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 Icy Box JBOD Hard Drive Enclosure Review

Status
Not open for further replies.

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
logo.jpg


Tagan Icy Box JBOD Hard Drive Enclosure Review





Manufacturer Product Page: Tagan
Product Number: IB-3220STU-B
Availably: Now
Price: Click here to Compare Prices
Warranty: 2 years



Not everyone who is interested in external storage enclosures wants, needs or even desires RAID. Yes RAID is a great idea for external enclosures, but it is not the best for all situations. In fact many people just want a big enough, fast enough external enclosure that is also durable enough to be relatively portable. To this market segment adding RAID complexity is just a frivolous accessory which adds to the price (and thus remove the "cheap enough" part from the equation). Let’s face it, when you add in a RAID controller the price has to be higher than a comparably designed non-RAID enclosure. The only time this will not be true is if you are comparing different manufacturer’s products and then as the old saying goes "you (usually) get what you pay for".

To further divide this already niche market, a lot of consumers do not want to buy an “all in one” or “plug and play” device which comes with its own hard drives; rather, they want just an empty enclosure so that they can choose their own hard drive as their budget and preference dictates. To even further split this already niche market into even a smaller niche, not all consumers are interested in single bay enclosures. Maybe they like the idea of having two big and fast hard drives in one box, maybe they plan on doing a poor man's RAID and simple copy everything from one hard drive to the other just in case a drive fails (i.e. RAID 1 done manually), either way they want a product which offers value for their money

If you are thinking that this must be one heck of small market niche you would be wrong. While it is a niche of a niche, it’s a frickin’ huge market to begin with and a small slice of a big pie is still a big old slice of profit to the company who is willing to listen to their customers. This is where the Icy Box line distributed by Tagan comes in since this product line contains value-oriented consumer enclosures that cater to the non-Raid wanting segment of the marketplace.

TAGAN opened for business back in 2001 when (the now) founding fathers met each other at a dinner party during Taipei`s Computex show. At the time they were all professionals from all over the world (Germany, Japan & USA) and during that fateful party they discussed what the perfect power supply would be. The rest they say is history and now Tagan not only makes power supplies but has now also branched out into many other facets of the computer industry as well.

As with many companies which want to break into a market niche, Tagan has opted for distributing an otherwise unavailable product. Namely, the Icy Box line is made and distributed in Europe by RaidSonic who owns the IP and trade marks on the whole Icy Box line. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, RaidSonic does not have any presence in the North American market. This is where TAGAN comes into the picture. Today we will be looking at the black Icy Box IB-3220STU. This enclosure is a dual bay non-RAID 3.5" SATA hard drive enclosure which connects to a computer via USB. The IB-3220STU-B is available from many online e-tailers at a fairly reasonable price. So what does your hard earned money get you, and more importantly did Tagan make the right decision on picking the Icy Box to distribute? Let’s find out!

icy_front_sm.jpg
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Features and Specifications

Features and Specifications


specs.jpg
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories




(Click on images for a larger view)​

The box which the Icy Box comes in is certainly eye catching. With its black and cyan cold colour scheme and its big, bold and nearly eye-searing ultra white font it really does catch the eye from a distance. Heck you can READ the words ICY BOX which are plastered on the top from a loooong ways off. If there is one thing that I like it’s a color scheme which not only works but also helps to subliminally reinforce the core ideals of the product which it is selling. In this case the cool or even down right cold color scheme probably wouldn't work to well if your trying to sell a line call "RedHots!" but for a product line which is called “Icy Box” the connotations of subzero temperatures that this light cyan on black scheme conjure up works amazingly well.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

The box itself is also a veritable fountain of information and contains all the necessary information to help a first time buyer make his/her decision. It is just too bad none of this information on the back of the box is in English! You can read all about its wonderful specifications in six different languages but not one of them is ENGLISH. To find the English specs you have to read the side of the box, which is very counter-intuitive to say the least.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

When you do open the box up you are greeted to a very good packaging scheme which is darn near disaster proof. The enclosure itself is snuggled between to large pieces of low density Styrofoam protectors which are nearly the full length and height of the box. This allows the enclosure to actually float in the center of the box keeping it safe from all but the most destructive of accidents.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

The accessories which come with this are very complete and are actually pretty impressive. You of course get the ubiquitous power brick (though this one is on the smaller side), two keys for opening the front doors (more on this later in the review), a USB cable, and a software CD. The CD with backup software is what takes this accessory list to the next level and elevates it from ordinary to above average. For its intended price range it was very nice to see Tagan included free one touch backup software.

