for mass storage that used smaller platters but more of them. The closest match appears to be 2.5" drives in the thicker 15mm variants, but those come with high enterprise price tags and usually SAS connections.

May 5, 2016 | 01:54 PM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

For some reason I thought 2.5" drives had reached larger capacities but it looks like they top out at 2TB and cost about 50% more than their 3.5" counter-parts. I guess I'll just continue dreaming about using something like this filled with SSDs.

May 5, 2016 | 10:51 PM - Posted by MRFS (not verified)

Before you purchase the 8-bay unit,
take a look at the Reviews at newegg.com .

We bought one recently, and that newegg review
was correct about the "squeeze" you can expect
with the SATA power connectors:

the "straight-in style" power connectors are
highly recommended. Under the "fair use" doctrine,
I'll just quote that one important paragraph,
because we also confirmed the following "Con"
(and we already had the "straight" style):

Carney K. writes:
"Cons: Poorly thought out SATA power connectors. Quite a few power supplies on the market use the daisy-chain style SATA power connectors. This is only (easily) compatible with the straight style. The problem with a daisy chained connector is the extra width required since the cord enters and exits the SATA connector at an angle. Adding insult to injury, after plugging in the first connector, you have to twist the cable 180 degrees, and flip the connector another 180 degrees since they did not position the keyed edge in the same direction for both SATA power connectors. Also, the fans block the full-seating of this style. Just something to beware of on an otherwise great product. If you have the daisy-chain style SATA power connectors from your PSU, you may want simple extensions or adapters to avoid the acrobatics."

And, I would also add that you should also
install all cabling while the 8-bay enclosure
is OUTSIDE the chassis: this is so, because
the fan wires create a pretty tight situation
around the SATA ports, and you'll be able to
see what's going on much easier while the
enclosure is outside the chassis.

Aside from the above, our 4 new Samsung 850 SSDs
are humming along nicely, and this upgrade
means that our 12GB ramdisk is saved and restored
about three times faster than our four aging
15,000 rpm Hitachi SAS HDDs (also in RAID-0).

May 16, 2016 | 11:21 AM - Posted by bigmike678 (not verified)

sigh, if only ssds were around the price per gigabyte of hard drives you could have an amazing RAID array in a very compact form factor

oh well, i can wait

July 13, 2016 | 02:43 PM - Posted by Elliott (not verified)

Has anybody done stress testing with 8x HDDs in there? I think the drives might all overheat, since this is so dense.

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