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Eagle Tech Consus M Hard Drive Enclosure Review

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AkG

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Eagle Tech Consus M-Series External Enclosure Review​





Manufacturer Product Page: CONSUS M
Model Number: ET-CSMESU2-BK
Availability: Now
Price: Check Here To Compare Prices
Warranty: 1 year



For many people the fact that external storage solutions are usually slow has been the deciding factor in why they have not yet purchased one. In the past external storage used to be big, clunky, expensive, loud and worst of all SLOW. The lack of speed is certainly not the fault of the hard drives which are used in them as they are the same ones which we use in our computers every day. Heck, if you were so inclined you could stick a Western Digital Raptor 150GB into one of these external enclosures and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference speed wise. This is because the biggest bottleneck has always been the connection type.

In the beginning it, was USB 1.1 which was super slow (yet was a ground breaking, lightening fast improvement over floppy disk or serial or even the horrid parallel connection) this was quickly updated to USB 2.0 and for the longest while speeds stagnated, with a real world maximum throughput of 40MB/s. Luckily, Apple was not a fan of USB and a few lucky ones (mainly Apple users) got FireWire 800 and things were good, not great but good. Unfortunately FW800 is an expensive accessory if you don’t own a Mac, so for the majority of people it is just not a realistic connection type.

Then eSATA hit the scene and geeks everywhere rejoiced for finally we had an external connection which would be just as fast as an internally connected hard drive. Unfortunately eSATA has had a slow adoption rate as it is much more expensive than USB to implement. All this is about to change, as Eagle (Tech) has landed a bevy of new enclosures all sporting eSATA connections. Huzzah!!

Today we will be looking at a very special enclosure made by Eagle Tech USA. While Eagle Tech may not be a household name they have been in business since 1992 but only as a behind the scenes supplier to OEM manufacturers. In other words, while they may be well known to industry insiders, many products they help build which we have come to know and love have a different logo on them. Well that is the past and Eagle Tech USA has decided to branch out and market directly to us the consumer. What this means is they can offer amazing value for products which are of high quality as they have not only cut out the middle man but a veritable forest of go-betweens as well.

The subject of today’s review is the Eagle Consus M-Series external storage system with both USB and eSATA connectivity options. While it only accepts one hard drive, it also offers truly tool-less hot swapability. The Consus M (as we will call it in this review) is available at many e-tailers at retails for about $30. With such a low asking price is this enclosure worth your hard earned dollars which will finally offer you a good reason to get your first external enclosure; or is this an offer which is just too good to be true?

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AkG

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Features & Specifications

Features & Specifications



<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/eagle/specs.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



(Click on image for a larger view)

The box for the Eagle Consus M has to have one of the funkiest colour schemes we have seen in a long while. This is not necessarily a bad thing as different is good, different is memorable and above all else different gets you brand recognition; or at lest it can if done properly. Unfortunately many companies who try to be different miss the target completely and "different" for them is code word for fugly and no one likes to buy ugly things. At our core, tech geeks like myself are pack rats and we like bright shiny NEW things, not ugly drab things. Luckily for everyone concerned Eagle Tech has done different rather well with this packaging.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

When you look at the Consus M box for the first time it may cause you to flash back to favorite summer childhood memories. You know the type: the ones where it is a hot summer day you’ve just won a (fill in the blank) competition and the whole (team/family/gang) are going to for ice-cream to celebrate the victory. In the case of the Consus M’s box it looks like a big old fashioned Creamsicle with black sides. It certainly was a bold choice on Eagle Tech's behalf because unless you see it in person you wouldn’t think a “Creamsicle” color scheme would work. Well I can tell you it does and I will never look at another Creamsicle without thinking about this bad boy!


