Wednesday , 20 August 2014
Latest Reviews
Home » Reviews & Articles » Hardware » Icy Dock MB448UR: 2.5” IDE Removable Hard Drive Rack

Icy Dock MB448UR: 2.5” IDE Removable Hard Drive Rack

Need to carry around a large amount of data that does not fit on the flash drive? Don’t want to carry that bulky 3.5” hard drive external enclosure around? If so, then you must check out ICY Dock’s MB448UR, a 2.5” IDE removable hard drive enclosure that functions as both internal and external enclosure. Read our review to find out our thoughts to this product.

[review_ad]

INTRODUCTION

 
Imagine if your laptop suddenly died due to an overheated processor or a burned out motherboard or a broken AC adapter. What are you going to do with all that precious data on the hard drive? Well, the first thing you’ll probably do is panic. Then, maybe you’ll kick yourself, and maybe even swear some profanity to the laptop maker. And all because you’re not doing a routine backup of your data. Okay, after all that panic and all that anger is released, it’s time to find a solution to retrieve your valuable data. One solution would be to take your laptop to data recovery professionals and have them charge you an insane amount of money just to retrieve your data. Or you can just buy a laptop hard drive converter which allows you to read the hard drive data on your desktop either via the USB or IDE. Well, that’s exactly what the ICY Dock’s MB448UR comes to play. 
 
The MB448 is actually a line of the laptop hard drive enclosure which ICY Dock currently carries. The differences among different MB448s lie on the internal host connectors (either via 40 pin IDE or USB) and external connectors (USB).   The enclosure is designed to accommodate 2.5’’ IDE hard drive. The MB448UR that we will be looking at today is their most versatile 2.5’’ enclosure as it functions not only as an internal enclosure, it can be used as external enclosure as well, so it can be used as a portable storage device. 

 

 
THE COMPANY

 
ICY DOCK is a privately held company with more than 10 years being devoted in design, manufacturing, branding and distribution of Storage enclosure peripherals. By keep improving its own new product release process from previous toil experiences, ICY DOCK has formed a standard yet efficient new product development procedures to satisfy timely requirement from the market.
 
At ICY DOCK, we constantly offers state-of-the-art design of hard disk enclosure and removable storage kit with features such as the currently launched a series of removable drive & hot swap capabilities and eSATA / SATA connectivity products. We also specializes in BTO (Built to Order) of branded, OEM-branded and non-branded products for “Tier 1” customers.
 
Headquartered in City of Industry, California, ICY DOCK becomes a global peripheral enclosure provider with manufacturing facility located in Zhang-Zang, China since 1997. Restrictively followed ISO9001 proved manufacturing process standard, ICY DOCK delivers high quality standard products at competitive price which provides our customers an excellent opportunity to be successful in the competitive US marketplace.  
 
As one of the leading peripheral enclosure solution provider, we will continue to commit ourselves in supplying our customers the best performance per dollar products. “Your demand is our command” is the key to ensure our success in the business world.

CLOSER LOOK

 
   
 
The MB448UR comes in a rather plain cardboard box. The unit is well protected inside the box so it won’t get damaged during shipping. The unit comes with the enclosure, an internal USB cable, an external USB cable, a one page manual, a bag of screws.
 

The MB448UR is designed to be installed on the 3.5’’ drive bay space in the case. The unit comes in two components, an internal frame to be installed on the computer case and an external enclosure which houses the 2.5’’ hard drive. Since the MB448UR is intended to be removable, you would need to install the frame to an external 3.5’’ drive bay space.
 
    
On the back of the internal frame, you will see a small PCI board where there is a connector that will fit the external enclosure’s connector. The PCI is hooked to two springs on the left and right side. When the external enclosure is inserted, it will push the PCB board toward the back and lock the enclosure to the frame. Push the external enclosure will then eject the external enclosure from the fame for removal. 
 

 
The front of the frame has a dust cover to prevent dust going into the system when the enclosure is not inserted. In addition, there’s a lock that will lock the enclosure when it’s inserted. On the back, you will see a floppy power connector in addition to the USB connector.
 

External Enclosure

 

 

The external tray actually serves two functions: as a hard drive holder and as an external enclosure. The tray is made of aluminum body with the front and the back panels made of plastic. You will notice that on the back of the tray, there’s a mini USB port as well as a connector which will be inserted to the frame’s PCB for internal use. The front and back panel are being hold together with four screws on both sides of the metal body. Unscrew the four screws will reveal the internal PCB. Unfortunately, you would require to use tiny screw drivers like the eye glass repair kit to remove the screws. I would recommend ICY Dock to come up with an easy tool-less way of opening up the enclosure like they have done with their other enclosures.
 

 
Inside the enclosure, you will see the PCB board. The front of the board has an IDE connector for the 2.5’’ IDE hard drive. The hard drive is secured to the PCB with the included four screws that are fastened underneath the PCB.

 

Cables
 

  
Internal cables (left) and external cables (right)
 
The MB448UR comes with 2 types of USB cables, one for the internal frame and one for external enclosure. The internal USB cable has one end that is bundled to connect to the back of the internal frame, while the other hand has individual pins for internal motherboard header. The external USB cable has mini USB connector on one end to connect to the enclosure and other end has two USB connectors. This is used to provide additional power to the unit in the event where one connector is not able to supply enough power.

