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Ineo NA307 & NA302Ue Hard Drive Enclosures Review

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AkG

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Ineo NA307 & NA302Ue Hard Drive Enclosures Review



Manufacturer Product Page: ineo
Part Number: I-NA307
Availability: Limited
Price: Approximately $22 US
Warranty: 1 Year


Manufacturer Product Page: ineo
Part Number: I-NA302Ue
Availability: Limited
Price: Approximately $25 US
Warranty: 1 Year




Just recently we reviewed a very innovative product which could double duty as an internal and an external hard drive enclosure. While it was very good, it did bring up an interesting point: namely we have been a little remiss in dealing with hard drive enclosures which are designed to be used inside a computer case. For whatever reason, be it added cooling, noise reduction or what have, you many consumers need (or at least want) a 5.25" bay enclosure which can handle a normal 3.5" hard drive. Even more customers would like the option of being able to quickly and easily remove this hard drive from one system and use it in a portable enclosure to "sneaker net" so to speak a massive amount of information to another location and then when finished put it back into their original computer.

While the previously reviewed enclosure was capable of doing this, it did overlook one concern many people may have about cooling their drive. Now, we know for a fact most single drive enclosures are more than capable of handling the loads of most hard drives...but there are a few drives that are notorious for running hot. More importantly, many people just feel more comfortable knowing their hard drive is being actively cooled; and lets face it, piece of mind is a commodity which one should never skimp on.

To this end, today’s review will be a bit different than most reviews we do. In the past, the only time we have combined two reviews into one is if both devices are so similar that only something minor (yet important enough to justify reviewing both items) differentiates them. For example in the past we review two dual bay RAID enclosures with the only difference being one was Firewire + USB and the other was USB only. Well today we are going to buck this trend and combine two wildly different items from a certain manufacturer into one large review.

In this review we will be looking at the Ineo I-NA307 internal 5.25 bay hard drive enclosure which allows for fast and easy, yet secure, storage of a single SATA drive. On the other hand, we will also be looking at the Ineo I-NA302Ue which is a passively cooled external eSATA + USB enclosure. Both of these devices are available in limited quantities from a few online e-tailers and they go for about $22 US and $25 respectively. We have a feeling this combination will be a very strong and viable solution for many people's needs; to this end we will not only be giving a final recommendation on each individual piece but also on this combination. Win, lose or draw this is shaping up to be one interesting review.

Before we get started though lets take a moment and give you a bit of background information on Ineo; a manufacturer whom we are sure you probably are not aware of....yet. Ineo is an American manufacturer which specializes in NAS and external enclosures. Not much information is available about them besides the fact their stated goal is to “…make its products easy to be used by everyone…”. This is a very laudable goal and we are looking forward to seeing what this new company has to offer. Of course we could leave it at this but the story does take an interesting twist since after a bit of digging it becomes readily apparent that at the very least Eagle Tech, EagleBit and Ineo all have offices in the same building; or the more likely answer is they are same company. As this review was getting ready to go live, Eagle Tech updated their site and added in an Ineo section. The reasons for this obfuscation are unclear but it could be a case of one is their high end customer support oriented site(Eagletech.com) and the other is a more value oriented one (ealgebit.com) and the third is just the manufacture website (ineo2tech.com). In any case if these kits are as good as the Eagle Consus M we reviewed, then we are in for quiet the ride with performance and elegance in equal measures.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications



NA307




NA302

 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories




Both SATA hard drive enclosures came in very similar looking boxes, and in our minds this is not a bad thing. In fact, the colour scheme of blue and white is very appealing. It may be a little understated for some but we have never been ones who go in for garish neon colours or over the top packagin. In many ways these boxes remind us of a good high end Tilley “endurable” hat. It may not look like much but it does have a style all its own; and more importantly it works regardless of the environment you put it in.


As we have mentioned in the past, using the same colour scheme for multiple lines of equipment does have a potential down side. This downside being that can be confusing to first time customers to distinguish from one product to the next. No one likes buying “kit A” just to find out they accidentally bought “kit B”. Luckily, this should not be an issue as the front of these boxes have huge pictures showing exactly what product is lurking inside. Of course, both boxes are also plastered with lots of information to further help discerning customers differentiate not only between the different product models but also different manufacturers.


When you open up each of these boxes and peak inside you are greeted to a tried and true method of further protecting the contents of the box from blunt force trauma. In a nutshell, the enclosure in each box is held in the center of the package by two large pieces of Styrofoam. This has been become the darn near ubiquitous option of choice amongst enclosure manufactures as it is cheap to produce, lightweight and yet an extremely effective and reliable way of protecting the precious cargo from life’s bumps and bruises.