(Click on image for a larger view)​

When you do open the container you are greeted to a very reassuring sight; a sight which is almost guaranteed to leave a good and lasting first impression. When you lift open the double flap and peer inside all you can see is two large pieces of low density foam which allows the enclosure to blissfully float in the center of the box. As I have said in the past this, is probably one of the best packaging schemes available for this type of equipment and we all love to see it. You can be as sloppy as you want in opening up the container and you don’t have to worry about damaging anything important. Sure, if you get too frisky with the box cutter you may slice through an eSata cable or destroy the CD Rom, but that is minor or even incidental when compared to the safety of the unit itself. To further reduce potential damages, the Consus M is also enclosed in a plastic baggie which didn’t look to be static proof (which is a shame as it is a missed opportunity) but will help protected it against moisture if the box gets wet.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

The list of accessories is very complete and contains everything (besides a hard drive) that you could possibly need to get up and running. As a nice bonus, Eagle Tech included not only a USB cord but an eSATA cord as well, and this was a nice touch as this is usually the first thing to go MIA when manufactures start looking for cost cutting options. The full list of accessories which are included is: one USB cord, one eSATA cord, a very small “Putt” switching power brick, an installation pamphlet, a driver CD and even a small plastic stand which will allow the unit to stand up on its side.

The only thing which you could conceivably need that was not included was a SATA to eSATA PCI bracket. This bracket would allow older non eSATA equipped systems the ability to run this enclosure. This oversight is understandable given the price point of the unit, but it still is a little bit conspicuous by its absence.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions




(Click on images for a larger view)​

When you do take a good close look at the Eagle Consus M the very first thing that stands out like a sore thumb is that the black aluminum mesh on the top of the unit is there just for show. Unlike some other passive enclosures which take advantage of air convection and allow air in through aluminum mesh sides, this Consus M has an all plastic body that then has been dressed up with an aluminum mesh facade. Honestly the Consus M looks very sleek and stylish but if you are going to spend the money on adding aluminum mesh sides you might as well make it a functional part of the kit.

The next thing one notices is the front door is not flush fitted and rather a 1/8 of an inch gap has been purposely left between the door and the body. It is certainly striking and gives this enclosure an air of quirky uniqueness which fits in perfectly with its overall design scheme. Just like the Tagan Icy Box we reviewed just recently, the door opening mechanism is a small hole in the front side which is accessed with a small key. It would have been nice if they had included a button but the lack of external buttons makes the exterior of this case extremely slick and almost Apple-like in its minimalistic approach.

This enclosure’s minimalistic approach does not stop with a lack of any external button also continues into the power on & activity LEDs. The only way you can tell when this enclosure is powered on or is being accessed is by the pale blue glowing LED found at the back of the meshed side of the enclosure. When the unit is on, half of the plastic indicator glows and when Consus M is being accessed by a computer the other half lights up. This would be a perfectly reasonable and elegant way of dealing with things except for the fact that both the power LED and activity LED are both blue; and the clear indicator strip has a tendency to glow regardless of activity. Worse still, it only glows incrementally brighter when the enclosure is active. This minor oversight is more of an annoyance as you can easily tell by noise alone if your hard drive is active or not.

One nice touch was the inclusion of a stand for the Consus M. This allows the enclosure to be stood up on its edge which in turn takes up a great deal less space and in fact makes loading and unloading hard drives a lot easier. When the unit is laid down, the hard drive does not slip in as easy as they do when the unit is stood up, which makes sense as there is less surface contact between the hard drive and the enclosure. It really is the small things like this which make this such a pleasurable enclosure to work with and help transform it from a decent product to a damn good one.


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As with all enclosures, the Consus M’s back is where all the connections are; however even here Eagle has gone for the less is more mantra. You get the typical on/off switch, a power connector and USB connector and at the top is the eSATA connector. Let’s face it, it’s the eSATA connector which makes this enclosure so desirable and looks downright perfect on this enclosure.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions



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Taking apart the Consus M is a relatively straightforward affair. One simply has to unscrew four screws on the back of the unit and then gently pry the entire metal back off of the plastic case. When you do get the metal back plate off you will be amazed at how spare the insides are. You basically have the PCB, a bunch of capacitors, the controller chip and the lone SATA power / data connector.