INSTALLATION

 
Installing the unit is extremely easy. Simply unscrews the four screws holding the tray’s front and back panel and install the hard drive onto the PCB, then secure the hard drive to the PCB.  The internal frame installation is also equally as easy as the hard drive installation. Since the tray is installed to a 3.5’’ drive bay slot, you need to be sure that your case has a free slot that’s not hidden. 
 
 
 
The frame requires a floppy power connector plugged in and the data is transferred through the internal USB headers. Unfortunately, Icy Dock does not bundle the USB headers, so you would have to match the pins to the motherboard one by one. It would be nicer if Icy Dock would bundle the headers instead of the loose pins. If your motherboard uses standard Intel USB header, this is how you would want to line up your USB headers (though still check your motherboard in case it uses non-standard header). I would recommend that you first line up the header according to the motherboard and tape then together before plug it to the header (it’s easier this way). Overall, the installation went smoothly and the whole process can be done in 10 minutes.

TESTING

 
Given to the fact that the enclosure is connected to the motherboard via USB, both internally and externally, we are virtually testing the USB transfer rate. I decided to test the performance of the unit to see if there’s any difference when it’s connected internally via the PCB adapter or externally when it’s directly to the USB.
 
A word on the results.  The performance of the transfer rate will be highly dependant on the hard drive that is used.
 

Feature/Specification

 Toshiba MK8026GAX (internal)

Toshiba MK8026GAX (external)

Toshiba MK3211MAT (internal) Toshiba MK3211MAT (internal) SanDisk Curzer Micro
Burst Speed
35.1
35.1
15.0
15.0 10.7
Average Read
29.6
29.5
9.5
9.6 9.9
Random Access
18.2
18.3
21.3
21.3 10.3
CPU Usage
5%
3%
4%
4% 2%
 
 

Feature/Specification

 Toshiba MK8026GAX (internal)

Toshiba MK8026GAX (external)

Toshiba MK3211MAT (internal) Toshiba MK3211MAT (internal) SanDisk Curzer Micro
Burst Rate
25
24.8 
20.9 
20.8  9.3 
Minimum Transfer Rate
18.5
 18.5
 6.3
 6.4  6.8
Maximum Transfer Rate
24.8
 24.8
 11.2
 11.2  9.3
Average Transfer Rate
23.2
 23.3
 9.1
 9.1  9.2

Access Time

18.2  18.2  20.5  20.5  10.3

CPU Usage

13.9%  13.6%  7.8%  8.7%  10.1%
 
 
We can see that there’s virtually no difference when the hard drive is mounted internally or externally. It’s not too surprising since regardless of how the hard drive is mounted, it’s essentially using the USB connector. We can also see that the performance depends on the hard drive that is used. In addition, we see a much better transfer rate compare to the USB flash drive. (Please note that the SanDisk Cruzer Micro used in this review is not the fastest flash memory on the market nor is it as fast as the AVB flash drive which our fellow reviewer, Miles, recently reviewed).
 
The AVB USB 2.0 Mobile 4GB Drive offers quite an impressive transfer rate. But like many flash drives, it’s still not able to offer the large amounts of storage space that a 2.5’’ hard drive is able to offer. Our test was done with a 5,400 rpm IDE hard drive and there are actually 7,200 rpm mobile hard drives which should definitely offer better performance in addition to larger storage spaces.

Conclusion

 
The beauty of the MB448UR is really that it can function as both internal as well as external storage so it can be mounted inside the computer case or carried around as external storage when needed. Unfortunately, due to the use of USB, the transfer speed will not be affected regardless if the enclosure is connected internally or externally. However, it’s a good idea to have such versatile device and I can foresee this being implemented on 2.5″ SATA hard drives that are being found in almost all new laptops today. Given the fact that SATA offers better performance than USB and it’s hot-swappable, having a SATA enclosure would make much more sense as it would gain transfer speed when the unit is connected internally, yet offer the option of functioning as external storage.
 
Yet the ICY Dock MB448UR is a great enclosure for people who need a large amout of portable storage space. Although USB memory sticks are nice devices for portable file storage, even the largest USB memory sticks on the market still cannot compete with the vast amounts of storage space offered by hard drives. The Icy Dock MB448UR can hold as big as a hard drive that can be supported and current 2.5’’ IDE hard drives can go all the way up to 200GB. If we account for the storage space per price ratio, the 2.5’’ hard drive would definitely be the better choice of the two. Even if you factor in the $40 (which can actually be purchased at Newegg for $24.99) of the ICY Dock’s MB448UR, it’s still cheaper than USB memory sticks but offers a far larger amount of storage space.
 
 
 
The ICY Dock’s MB448UR will receive a score of 9 out of 10 (very good) and receive Bjorn3D’s Seal of Approval for its versatility and easiness of installation.
 
 
 

Pros:

     + Easy installation
     + Functions as both internal and external storage
     + Cheap
     + Ability to lock the enclosure to prevent accidentally ejecting the drive

Cons:

     – Requires a free 3.5’’ drive bay
     – USB headers are not bundled

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE