As ever with the start of a review we have an introduction, we blather on about the company in question products, sexually preference of the board of directors ect. Our first port of call after the closest strip club to the company's HQ is their own website. Sadly the Icy Box website seems to be under construction and details of the company itself seem somewhat thin on the ground!
If you are anything like any member of the OC3D team Im sure there has been a time when you have been faffing around looking for SATA cables and trying to find that modular cable for your PSU just so you can temporarily put a HDD in your system. Whether it is to transfer some data or even a quick back up it can be a complete pitFa and yes before you ask the 'F' does mean what you think.
That's where the Icy Box docks come in, for those of you always moving hard drives or just looking for something that you can set up in a 'just in case' role. Today we will be testing an E-Sata version and taking a look to see if the new USB3 model really does make much difference.
Yet again details on the website are limited but thanks to our Lara Croft grave robbing skills we managed to find this:
• Premium hard synthetic material
• Support both 2.5" and 3.5" SATA HDD
• USB 2.0 Host Interface up to 480 Mbit/s
• eSATA Host Interface up to 3 Gb/s
• USB3 Host Interface up to 5 Gb/s
• LED for power and HDD access
• Supports: PC & Mac
(Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista, OS> 9.1)
• Hot Plug & Play and Hot Swap
Enough's enough lets head over the page and see how many more random analogies I can make.
Lets make a start with the 110 series it comes in a box with a pretty girl on it that looks like she is auditioning for a Tampax advert but in the UK we all know we hardly care about this bit. In the box your just about to bin there is a power adapter, a manual no man will read and a USB3 A to B cable.
The unit supports both 2.5" and 3.5" drives, at the front there is a power light and a transfer activity light. Round the back sadly there is no thong but there is a handy power switch.
Using the dock is fairly simple, make sure your PC has USB3 drivers installed. Plug it in. Turn it on, and bam its like the HDD is in your PC
For those of you without USB3 but feeling the need for speed Icy Box do have an add in PCI-Express x1 card for a penny shy of £25. Again pretty box, but wahooo its got another and Ill try to be PC - 'beautiful specimen of the female form' on the front but sadly shes clothed and looks like shes dancing on another Tampax advert. In the box its very simple there's just the card, a driver disc and a manual you can use as a coaster.
There is no internal USB3 but tbh Ive not even seen that on any motherboards let alone cases yet. It is worth noting that it requires a molex connection to power it, not the best thing if you are looking for that uber tidy case other than that its plug and play.
Yet again we have another pretty box with an excerpt from a feminine hygiene video. In the box there is a main power adapter, e-SATA and a USB2 A to B cable.
The unit itself has a very simple front with the ICYBOX logo on it, round the back you'll find the I/O connections, power jack and the power switch.
Again there is support for 2.5" and 3.5" drives, using the dock is very simple you just drop the drive in and turn the power switch on - job done.
Right enough with all the boringly simple explanations about the units, I expect 99% of you just looked at the pictures anyways. I bet you missed the naked shot of Elle Macpherson hidden in one of the pictures though!
Finally down to the nitty gritty, to try and see what performance gains are to be had by 2 types of connection available we have chosen to test the docks with a Vertex 120GB SSD. Now I can hear you all shouting that you are never going to do this in real life but where SSD's are notoriously fast it should make it very easy to see what gains or losses there are.
All tests we carried out on a Rampage 3 with an i7 930. Benchmarking was done with HD Tune Pro and tested with 512kb Block sizes. We started off by getting testing the drive on a good old SATA2 port and we will use this test to compare the others too. Look at the average results we have a benchmark of 242MB/s read and 176MB/s writes - all very standard Vertex 120GB results.
Next up the connection we all know and love, USB2. I think its fair to say none of us expect any records but its numbers all the same and without history how far do we know we have come? Average results here were 33.6MB/s read and 31.2MB/s write. A massive hit on the SATA results but at roughly 30MB/s its also right on target.
Now the first of the interesting results today, e-SATA. Ive read a lot of articles on e-SATA but this is my first personal time ever actually testing it so I did not know what to expect. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised as we got average results of 103.8MB/s read and 121.4MB write. It did seem strange the write speed was faster but I tried the tests over and over and always got the same results. At those levels its more than fast enough to keep 99% of mechanical drives running as quick as if they were actually in your rig.
USB3 states that it has 5gb/s bandwidth available but all the GB/gb KB/kb difference are enough to confuse the people that actually designed them. Why they cant just tell us the real world results Ill never know. So is it quick I hear you say? Quick answer is yes, very quick. Quicker than I expected quick. When tested we got average results of 199.9MB/s read and 161.9MB/s write we have tested SSD's that couldn't provide results that good. We tested the USB3 on both the PCI-E add in card and the Rampage onboard and they both scored within .1MB/s of each other. Whether the 'lost' 40MB/s is the limitations of the USB3 bus or the ICYDOCK itself we'll never know till some significantly faster hardware is released.
With all that out of the way lets whip over the page to wrap this little lot up.
Hmmmm where do I start? Both the docks tested today are well priced and well made. Both perform very well, we can't compare them to each other as both feature very different ways of connecting to your rig. It's worth considering that if your motherboard does not have USB3 support that you will need to factor in the cost of the PCIE add in card as well. Thankfully even a pukka add-on USB3.0 card is cheap and so the benefits of the USB 3.0 interface are available to all.
What started as a review I thought would be very mundane, turned out to really surprise me. The USB3 results were brilliant. I was very much a member of the 'is it really needed' team, but after testing this today I'm actually looking forward to seeing what other manufacturers bring to the table next. Good on Icy Box for jumping on the USB3 train nice and early.
It may appear that such incredible transfer rates would be fairly pointless for an external drive. But the benefits of having your data secure on an external drive are multiple. If your PC/Laptop gets stolen you could have your data kept safely elsewhere. Or work from home without lugging that laptop around. Or even have a backup copy of Windows for finding those errors in your current installation. On most modern motherboards you will even be able to use drives in these docks as boot drives without sacrificing much, if any performance depending if you use a top flight SSD or not.
The only thing you need to decide out of these two docks is how fast do you need your transfers to be? If you don't have USB3 or high performance drives then buy the IB-112 e-SATA dock. If you have USB3 now and need high speed transfers, or just fancy a bit of good old 'just in case' future proofing then the IB-110 could be the buy for you. Icy Box may hate me for pointing this out but the USB3 cable on the 110 will also work on USB2 if push comes to shove, albeit heavily bottle-necked.
- Relatively low price
- Convenient to use
- Performance to please almost every user
- Small desktop footprint
- Is not as fast a internal SATA transfers
Thanks to Icy Box for the samples today, you can discuss this review in our forums.