(Click on image for a larger view)

The capacitors which are used on the Consus M are Changzhou Huawei Electronics Co capacitors. While very little is known about “Chang” capacitors (which can be considered both a good thing as no one is complaining about them or bad thing because no one is raving about them either) other than the fact that they have been in business since 1987 and they make over 4 billion aluminum electrolytic capacitors every year. While this sounds like a lot (and it is) it only places them in the 53rd place for Chinese Electronic Components top 100! In any case, the caps used on the Consus M are rated for 105°C which is much more than necessary but is always nice to see.


(Click on image for a larger view)

The brain of this unit is the Sunplus SPIF215A-HF021controller chip. This chip is a bridge controller chip which acts as the couples a USB high-speed device port and a SATA 1.5G host port together into one single chip controller. This chipset is the same chip used in the Vantec NexStar 3, Antec MX-1 and numerous other single drive enclosures. It is considered by many (on various forums) to be one of the best performing chips on the market right now.
 
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Installation

Installation




(Click on images for a larger view)

Just like the recently reviewed Icy Box IB-3220, the Consus M has a near tool-less hardware installation process. Just as we iterated before, this does have its advantage and disadvantages. The great thing about it is you literally just need to open the door, slide in the hard drive and gently close the door behind it (Eagle calls this process the F.I.T. or Fast Installation Technology). Then you turn on the device and plug the USB cable, Windows should instantly (or as instantly as Windows is capable of) recognize it and you should be up and running. This is the total hard drive installation process from start to finish. Pretty simple isn't it?

The downside to this Speedy Gonzales installation is the hard drive is only being supported by small plastic rails on each side and friction from the front door. This means if one of those front doors ever pops out while in transit, say goodbye to mister hard drive because Murphy’s law states that a hard drive is going to hit something hard (like concrete or asphalt...or something soft and then be run over by a bus).

If all this sounds familiar (and it should) it is because this enclosure has uses the exact same hardware installation as the Icy Box. We don’t mean similar we mean EXACTLY the same, heck even the small plastic keys are the same! It is very obvious either the Icy Box and the Consus M are made by the same OEM manufacturer or some other company has (hopefully) licensed this unique mounting system from them. Either way, it’s fast, it’s easy and it’s fairly secure. If you are worried about the door opening under normal wear and tear you shouldn’t. To make sure it is relatively secure, we mounted an old dead Maxtor SATA drive in it and purposely shook the sh….errr…ummm…the heck out if with the intent of trying to get the door to pop open. After a vigorous 30 minutes we gave up and went to apply some ICY HOT to our now aching shoulders and arms. We don’t recommend this at home but it does highlight how good the locking mechanism really is.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing any external storage enclosure is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto the arrays drive folder in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account.

For these tests I used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach and the SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark for testing the USB connection.

For all testing a Gigabyte PA35-DS4 motherboard with its built in USB controller was used.

All tests were run 4 times and only best results are represented.

Processor: Q6600 @ 3.2GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: XFX 7200gt 128mb
Hard Drives:
2x Western Digital Se16 320GB (1 for computer)
1x Seagate 7200.10 320GB (for Icy Box)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
Case: CM 690

Alternative Enclosures used for Comparison and Contrast:

1) Mediasonic HUR1-SU2. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...al-bay-raid-hard-drive-enclosures-review.html

2) Thermaltake BlacX. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/5476-thermaltake-blacx-review.html

3) Icy Box. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...icy-box-jbod-hard-drive-enclosure-review.html
 
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AkG

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Performance Tests

Performance Testing

HDTach Read Bandwidth

For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed that you are likely to experience with these enclosures.

read.jpg


Wow, just WOW. In USB mode the Eagle Consus-M is quite simply the fastest USB enclosure we have every tested; and that’s just half the story! When this unit is connected via eSATA, the numbers are simple astonishing. These numbers are for all intents and purposes the same numbers that they would be if the hard drive was internally mounted to the Gigabyte motherboard. Words like “impressive” just don’t convey the sheer joy at seeing how fast this enclosure gobbles up multi-gig files. This is what any tech geek worth his salt has been waiting for.