The only potential issue with this software is that it is Windows only and this may actually alienate a certain percentage of its potential clientele. After all, no one likes getting goodies that they can't use on their computer without installing a different OS first. To them it would be a lot like waking up on Christmas morning only to find that Santa Clause left you boring school cloths.

Overall the Icy Box leaves one with a fairly decent first impression and there really is only one issue which reduces it from a great first impression to merely a decent one. That issue being the female model on the front of the box. Don't get me wrong; I'm a man I like women and like pictures of women (as my multi-Gigabyte collection can attest too), but I represent only half the market. I don't think a woman would be too impressed with the overt misogynistic conations of the advertising scheme. Even if most women do not take offense to it, as an older tech geek I have learned that if a company has use sex to sell its product it usually means it may not be the best product to buy. There have been exceptions to this in the past and hopefully the Icy Box IB-3220STU is one of them.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Exterior Impressions

EXTERIOR IMPRESSIONS



(Click on image for a larger view)​

The very first thing which you notice when taking a good look at the IB-3220 is the huge self portrait on the front of its packaging is wrong. This unit does not have shiny silver doors. Yes they are made from aluminum, but they are done in a brushed non reflective finish which has then been blackened. It is a minor oversight and I'm sure it was not intentional, but anyone buying it for its high bling factor will be disappointed. This is because the Icy Box IB-3220STU-B takes a very minimalistic approach when it comes to style. Don't get me wrong, it is very stylish but it is a style which is very muted and self deprecating and not glitzy nor glamorous in any shape or form. In other words it’s the external enclosure's version of the Strong Silent Type taken to the nth degree.


(Click on images for a larger view)​

The brushed aluminum on the front of the enclosure is not just there for it’s good looks, they are actually the doors where you load your hard drives into the unit. On the front left side there are two small keyholes where you insert the included "keys" to pop open one or both of these doors. Though we use the term key, they are in fact nothing more than small blunt nose pieces of plastic which have a lot more in common with CD stuck case tray openers (or even guitar picks) than they do with a real honest to goodness key. Would a small button (or two) have cost too much? Would this have taken it outside of its projected price range? On the positive side, at least with these keys if you do end up losing them, it doesn't matter as any small pointy thing will work in a pinch.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

As mentioned earlier, this enclosure takes a very minimalistic approach to everything and except for the back of the case the only thing that breaks it’s clean sharp lines is a small brushed aluminum button located on the front of the device. This button is aptly labeled “backup” since when pressed, it signals the software (that you hopefully already installed) on your computer to run. It is clean, it is subtle and it completely looks out of place on this unit. The very first thing you will think it is, is a power button; so be warned the power button is located on the back of the Icy Box and pressing this small button on the front will not and in fact can not power down the device.

When the enclosure is powered on a small blue power LED will glow and another blue led glows when a hard drive is accessed. Both of these LEDs are recessed behind plastic on top of the front of the enclosure and when they are active they do help lend some symmetry to the look of the device, as they are on the opposite end of the front from the backup button. It may not be much but it helps reduce the nagging feeling that the backup button was nothing but an afterthought. All in all it could be worse; they could have put the power button on the front and had the backup button on the back of the unit; now that would have been confusing.


(Click on images for a larger view)​

The back of the unit is where the IB-3220 finally puts function over form. However, in typical Tagan fashion, it has a form which enhances the various functions. The perfect example of this is the recessed power adapter. Instead of being mounted flush with the back of the unit it has been elegantly recessed so even if you are not looking (say you are reaching behind the unit to find the plug to plug it in) you will automatically be guided to the right places as long as you are in the right area. It is little things like this which really stand out and make this a user friendly device to use.

