What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

Tagan IB-390 Hard Drive Enclosure Review

Status
Not open for further replies.

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283


Tagan Icy Box IB-390 Internal/External Enclosure Review




Manufacturer Product Page: Tagan
Name: IB-390StUS-B
Availability: Limited
Price: $25 US
Warranty: 2yr



When it comes to external storage enclosures, products with true innovation are few and far between. Sure you may see a new way of opening and closing the drive door, or even new and different RAID levels; but really different and unique ideas are as rare as honest politicians. It is for this reason when the ICY Box IB-390 arrived we were very excited to see what the big deal was about, needless to say it did not disappoint.

Ask a hundred people what the term “external storage enclosure” means to them and you will get a lot of different answer which will all boil down to one thing: they are EXTERNAL devices which allow you to easily transport a hard drive (or drives) from one location to the next; but they are never INTERNAL devices.

The IB-390 challenges everything you may think you may know about enclosures as it is not just an external enclosure but an internal one as well. Yes, that is correct; this ingenious enclosure can be carried from system to system just like a standard external enclosure. However, when you are finished “sneaker net’ing” data back and forth you can plug this unit into its 5.25” bay docking station and voila you now have another internal drive. Zero clutter on your desk and perfect integration is the name of the game here.

If this device proves itself to be as effective as we think, it may just redefine what you think an storage enclosure should be. If it doesn't do this, at the very least it will raise the bar to a whole new level as the concept seems very user-friendly, yet extremely safe way of transferring hard drive(s) worth of data from one place to another.

As with the last Icy Box model we reviewed, this one is made by the German company RaidSonic but is distributed in North America by Tagan. While it is not widely available at retailers and e-tailers in Canada yet, it is available online in the US and goes for about $25 American. So with all this in mind is this the dawn of a new era in storage enclosures or is it just “an answer in search of a question”? We don’t know but we sure are going to find out!


 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Specifications

Specifications


 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories




It seems regardless of the actual unit contained therein, all ICY Box packages have the same packaging and color scheme. As with the Noctua NH-C12P we just recently reviewed there is an upside and a downside to doing this.


On the positive you do have a very eye catching box which will get you attention, but once the Icy Box line up has caught your eye, discerning one from the another becomes difficult. Luckily, the front cover picture is there otherwise potential customers would be left to decipher the naming scheme (if that is even possible!) to tell one box from another.


When you take a peak inside, the internal packaging scheme is one again the exact same setup as the its brethren, Tagan once again went for the two piece foam protection scheme in which the unit hovers blissfully in the center of the box. It may be the same as other Icy Box models but in this case this not a bad thing and in fact was very good to see. This is a very cost effective way of protecting the contents of the box, while keeping the weight of the unit low, both of which are good things when you are ordering it in from another province.


The Icy Box IB-390 comes with a great list of accessories which is actually even better than the previously reviewed IB-3220. You get the ubiquitous power brick, USB connector, SATA connector, installation pamphlet, a interesting key to open the enclosure and various screws and doodads. All this was expected and did not fail to impress us with its quality construction; what makes this unique and innovative was the docking port which turns this product from an external storage enclosure into an internal enclosure. This is bloody well brilliant and like all great refinements is so obvious in retrospect it must have taken a true genius to think up!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
First Impressions

First Impressions




The external enclosure itself is a very striking looking enclosure with its all black construction and shiny front bezel. One thing which does pop out is this unit is very compact yet has a good “feel” to it; in that it feels sturdy and secure when you hold it. Heck, the last piece of kit that felt as good and robust as this one does was the Scythe Copper Ninja, and just as I likened that cooler to an exotic piece of weaponry this wee beastie would make a bonny good bludgeon against some poor unsuspecting IT Thief/ would be Mugger.

All joking aside this feels like a sturdy product which would easily protect your hard drive from life’s bumps and bruises. However, the docking station does not give off such a vibe and feels a little on the cheaper side. This is OK as it is meant to be inside a PC cases 5.25” bay drive, and thus be protected by the case itself, so why bother beefing up something which is already well protected, right?