Both enclosures come with a very sparse list of accessories which is keeping with their intended price range. The internal unit comes with pamphlet, mounting screws and two keys. The external enclosure comes with a instruction manual and pamphlet on other Ineo products, screws, USB and eSATA cable and a power brick. All in all the quality is decent and certainly above what you expect from value oriented models.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions


NA307


Lets take this one product at a time and start with the “internal” storage enclosure, the NA307. This is a very striking looking device and many may even mistake it for a fancy optical drive. The black plastic and silver metal makes a nice contrast which makes it a shame it is going to be hidden inside of an computer case.


The side of the NA307 is completely unadorned except for 4 screw holes for mounting this enclosure in a free 5.25 bay. From the side profile you would never guess it is not an optical drive and is in fact a hard drive enclosure. Of course we really would have liked to have seen some air vents on the side as it would certainly have helped "shape" the air flow inside the case. Hopefully the Ineo engineers will take things besides looks into consideration when designing future revisions.


The back of the device is also very standard-looking and looks a lot like any other 5.25” bay device. You have the standard SATA power and data ports and a fan, and that is about it. To further help with air flow the back of the unit is also honeycombed to help hot air dissipate even quicker.


The front of the device even looks very similar to an optical drive, or at least it does until you take a closer look. Its facade is taken up by hard drive door and this is to be expected, except for the fact the faux front door looks like a frakin’ DVD bay door. This unit would in fact be a great chameleon except for the large blue led and the lock.

The LED of this unit glows blue when it is powered on and dims when the enclosed drive is being accessed. This led also does double duty as the ejector button. By gently pushing in on it the door pops open for easy insertion and removal of the a hard drive.


The locking device is very interesting and to be honest we are of two minds about it. The upside to having a lock is you can be sure that if you mistakenly “bump” the glowing ejector button the running hard drive will not commit suicide by flinging itself from the enclosure. The downside is you must lock the unit before the enclosure will power on and allow you to access you hard drive. On the surface this sounds like a good idea but what happens in three years time when your hard drive dies and you can’t find those keys? Yes it’s a very easy lock to pick and you can by $75 “locksmith device” (if you're too lazy to make your own) which will pick them but come on folks that sounds like a lot of hassle for the Joe & Jane SixPack.


NA302Ue


The external enclosure NA302 is not as plain as its internal brother; in fact you could call this one down right flashy. Even with a quick glance, all that mesh would make you think this is a passive cooling enclosure; and you would be correct if for the wrong reasons. We will get into why all this mesh is just for looks in the internal section but for the time being, lets just say it makes the enclosure look cool but doesn’t do much to keep the hard drive itself cool.


As you can see, the NA302 can either lay flat on its “back” or with the included stand be stood up on its side. Unfortunately, using the stand does have a major downside which has to do with the less than optimal paint; or to put it bluntly it flakes off if you even look at it wrong. During testing we removed the enclosure from its stand but a goodly portion of the paint decided it like the plastic stand better and chose to stay. This does not bode well for the long term viability of this unit and we wonder what it will look like in a years time. Ugh.


The back of the enclosure is where all the expected connectors are, if in a slightly unexpected order. Most enclosures have the power port on one end and then have the data connectors on the other and this is exactly what Ineo has done as well. On the left side you have the near ubiquitous (but always nice to see) On/Off switch, then the power port; continuing the right side you have the USB and then eSATA ports. All in all it’s a clean and nice layout which is easy to use and is very intuitive.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions (NA307)

Internal Impressions (NA307)



To open up the NA307 internal enclosure one simply removes four countersunk screws on the back and gently pries off the entire back of the enclosure. When this is done only a couple screws stand between you and your insatiable curiosity on what is located on the back of the PCB.


Unfortunately, the back of the PCB is even more bereft of any interesting parts as the front is. While it may be anticlimactic all in all this lack of controllers means that this is nothing more than a power and data bridge. The upside to this is the hard drive in the enclosure will be recognized as just another internally connected hard drive and more importantly, the 40mm fan's air movement will not have to cool any hot running controller chips.

The downside is that a lot of passive SATA bridges can add a significant amount of latency and some cases even cut a little bit off the top end of a hard drive's performance envelope. It will be interesting to see if this is the case with this unit.


The 40mm fan is easily removed by simply unscrewing a couple of screws. As you can see this is a Power Logic Sleeved Bearing 7 bladed fan model PL40S12L that is rated for an insane 4000rpm; and at this speed it moved a meager 3.16CFM @ 2mm of H20 static pressure. More importantly, this fan uses the standard 2 pin connector and thus if it is not up to your standards (noise or cooling) you can easily swap it out for a more powerful one.
 
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Interior Impressions (NA302Ue)

Interior Impressions (NA302Ue)



By simply spinning off the four corner screws and lifting off the top cover panel you can easily see the PCB of this external unit. If you want, you can then unscrew a couple more screws and removed the PCB to get a good look at it.