The full list of features found on the back include: the power adapter plug, power switch USB port, a Kensington lock port (lock is not included) and the fan and fan controller. The fan controller is another of those nice touches which also highlight the quality and engineering that went into this unit. Just as you can tell an Apple product just by looking at it, so can you too tell this was made by a true customer-oriented company. After all who else but a superbly customer-orientated company like Tagan has it’s engineers include not only a controller switch which allows for high speed or low speed cooling but even allows you the option of turning off the fan entirely? I am sure someone, somewhere (probably in some obscure focus group) stated they like having the option of turning their actively cooled hard drive enclosure into a passive one and because of that ONE person Tagan included an off switch. Some would say this is taking the old adage that the customer is always right a step too far, but honestly when has this ever been a problem? Heck, I wish most of my problems were because companies were trying too hard to please me. Bravo Tagan, bravo.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

As a final note on the outside of the IB-3220STU, the bottom of it not only has four rubber feet, but four plastic posts which encircle the rubber feet. This little tweak on a seemingly common feature ensures the rubber feet are never torn or rubbed off, or migrate from the corners as does happen from time to time on similar competitors products.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Interior Impressions

INTERIOR IMPRESSIONS




(Click on image for a larger view)​

Taking apart the Icy Box IB-3220 is a relatively straight forward 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. Patience is a virtue when doing this since there is a black plastic finishing edge which stays attached to the plastic case and can break very easy if you try to pry it off with the rest.

When you do get the metal back plate off you will be amazed at how spare the insides are. You basically have a fan attached to the PCB, a bunch of power connectors (for everything from the LEDS to the FAN) and the two SATA power / data connectors and that is it. No capacitors, no fancy dip switches, nothing but plain old reliable solid state electronics.

If you are feeling really daring you can remove the PCB board for the metal backplate very easily, just remember what connectors go where or you may be in for a bit of trial and error to get everything working properly again. Since we don’t trust our memories that much a bit of tape and a given number was placed on each set of wires and removed in a clockwise fashion; by doing it this way we could ensure each connector would definitely be plugged into the right connection when it was time to put everything back together.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

The fan which cools down the unit is a T&T 4010M05S 40x40x10mm fan; it runs at a nominal speed if 5000rpm and moves 7.21CFM with an impressive 2.1 mmH20 static pressure. This fan uses the standard 2 pin connector and removal of the fan consists of unplugging it from the printed circuit board (PCB) and unscrewing two bolts holding it in place. This means if does become noisy and or die an early death, it can quickly & easily be swapped out for a more high performance fan. The only caveat is if your replacement fan does not accept nuts you may have to just tighten the nut down and use the whole fan body to hold them in place. A small drop of locktite would ensure the nut would not come loose and should work just as well as if it was keyed for nuts.


(Click on image for a larger view)​

The brain of this enclosure is the JMicron JM20336 controller chip. This is a “bridge controller", which translates the communication protocol between SATA II 3.0G and Hi-Speed USB commands. The integrated 15MIPS 8051, dual-port SATA II 3.0G and Hi-Speed USB technology enable users to perform Hi-Speed USB to SATA II 3.0G, and SATA II 3.0G to SATA II 3.0G applications in a signal chip.” In a nut shell this little guy is one powerful little controller which just a few years ago would have been (at the very least) two separate chips. This micronization of already small controllers leads to lower latencies and decreased power requirements.

It appears the inside of the enclosure is just as well refined as the external appearance is. All in all the internals of the Icy Box are well laid out and airflow restrictions have been kept to a minimum. If the engineering and design is anything to go by this is going to be one impressive unit!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Installation

INSTALLATION




(Click on images for a larger view)​

Unlike some other enclosures which we have tested in the past, the Icy Box IB-3220 has a tool-less hardware installation process. Alright, if you want to be picky, you technically need a tool to open the door (AKA the key we talked about earlier, and if you don't know what I'm talking about...STOP SKIMMING and read the whole article!) but in reality it is not much of a tool. So for all you purists out there this enclosure is nearly tool free. OK? Great.


(Click on images for a larger view)​

Anyways, being (near) tool-less definitely has 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. 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. If you plan on using two hard drives (and why wouldn't you as this is a two bay device and single bay enclosures can be found for even less money) Windows will see both hard drives as separate drives and assign then their own separate drive letters. This is the total hard drive installation process from start to finish. Pretty simple isn't it?


(Click on image for a larger view)​

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).