As mentioned earlier, the front of this device has a very stylish reflective finish which looks like a million bucks but is less than ideal; as the two (small and) hidden drive indicators on the front can only be dimly seen straight on and only when in a darkened room. Any reflections at all and you will have a tough time seeing the hard drive activity light (RED) or the power light (BLUE). We had similar issues with the IB-3220 and it is hard to say if this reaches the level of annoyance or is more of a pet peeve; after all, it does look very stylish and you can easily tell if the unit is on by seeing if your computer has recognized it or not.


The ejection mechanism for the docking bay is both simplistic and durable in its construction and reminds us a lot of classic Russian engineering in that it is not subtle, its not refined but when the chips are down it will work the first time, every time. In a nut shell the ejector is nothing more than a long spring loaded arm with a 90° bend at the back. This bend goes behind the back of the external enclosure drive and applies an evenly distributed force over both the SATA power and data connectors. When the enclosure pops free you simply continue to pull out the arm until you can grab the enclosure and remove it yourself. Like we said, its not subtle but it just works.


The back of the external enclosure contains your normal array of connectors. On the one end we have the power connector followed by the eSATA and USB connectors. Next to the ubiquitous USB connector we have a normal SATA power adapter which is used by the docking port (we will get into this setup later in the installation section) and at the far end we have a ON/OFF button which also doubles as an ON/OFF for the SATA power port. What we mean by this is when it is in the ON position this tells the enclosure that it will be receiving power from the power brick and not the SATA port, and vice versa for the OFF position. This is only a educated guess as when the unit is in the docking connector you must have the switch in the OFF position or it will not power up the hard drive.


The back of the docking connector is a little bit different in that it has a short cabled Molex connector wired to its back and a very short SATA cable. We understand why the Molex connector is there and even why it is so short, what we don’t understand is why they went with such a frickin’ short SATA cable!? In all honesty we would rather have seen a normal SATA port on the back of it than this less than optimal length cable; as it will limit your options on which front bay you can mount it into (i.e. more than likely only the bottom one or two will allow the cable to reach a SATA port!).

As a final note by perforce this drive does not have any nonslip feet…or any feet at all for that matter. This of course is to be expected as any potential blockages would keep this unit from properly mating with its internal dock. This does give the unit an unfortunate tendency to slip and slide if not laid perfectly flat on an even surface. However, being able to use this enclosure as an internal drive does make up for this small foible.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Interior Impressions

INTERIOR IMPRESSIONS




Taking apart this enclosure is actually fairly easy, in fact you have to take it apart to put in a hard drive. If you want to be complete in your take down you can pop off those four little screw caps and remove the plastic guide which keeps everything lined up inside, but this really is overkill and will void your warranty. The normal route is to simply use the included pry bar (which to us looks a lot like a locksmith's broken key extractor).


To be able to pry open the two metal leavers located on the back of the drive, you pop out the plastic cap which hides the “key hold” so to speak and then pry them open one by one. When this is accomplished you simply use the attached plastic cap to pull out the internals.


When this simple task is complete all which stands between you and success is a few screws which hold the hard drive cage subassembly to the controller board. All in all its fairly quick and easy to disassemble and all is require is a modicum of curiosity.


As you can see the very first thing which is blatantly obvious is the fact this is a passively cooled device. This is quite acceptable as unless you plan on torturing your hard drives (like we do later in the testing stage) passive cooling is all is required. The second thing which does pop out is how sparse the insides of this enclosure really are. You have a few capacitors, an SATA power and data port, a controller chip and that’s about it.


The brain of this unit is the Sunplus SPIF215A-HL231 controller chip. This chip is a bridge controller chip which blends a USB high-speed device port and a SATA 1.5G host port together into one single chip controller. For all you eagle eyed readers out there, yes this is the same chipset used in the Eagle Consus M Enclosure we reviewed awhile back; even though both end in a different “–XX123” (HL231 vs HF021) it is the same chip just a slightly different revision of it. It will be interesting to see if this version of the SPIF215A is as good as the previous revisions.


Just as the controller of the IB390 is the same as the one on the Eagle Consus M so to is the single capacitor. Both companies are using 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 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, (and just like the Eagle Consus M) the capacitor used on the IB-390 is rated for 105°C which is much more than necessary but is always nice to see.