Before we get to the PCB though lets look at the mesh sides and why they are only there for a façade and are not actually useful. When you remove the side panel the very first thing which pops out is these big convex metallic silver strips that run around three of the four sides. These strips are there to reflect the blue LEDS and give the unit a nice blue glue but all these reflectors will block hot air from escaping. We are not sure about you, but to us an eerie blue glow is all well and fine but its not fine when it has a negative impact on hard drive temperatures. Honestly, what was Ineo thinking when they hobbled this unit's passive cooling capabilities in the search for increased bling?


The PCB is fairly cluttered on one side with the various power connectors and capacitors but this should have a minimal negative effect on cooling.


The first thing which stands out is all those small capacitors. In total you have 10 of these Chang caps. All these caps are rated for 105° C and it is highly doubtful if they will ever even get close to this temperature. There are many pros and cons to using multiple small capacitors rather than the more standard one or two large ones; but in the end it really does not matter since if they do swell, they are fairly easy to replace if you have any soldiering skills.


The brain of this unit is the Sunplus SATALink SPIF215A-HF021controller chip. This chip is a bridge controller chip which melds both a USB high-speed device port and a SATA 1.5G host port together into one single chip controller. This controller chip is the same chip used in the Eagle Consus M Enclosure we reviewed awhile back and is even the same (albeit a older revision) of the chip in the just recently review Tagan IB-390. In past tests it yielded some very impressive results so we have some high expectations for it once again.
 
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Installation

Installation


NA307

Installing the NA307 internal enclosure is very simple and straightforward. All one must do is install the unit into any free 5.25 bay in your computer case, and plug in a SATA cable and power cable. When this is accomplished you can then add in a hard drive.


Depending on whether or not the enclosure is locked or not you may have to first unlock it by using on of the included keys. When it is unlocked you can then press on the eject button to have the front door pop open.


You then simply pull the door out and insert your hard drive with its ports pointed towards the back. When the drive is in as far it will go you can simply close the spring-loaded door to fully seat the drive. You then relock the door (if you don’t the unit will not initialize). At this point the unit is ready to be used, by simply starting up your computer. It will be recognized as another internal drive so you may have to assign it a drive letter (in your OS) like you would any other new drive.


NA302


The NA302 has a slightly more lengthy install but it is by no means difficult and is in fact fairly simple and intuitive.

To start the installation procedure you remove the four screws and then the top cover (just like we did in the Internal Impressions section). When this is accomplished you put your SATA hard drive in place and gently seat it so its connectors are mated to the enclosure's connectors.


When this is accomplished you then reinstall the cover and the four screws and gently flip the unit over. As you can see in the above picture there are four screw holes on the bottom which line up with the four screw holes on the bottom of the hard drive. By using the included screws you are not only securing the drive but are in effect fusing the drive to a rather large heatsink! This should certainly have a positive effect on drive temperatures and does help make up for all that non useful mesh!

Whether or not it has a positive effect or not, your external enclosure just needs to have its power plug inserted and the appropriate connector (USB or eSATA) and this unit is good to go.
 
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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 @ 2.4 GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP
Hard Drives:
1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (for Computer)
1x Seagate 7200.10 320GB (for enclosures)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W

Alternative Enclosures used for Comparison and Contrast:

1) Mediasonic HUR1-SU2. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: Mediasonic Dual Bay RAID Hard Drive Enclosures Review

2) Thermaltake BlacX. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: Thermaltake BlacX Review

3) Tagan Icy Box IB-3220. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: Tagan Icy Box JBOD Hard Drive Enclosure Review

4) Consus-M For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: Eagle Tech Consus M Hard Drive Enclosure Review

5) Tagan Icy Box IB-390. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: Tagan
 
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Performance Results

Performance Results


Read Bandwidth

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


Both drives post some very good numbers when it comes to bandwidth performance. As expected, the internal enclosure (I-NA307) was the better of the two, as it is nothing more than a bridge connector and a fancy box. Yet, the difference is slim and it is doubtful anyone will notice a difference of a couple MB/S on their burst speeds.


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.


Ouch. Both the internal (I-NA307) and the external (I-NA302Ue) have rather high latency issues. While the external numbers are still fairly reasonable, the internal numbers should have been better and are a little bit disappointing. Hopefully, this is a trend which doesn’t continue.


SIS Sandra

This test was run with the removable storage benchmark in Sandra XII Standard. All of the scores are calculated in operations per second.


So much for hopes that the internal enclosure could pull things around. Simply put SIS Sandra did not like either one of these enclosures and it made no bones about showing its displeasure, as both USB and eSATA results are mediocre at best.
 
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Performance Results pg.2

Performance Results Con't



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.

USB





While they may not be as good as some, 34 and 32 MB/s read and write speeds are
are very decent and considering the projected price points, these units are down right good.


eSATA




Both enclosure's numbers are very respectable, its just we were expecting a lot more from the internal device than this. It seems the latency issue really does cut off some of the higher end of the drive's read potential and to a lesser extent the same holds true for the write performance. While it is not a huge handicap, perspective buyers should be aware of this potential negative before spending any of their hard earned money.
 
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