Review: ICY DOCK MB561US-4S-1 Quad Bay Storage Enclosure

by Alex Kuretz on July 30, 2010 · 21 comments

in Reviews

Prices on large capacity hard drives have been dropping steadily and you can now get a 2 terabyte drive to expand your storage for under $100 (and I’m sure that will be dropping even lower before we know it), and at the same time we’re needing to store more and more content in the form of our digital photos, music, and video collection. When you’ve filled all 4 internal bays of your MediaSmart Server, want to expand the storage of your home-built Home Server, or just want to be able to easily add and remove drives from your desktop computer, an eSATA storage enclosure is the most reliable and high performance way to do so. When it comes to storage peripherals ICY DOCK is one of the more popular manufacturers and I’ve had the opportunity to spend the past couple of weeks with their MB561US-4S-1 Quad Bay Storage Enclosure.

The ICY DOCK MB561US-4S-1 is a four drive storage enclosure and features both eSATA and USB connections that make it easy to connect the enclosure to any computer. The enclosure supports drives of up to 2TB capacity and supports hot swap to make it easy to add and remove drives without needing to reboot your computer.

Here are the manufacturers specifications for the ICY DOCK MB561US-4S-1 Quad Bay Storage Enclosure.

  • eSATA + USB2.0 host interfaces
  • Up to 8TB drive capacity
  • 4 removable hot-swap drive trays
  • Hot swappable 80mm ball bearing cooling fan
  • 110-240v, 112W auto-switching built-in power supply
  • Aluminum body with with partial plastic
  • 3-year manufacturers warranty
  • Windows and Mac compatible
  • 234.9×141×175 mm
  • $299 MSRP / $235 current street price before rebates

Packaging and Hardware

The MB561US is securely packaged in thick foam inserts for safe transportation, and includes an eSATA cable, power cord, a multi-language user guide, and a small bag of screws for attaching your disks to the hard disk trays.

Once removed from the packaging I was pleasantly surprised with the small size of the MB561US, the width and depth being only a little bit larger than a 3.5″ hard drive. The fit and finish of the enclosure is very nice, with a brushed aluminum shell and white plastic front and back. If you’re a MediaSmart Server owner you may be wishing it was black in color to better match your server, however I am quite pleased with its appearance.

The only indicators are four white LEDs on the front of the server, one for each drive that illuminates when a drive is installed and blink with drive activity. The LEDs are bright enough to be seen in a well lit room but are not overpowering in the dark as some other electronic devices can be.

The hard drive trays are easily removed by pressing down on the lock mechanism, at which point a lever arm pops out that can be disengaged from the enclosure chassis and used to pull the drive tray out. The drive trays are unfortunately one feature that I did not have as good an experience with, as the plastic cross-member (used to retain the shape of the tray when no drive is installed) were screwed in extremely tight and required a good screwdriver as well as a fair bit of force to remove. The trays feel a bit flimsy without either the plastic cross-member or a hard drive installed.

With all this said, once my hard drives were installed into the trays they performed flawlessly, easily fitting into their slots in the enclosure with no sticking or binding. I do prefer the screwless drive trays of the MediaSmart Server and would like to see a future ICY DOCK enclosure model utilize an easier to use, screwless drive tray. And in a move that should make HP take note, ICY DOCK makes spare drive trays available for purchase should you need extras.

The first thing you see when you look at the rear of the enclosure is the large exhaust hood that contains the removable 80mm cooling fan and makes the enclosure look like it could jet itself across the desk. The rear of the enclosure also features USB, eSATA, and power connector sockets. The enclosure does include a Kensington Lock hole so that you can secure the enclosure to an immovable object, however the value of this feature is a bit questionable since the drives are unable to be locked in the enclosure.

The fan is easily removed simply by lifting up the clip on the bottom of the fan housing and from my testing is hot swappable. This makes it easy to remove for cleaning should dust build up. The fan itself appears to be a standard 80mm but it has custom power connectors and so in order to replace it you’ll need to either be handy with a soldering iron or purchase a replacement.

The fan speed has a switch that allows three modes of operation – low, auto, and high, where auto will allow the enclosure to control the speed of the fan based off of a temperature sensor inside the enclosure. ICY DOCK calls this their “Smart Cooling Technology, and here’s how they describe it.

Our auto function determines the temperature of your drives, and changes its RPM according to the airflow and cooling demand. This results in decreased power consumption, an increased lifespan for your fan, and unnecessary excess noise. Along with the auto function, the user can also choose a high setting, best used for intense applications such as home server use, or a low setting, best used with lighter work loads such as hourly back ups or network attached storage (NAS).

I tried switching the fan modes while the enclosure was plugged into my Kill-A-Watt device to measure the wattage consumed and did not notice any change in power consumption between low, auto, or high. I also measured the temperature of the drives in all three fan modes with the excellent Disk Management Add-In for Windows Home Server, and found that my drives ran cooler by about 3 degrees Celsius between high and low fan speeds. While in auto fan mode the drive temperatures were slightly cooler (about 1 degree Celsius) than when in low speed mode.

Fan on Low

Fan on High

This testing was performed in my basement which experiences very consistent temperatures and so I have a reasonably high confidence that ambient temperature fluctuation was not a factor in these measurements. In addition, the drives were attached to the HP X510 Data Vault but were not added to the storage pool and so were idle and should not have experienced temperature fluctuations from activity.

While performing this testing I noticed that the locking lever arm obstructs the air intake vents in the front of the drive tray, and while I don’t think it fully blocks airflow I have to imagine it reduces it to some degree. To test this, I unlocked the lever arms but left the drives inserted so that the air intake vents were fully exposed, and found that the drive temperatures dropped an additional 1-2 degrees Celsius.

Fan on High with drive trays unlocked

I do not believe this is significant enough to have concern about the performance of the enclosure, but coupled with my earlier stated difficulties with the drive trays I think there are some improvements that can be made in a future model.

Usage and Performance

If you own a MediaSmart Server and are considering purchasing an eSATA enclosure, there is an important point to consider. While the eSATA specification supports up to five drives on a port multiplier, the EX470/EX475 is limited to four drives due to a limitation with the eSATA chip used on that model of server, and the EX485/EX487 models do not support port multipliers at all and will only see a single drive in this enclosure. The EX490/EX495 and X510/X310 Data Vault models all support a full five drives on their eSATA port and so can happily utilize all four drives of the MB561US.

I used the MB561US with multiple versions of the MediaSmart and Data Vault Home Servers on their eSATA connection, using drives in the enclosure both to expand internal storage as well as for backup purposes. I experienced no issues using the built-in Shared Folder Backup feature of Windows Home Server, as well as backups of the client computer Backup Database using my WHS BDBB Add-In.

The ICY DOCK MB561US was easily recognized by my EX475, though the “Location” field of the Server Storage tab showed the drives as “Unknown” due to a limitation of that model of server. The EX495 and X510 Data Vault correctly identified the location of the drives as being External SATA devices.

I also connected the enclosure to my desktop computer via a Silicon Images SiL 3132 powered PCIe card to utilize the four drives of the enclosure, and the enclosure could also be used in this way with a homebuilt Home Server. I experienced no issues with hot swapping drives and copying files, and performance from a subjective standpoint felt good. I also performed the usual IOZone disk tests to compare performance of a disk connected directly to my PC and when connected via the MB561US. The graph shows that performance is comparable between the two interfaces.

Since the eSATA interface is so drastically superior to USB I only briefly tried that connection with a couple of the Home Servers to verify that the drives were detected.

Sound and Power Consumption

The Smart Cooling Technology feature of the enclosure with the 3 adjustable speeds is effective at keeping the enclosure quiet and still providing sufficient cooling. The enclosure is fairly quiet both on low and auto when at comfortable room temperatures such as my 70 degree F basement office. Even when set to high speed the fan in the MB561US is not terribly loud, similar in volume to the the X510 Data Vault that I had running beside it. Unless you are sensitive to sound you’ll likely not have a problem using the high speed setting.

I performed the usual power consumption measurements with my Kill-A-Watt P3, using a variety of drives from 500GB to 2TB “green” drives from Samsung, Western Digital, and Seagate. The below measurements are all with the drives idle, initialized but not being access by the host computer.

  • 0 drives: 7 watts
  • 1 drives: 12 watts
  • 2 drives: 20 watts
  • 3 drives: 28 watts
  • 4 drives: 32 watts

Note that these measurements can vary by a few watts depending on whether you are using “green”/low power drives that spin at 5400 or 5900rpm rather than standard 7200rpm drives.

Summary

The ICY DOCK MB561US has quickly become one of my favorite enclosures, primarily due to its small size, quiet and adjustable fan, attractive appearance, and solid performance all at a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Small, attractive enclosure takes up little desk/shelf space
  • Hot-swap, adjustable speed fan
  • 3 year warranty

Cons

  • Drive trays are some of the more difficult that I’ve used
  • 4 drives instead of eSATA port multiplier max of 5 drives

The ICY DOCK MB561-4S-1 is available from many online retailers such as Buy.com, Newegg.com, and Provantage.com.

There is currently a $50 mail in rebate available until the end of July, at which point a new $40 mail in rebate will be available for the entire month of August.

I’d like to thank ICY DOCK for providing me with the MB561-4S-1 storage enclosure for the purposes of this review.





Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of MediaSmartServer.net. I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


{ 21 comments }

Damian July 30, 2010 at 6:36 am

Great writeup Alex. My one gripe (as you mention in your Cons) is that it is only a 4 bay model. If your PC/Server supports 5 bays over eSATA I see no reason to purchase a 4 bay over a 5 bay model.

Alex Kuretz July 30, 2010 at 8:44 am

It’s interesting but it seems the majority of enclosures support 4 drives instead of 5, perhaps people have an aversion to odd numbers? :)

Roland (Icy Dock) July 30, 2010 at 10:45 am

Awesome review, Alex. I am not surprised by how detailed and honest it was. We look forward to working with you more in the future!