HDTach Random Access Time

Once again, HDTach was used for this benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive.

random.jpg


Once again the Consus M posts some downright amazing numbers. This hard drive has a Random Access latency of 13.2ms which means that the Consus M’s latency overhead is so small as to be negligible. That Sunplus controller chip really is an amazing piece of engineering.


ATTO Disk Benchmark

The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

eagel_USB.jpg
eagel_eSata.jpg

MEDIASonic_atto.jpg
BlacX_ATTO.jpg

icy_box_atto.jpg


Ahh finally, we have a test where the prowess of the Consus M is truly challenged (or at least with USB). The USB write speeds are a little on the low side when compared to the other enclosures but the difference is very small. What is more important and how most people are going to use this device, is the eSATA numbers which simply decimate the competition. This is to be expected as the eSATA protocol is not only newer but also vastly superior to the rapidly ageing USB protocol.


SIS Sandra XII Storage Benchmark

This test was run with the removable storage benchmark in Sandra XII Standard. All of the scores are calculated in operations per second and have been averaged out from the scores of 4 test runs.

sis.jpg


The Consus M’s USB scores are very nice indeed, but once again come up a little short when compared to others. However (and just like the ATTO results) the eSATA results are not only damn good, but are so similar to this hard drive's internal numbers that should be considered as “one and the same”.


EXTENDED RUNTIME TESTING

Where these units are marketed towards the home environment, it is reasonable to expect them to be able to handle moderate usage, with random insertion and removal and random requests for data. To test how robust this unit is, and how well the active cooling would work, the Cosus M was subjected to a 48 hour torture session. During this time the hard drive was inserted and removed 40 times (and yes we did count the number), the hard drive was instructed to do a hard format and was filled and emptied numerous times.

If Consus M has an Achile’s heel it is its inability to properly shed heat. Aproximately 26hours into this test, the test was stopped as the case was getting so warm that we feared for the hard drives safety. When we removed the Seagate from the enclosure is was extremely warm. If the testing has continued we are fairly certain either the enclosures structural integrity or the hard drive itself wold have failed (hoestly, it would be a toss up as to which would die first).

As we did with the BlacX hard drive docking station we removed the Seagate and replaced it with a new single platter 320GB Western Digital SE16. After 48hrs of nonstop use the SE16, while getting warm, was not anywhere close to being in danger of overheating. Its removal and insertion was just as easy the last time as the first. While we would have some reservations in recommending a hot running hard drive for use in this enclosure, they are certainly not major reservations. Unless you plan on using this enclosure in marathon like data sessions the units thermal shedding ability should be more than adequate for everything but the most extreme of heat producers. In the end we would not hesitate to long in recommending you use and hard drive you wish (except for super hot running WD Raptor line or any mega hot hard drive) with this enclosure.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion

The Consus M posted some of the best scores we have ever seen in our enclosure reviews and did so with a consistency that bordered on monotonous. The F.I.T hard drive mounting system, while not unique, works very well and is surprisingly secure. With all these things going for it the only possible drawback we could think of was the fact that this enclosure is plastic with metal mesh over it. We really would have liked to have seen the mesh there for more than good looks as it certainly would have helped it when it came to its 48hr torture tests.

Except for this one minor issue this enclosure really is a stylish and very slick piece of engineering. While not everyone will like the creamsicle-like packaging it comes in, who cares about the packaging if what's inside performs like this enclosure does? It’s not like the box is good for anything once you remove the enclosure from it. Love it or hate, the orange color scheme is distinctive and will make it easier for you to find if you so chose to look for it at a local retailer. If you are looking for a single bay enclosure that really is a natural triple threat (speed, ease of use, good looks) you don’t need to look much further than this bad boy.

What can you say about an enclosure that is not only good looking, easy to use and extremely fast besides "Impressive"? Well we here at Hardware Canuck's can think of two words that suit this enclosure even better: Dam Good.

Pros:
- Stylish Design
- Easy installation
- Excellent Performance
- eSATA connectivity option

Cons:
-Less than optimal cooling design
-LED indicator scheme (blue/blue) is less than optimal combination

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Special Thanks To Eagle Tech
for providing us with this sample.

http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...external-enclosure-review-comment-thread.html
 
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