Review of Icy Dock ICY Dock MB508SP-B - 8 bay cage for 2.5 inch SAS/SATA drives

Icy Dock company is the most famous manufacturer of disk cages for HDD and SSD, widely known for its series of metal cases for hard drives ToughArmor, which could drive a car without damaging the drives. Today, when it seems that the world has already completely switched to SSD, and Name M.2 boards are replacing SATA SSDs, there are still reasons for choosing 2.5-inch hard drives. This is a relatively inexpensive volume, which is provided by SATA models with a capacity of 4 TB, and high reliability of hybrid Enterprise HDD, such as the Seagate Exos 10E2400. In particular, SAS SSDs with a thickness of 15 mm are quite common.

Today we will look at the MB508SP-B disk cage. This is a classic case for 8 drives with a SAS-12G/SATA-600 interface, with hot-swappable support. It occupies two compartments of 5.25 inches, and is connected by two cables with SFF-8643 connectors, which are now often used in server boards even for SATA outputs, as it saves a lot of space.

Among the distinctive features of the cage are an all-metal case, cooling by an 80-mm fan with two speeds, support for drives with a thickness of 5 to 15 mm, built-in Power/Activity indication for each disk and various minor features that we will now pay attention to.

The equipment of the device is minimal: the cage is supplied without cables, meaning that you have them. This is quite a heavy thing, its weight is almost 1.5 Kg, since steel is mainly used in the construction. Hard drives are always cooled by convection air flow, so the type of material here matters only with regard to the strength and rigidity of the structure.

I want to draw your attention to the fact that today disk cages are available both fully enclosed and with ventilation holes on the sides. The former use only their own forced ventilation, and the latter are designed for a good air flow in the housing. When installing hot drives at 10K RPM or SAS SSD, cages with a closed case allow you to maintain a lower temperature of the drives, but work more noisily. On a HDD with a speed of 7K RPM, the difference is less noticeable, and on a SATA SSD it is not at all. If an open cage, such as MB508SP-B, is simply wrapped with tape, closing the side holes, you can knock 2-3 degrees off the hard drives.

An 80 mm fan from an unknown manufacturer Runda, connected via an Off/Low/Full switch, is responsible for cooling. It was not possible to find out the characteristics of this fan model, but judging by the power, it has a speed of up to 3200 RPM. There is no built-in alarm when the fan stops, so the manufacturer mentions twice in the specifications that you can change the fan to any other and connect it to the motherboard for automatic speed control and monitoring.

Let's look at the drive tray, which, by the way, can be bought separately: its p/n MB991TRAY-B. I want to note that the same tray is used in the external USB box for disks, Tough Armor MB991U3-1 SB, so if necessary, the disk can be easily rearranged between devices.

The design of the tray is quite unusual, it is closed both from above and from below. At the places of installation in the cage, the trays are spring-loaded, which should reduce the spread of vibration to the housing. The locks of the trays are also steel, and the opening handle is pressed by a spring. The whole design looks very reliable, and the case when the lock breaks from improper installation of the disk here seems to be excluded.

However, at this moment I was a little disappointed. The fact is that in order to properly install the trays, the cage body must have long guides inside, and here they are short. As a result, a pair of trays installed by the third from above can easily be skewed during installation, although this should not be the case.

And this is the only drawback I found of the ICY Dock MB508SP-B model.

Let's look at the board with connectors (backplate). On the HDD/SSD connection side, it is covered with a transparent film, apparently to protect the electronics from dust or accidental short circuit. As in all normal boards, there are openings for the passage of air flow, and additional capacitors are installed in the power circuits that smooth out voltage fluctuations when starting powerful SAS disks. Tantalum tanks, with almost unlimited service life.

The fan speed is switched via a resistor. The indication is realized through SMD LEDs soldered near the SAS connectors. Before commissioning the device, do not forget to attach the disk numbers to each tray and connect two SATA power connectors.

Testing

For testing, I connected the cage to the ASRockRack EPC621D6U-2T16 motherboard, which has a built-in HBA controller for 16 SAS disks and 8 Seagate Savvio 10K.6 disks with a capacity of 900 GB each, configured in software RAID 6 on Ubuntu 21.04.

Motherboards like this, designed to connect only 30(!) SATA devices, already have SFF8647 connectors that allow you to connect 4 drives with one cable, so there will be fewer wires in the case with such cages, and the air flow, as a result, is better.

At the maximum fan speed, the temperature of the hard drives during testing was 53 degrees Celsius.

Conclusions

The Icy Dock MB 508 SPR disk cages makes it easy to turn any case with a pair of 5.25-inch compartments into a full-fledged storage for video surveillance, archives, file sharing or mining. The design easily digests 8-watt corporate HDDs at a speed of 10K RPM, and the backup uses eternal solid-state capacitors.

2.5-inch hard drives are not interesting in manners, so choosing this media format, you can be sure that if you need to replace a failed drive, you will not face a shortage or an inflated price.

Michael Degtjarev (aka LIKE OFF)
28/10.2021


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