Taking apart the docking station is neither needed nor justified as the bottom cutouts show it literally is nothing more than a SATA power and data dock molded into a plastic box which fits in any 5.25” bay of your computer case. As we said earlier this is a brilliant move and since there is no additional controller chip or capacitors needed it also has the added benefit of keeping costs fairly low. Which is something we can all agree is a good thing.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Installation

INSTALLATION




As mentioned in the last section, installation is very easy and straightforward. You simply use the included key to pry open the two metal wings, and slide the hard drive chassis out the back of the external enclosure.


When this is accomplished you insert your hard drive so that its SATA power & data ports are locked into place and then use the included plastic locking pins to freeze the hard drive in place. The beauty of this setup is you don’t need a screw driver or screws to secure the drive but you can rest assured it is secure.

When this is accomplished you simply slide the chassis back into the enclosure, close the two metal wings and put the key hole cap back in place. At this point you can plug in the power adapter and SATA (or USB) cable, turn the switch on the back to “ON” and use it just like a normal external hard drive enclosure.

For most people who buy this enclosure they will want to take the further steps of installing the docking bay. This bay is also very easy to install since all you do is slide it into any free 5.25 bay and secure it just like you would any optical drive. When this is accomplished you simply plug in the MOLEX connector into any free 4 pin Molex cable of your Power Supply; and then you simply plug in the awfully short attached SATA cable. If you are not careful and have not “eyeballed” where your SATA ports on your motherboard are in relation to the 5.25 bays you may end up repositioning the dock lower down in the case; this may be necessary so the short SATA cable will reach. At this point the docking station is ready for use!


To use the enclosure like this, all one has to do is first make sure there are no cables attached to the back of the enclosure (including the power cord), turn the switch to the OFF position and slide it gently into the front of the docking station. The front of the docking station is hinged so it will flip up and out of the way while you are installing the enclosure. When it is almost fully inserted you feel a bit of resistance at which point a gentle push will slide the SATA Power and data connector home. The unit should now be flush with the front of the docking station and if it is not the enclosure has not been fully seated.




At this point your enclosure is now nothing more than a glorified 5.25” bay hard drive adapter; and your computer will recognize it as just anther internal drive (you will most like have to reboot, but this all depends on your motherboard and OS). When you are finished transferring data to the unit, one simply pushed slightly in on the spring loaded arm located on the front of the dock just to the side of the seated enclosure. When the arm pops out slightly you simply grasp it and gently pull the enclosure out of its dock. When it is out far enough you can grab the enclosure and use it just as you would any other standard external SATA + USB drive enclosure.

This is the installation and use of the IB390 in a nut shell. Overall it is a very user-friendly device which is not only robust but elegant in its execution. Earlier in the review we likened it to a Russian engineered piece of equipment but after using it and getting a good feel for it, it is more reminiscent of a finely tuned German sports sedan: i.e. it can get up and boogie with the best of them yet it is still has all the sensibilities of a “family car”!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
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 Mushkin HP2 PC2-6400
Graphics card: XFX 7200gt 128mb
Hard Drives:
1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (computer)
1x Seagate 7200.10 320GB (for IB-390)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
Case: CM 690 (a TT Armor+ MX was used for the installation photos)


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/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/4069-mediasonic-dual-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) Tagan Icy Box IB-3220. For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/5652-tagan-icy-box-jbod-hard-drive-enclosure-review.html

4) Consus-M For more information on this unit please read our review on them here: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/5862-eagle-tech-consus-m-hard-drive-enclosure-review.html
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Performance Results

Performance Testing



Read Bandwidth

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


The USB numbers are very decent but not excellent however, the eSATA average speed is down right impressive! It is really a shame that the burst numbers are just not there and it appears that this enclosure is limited to SATA 1 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.


The IB-390 is very good when it comes to Random access via eSATA, posting some very low numbers; unfortunately the wheels come off when we tested via USB. It appears that Sunplus has improved the controller chip but it was at the expense of Random access speeds. To us, this is a good trade off as this unit is a eSATA unit first and only a USB enclosure when absolutely necessary.


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 and have been averaged out from the scores of 4 test runs.