In the end it all depends on what you want to do with your enclosure. If it is going to stay in one place and just blend into the background, speed is always a good thing. However, if you are a road warrior and plan to take it on the road you may want to look elsewhere. Actually, if you are a road warrior and unless the data is absolutely unimportant to you, you should really look at a RAID enclosure for data security. Hard drives, even modern day ones are more shock proof still do not like being jostled around in a book bag or briefcase and usually show their displeasure by crashing on you at the worst possible moment.

icy_box_pcClone.jpg

(Click on second image for a larger view)​

The software installation while not exactly necessary is required if you want to use the one touch backup feature of this device. Once again the installation is very straightforward and goes very quickly once you realize the CD has no autorun feature. To install the software you simply have to insert the CD, open the folder called PCclone and press setup. When finished you are now the proud owner of PC Clone EX lite and your computer has a new application which loads on Windows start up.

While the software is very light weight and lacks anything even remotely looking like an advanced feature, it is a very intuitive program which will get the job done; or at least it will as long as the job is simple backups of files from your computer to the enclosure. One nice feature which it does have is you actually do not need to press the backup button on the enclosure to run the program; you can set a hot key which will do the exact same thing for you. As we mentioned earlier, this programs default setting is to load on startup but if you don not want it to you can disable this feature. Of course, if you do this you will have to manually run it before the backup button or hot key combination will work. Overall for Icy Box's price range this program is a very nice bonus but it certainly will not replace Acronis or Ghost.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
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:
1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (computer)
2x 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: Mediasonic Dual Bay RAID Hard Drive Enclosures Review

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
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Performance Tests

Performance Testing



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

While at first glance it may seem that there is a huge, nay, gaping chasm of a difference between the Icy Box and the other enclosures, as with most things it really isn’t that big of a difference. In most real world situations burst speed does not matter (except for extremely small files) and a variance of 1.6MBs is not a big deal. Yes the Icy Box is not the fastest of the bunch, but honestly if speed is your main priority you are much better off with eSATA or even a FireWire 800 equipped enclosure.


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

13.4 milliseconds of latency means this enclosure only adds .2ms latency. This is obviously a very good thing. Both the Icy Box and the BlacX really do outclass the MediaSonic USB enclosure when it comes to latency.


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.

icy_box_atto.jpg
MEDIASonic_atto.jpg

BlacX_ATTO.jpg

Just as we have seen in the past, the real limiting factor of any modern enclosure is the USB interface. Darn near any modern day chipset can easily saturate aging USB 2.0 standard and one can only hope either USB 3.0 comes out soon or eSATA starts to become more popular.


SIS

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

While there is over a thousand points of difference between the Icy Box and the BlacX this is a neglible amount; however a five thousand point difference is significant. Just as we saw in the BlacX review, the MediaSonic’s Oxford chipset continues to dominate the SiSoft Sandra test results.


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 Icy Box 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.

After 48hrs of nonstop use the Seagate 7200.10, 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 and unlike some models we have tested in the past we would not hesitate to recommend you use and hard drive you wish (even if the hot running WD Raptor, or any other hot running hard drive) with this enclosure.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Conclusion

CONCLUSION



One thing is for sure: this one sleek and stylish enclosure. It may not be as fast as some of the other enclosures we have reviewed but quite honestly these differences are mainly so small as to be not worth worrying about. Regardless of what SATA hard drive you use in this enclosure, the biggest bottleneck will always be the USB interface any theoretical performance over this level is wasted. When performance can’t point to a clear winner the only thing you have left to judge one of these enclosures on is ease of use.

In the area of ease of use is where the Icy Box truly excels. Its fast yet reasonably durable installation method is truly user-friendly and installing hard drives is a snap. In fact the only enclosure which is able to beat it in ease of use is not even a true enclosure! The BlacX hard docking station we reviewed awhile ago is faster at installation but it lacks the protection that the Icy Box offers.

When you add in free backup software and the ability to have two hard drives installed, the Icy Box becomes a clear winner for many different people. It may not be perfect for road warriors as it does lack any semblance of data protection, but for anyone looking for a fast, easy to use (yet durable), value oriented 2 bay USB JBOD enclosure you should take a long hard look at the Icy Box IB-3220STU-B.


Pros
- Easy installation
- Good looks
- Backup Software included
- Great static pressure cooling fan

Cons
- JBOD only
- Keyed opening not user friendly
- Retail packaging issues



Special Thanks to Tagan for providing us with this sample.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Status
Not open for further replies.

Latest posts

Twitter

Top