The IB-390 posts some pretty darn good numbers when connected via USB, but it really shines when it is using eSATA; posting some of the best numbers we have seen in a single bay (or JBOD configuration) enlcosure. Overall, this is one darn good performer when it comes to Sandra tests.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Performance Results pg.2

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

<link rel="File-List" href="file:///C:%5CDOCUME%7E1%5CANTHON%7E1%5CLOCALS%7E1%5CTemp%5Cmsohtml1%5C01%5Cclip_filelist.xml"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:punctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><style> <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]-->
<o:p></o:p>




32 MB/s write and 34MB/s read is very good speeds when it comes to USB 2.0 and it can be considered above average. We wish more enclosures were able to be as good as this and heck this is not even its real forte!


eSATA



78MB/s & 78MB/s is very, very good and it about as good as if this drive had been connected internally. This is always a good thing as this drive will probably be spending a lot of its time inside its docking station as a “internal drive”.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Extended Runtime Testing / Conclusion

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 reads and writes of various sizes. To test how good the passive cooling design of this unit is, a Seagate 7200.10 320gb HDD installed into the IB-390 was subjected to a 24hr torture session. During this time IOMeter was setup to run for 24 hours using various size tests all with completely random read/write scenarios.

During this testing the drive only got hit slightly above 40° C, but this is very adequate considering the chosen hard drive runs hot under the best of circumstances. For the whole time the enclosed drive had no active cooling and it was completely up to the metal case of the IB-390 to dissipate the heat it generates. All in all this was very good and was only eclipsed by this units performance when in its docking station in a PC. Because of the cut outs on the bottom of the docking station, the air movement inside our CM 690 was more than good enough to keep this drive well below 40° and while it was running hotter than if it had been placed in the internal drive bay it was at not time in danger of overheating.


Conclusion


Usually when we see a unique idea or refinement upon a tried, tested and true concept the first generation can be a little rough around the edges; however this is not the case when it comes to the IB-390. The uber user-friendly installation and removal (via the spring loaded button and arm) is simple and intuitive. This to us turns an otherwise very good perfomer into a excellent product which will appeal to a broad range of consumers

Now as ingenious as this docking station is, when all is said and done you are buying an external enclosure, so it had better be darn good at its main goal: portable performance. Luckily, this device is not only brilliantly engineered it is also a darn good external hard drive enclosure in its own right; the fact it is ships with a docking station is just icing on the cake.

As we saw in the testing phase the IB-390 posted some pretty impressive numbers, and while it appears that it is limited to SATA 1 this did little to curb its performance. In real world situations it is highly doubtful anyone will notice a burst speed of 130MB/s versus 200MB/s, np matter how it looks on a fancy graph. Also on the positive side it appears that the USB performance of the Sunplus controller chip has been improved upon and that is always a nice to see a manufacturer continually striving to improve upon its already great performing chip.

The only areas that we can see which need room for improvement is the installation of a hard drive into the IB-390 and that short SATA cable. Needing a small hook-like key to open two leavers is a less than optimal design and how many people are going to lose those small frickin’ keys over the lifespan of the unit? Yes, you technically don’t need the key to pry open the leavers but the fact of the matter is that it is this lazy engineering that really sticks out on such an otherwise slick unit. The same can be said about that SATA cord. It would hvae been much better to make it a normal internal connector (and of course include a normal length SATA cord with it) and allow people to use their own longer cords! This to us would be a better solution than requiring the docking station to be stuck way down in the 5.25 bays. Please Tagan, put some pressure on RaidSonic to tweak these design flaws so that it can achieve the greatness we can see in it.

In the end this is a very good enclosure that comes with a good docking station and while many different words could be used to describe the Tagan IB-390 but we think two fit it perfectly: Dam Innovative. If you are looking for an external enclosure that can be used as an 5.25 bay drive then this bad boy should be right there close to the top of your list.

Pros:
- Good USB and eSATA performance
- High quality construction
- Ingenious Docking station

Cons:
- Short attached SATA cable on dock
- Key installation is less than optimal design




Thanks to Tagan for supplying us with this product
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Status
Not open for further replies.

Latest posts

Twitter

Top