TrafficWB July 30, 2010 at 11:13 am

I have ex490 with Edge10 DAS501t and ex490 recognizes drives connected to das501t as a scsi drives, but I cant get any smart info neiter temperatures to show up in ex490. Is there something wrong, can I get temperatures to show up somehow?

TrafficWB July 30, 2010 at 11:20 am

… sorry I ment external sata.

Alex Kuretz July 30, 2010 at 11:39 am

Sorry, I have no experience with the Edge10, you can try posting in the forums for input from the community.

Russell Nicol July 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I purchased the Icy Dock MB561-4S-1 from NewEgg on the 12th July, and it worked fine for 3-days before I noticed it randomly disconnected from my HP EX475.
After cycling the power every few days so that the Home Server would re-discover it, I attempted to upgrade the Marvell eSATA drivers on the Home Server to fix the issue from the shipped v46 to v57 version, this resulted in none of the drives in the Icy Box being detected, so I then upgraded to v68 of the Marvell drivers which would sometimes find a couple of the 3-drives I had installed installed but never all of them.
After a few days the problems worsened and the Home Server would not boot whilst the Icy Box was connected, and finally the ntdl boot loaded became corrupted and the Home Server had to be recovered.
I don’t believe the issue is the HP EX475 home server, as it works fine with the (cheaper) Sans Digital eSATA box I purchased to replace the Icy Box, but there definitely is a compatability issue between the Icy Box’s J-Micron SATA Port-Multiplier chipset and the Marvell chipset on the HP EX475. Really a shame as the unit looks great and is very well built, but I just couldn’t get it to work reliably with my HP Home Server :-(.

Alex Kuretz July 30, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Russell, thanks for sharing your experience, I admit I spent most of my time with the MB561 connected to the X510 Data Vault and only spent a day or so utilizing it with my EX475.

Patrick J. Greene July 31, 2010 at 8:50 am

Nice write up. If I was given one, I would use it. Price would stop me cold from purchasing one, followed by unneeded features, such as ‘hot swap fan’. I am not running NASA here, I can shut down for a fan swap. Esp. considering we are talking about WHS – the dam thing can’t be used if you decide to remove a drive or upgrade. You have to wait, in my case, 6 hours for a 2TB drive to be clear to be removed. The extra 5 minutes to power down and remove the drive isn’t a killer for me. Although I have hot swapped using my Sans Digtial – no levers, just grab the drive and pull ha ha. I use the Sans Digtal eSata boxes, 4 drives, and they work. No trays, a plus up. Better for cooling [extending the life of the drive], less contacts and connections that can go wrong, reduce speed as contacts tarnish, etc. I stopped using enclosed, removable drive trays years ago as I found they killed the life of the drive by trapping heat.
As for 5 drives vs. 4, I can only speak for myself – there are two issues:
Total cost of housing drives: It is cheaper, for example, to purchase 2 4 drive boxes than 1 8 drive box [they use two eSata ports]. The price of the 5 drive box is higher than the benefit of one extra drive if you do the math. Trust me, I calculated all kinds of prices vs. how many drives, I couldn’t find a setup that was cheaper than the 4 drive Sans Digital when on sale at Newegg for $100 with free shipping. At the time a 5 drive in the same model series was twice the price plus shippinig. And had drive trays, which I did not want.
Compatibility: The problem was mentioned, some chipsets don’t support the 5th drive. This may prevent usage down the road as a portable storage transfer device.

Nice looking box, though.

steve lee October 14, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I like your very practical approach. Could you share with me which Sans Digital model did you buy from Newegg. Is that model compatible with HP EX490, having full access to all the additional 4 bays of 2 TBs each? Is the speed acceptable? Your assistance will be greatly appreciated as I am running out space in my EX490.

Many thanks, again,

Patrick J. Greene October 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm

The model I use seems to have been discontinued. They seem to have replaced it by a model with a newer included SataII card. However if you look on the sans digital site they ahve a model TowerRAID TR4M-BNC 4 bay eStat Port Muliplier JBOD Tower without a card.
http://www.sansdigital.com/towerraid/tr4mbnc.html
This seems to be ideal for you if your chipset supports it, as you don’t get a card you don’t need. I don’t have a EX490 but if you do a google I’m sure there are reviews out there that say how it works. In fact, that is how I found out about the Sans Digital in the first place.

steve lee October 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

Patrick,

Thank you for your prompt assistance. I did additional research and found an unfortunate review at Amazon. I am waiting for further confirmation, and this is one of the 2 models that I have narrowed down for acquisition.

Again, many thanks,

steve lee October 17, 2010 at 10:59 am

Pat,

Sorry, I got the wrong model. It was not BNC. Sorry,

Will be waiting for the new model.

Thanks,

steve lee October 14, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Alex, One of the best reviews! However, I have a few questions:

1. What is the transfer speed, mbps, between Icy Dock and Server(mine is EX490), using eSATA cable?

2. What is the transfer speed within Icy Dock?

3. What is the transfer speed between one of the PCs of the server and the ICY Dock, going through the Server?

4. Does it make a better sense just to get another server, say EX490?

5. Will 2 servers create a back up problems, conflicting or confusing each other?

I would be most grateful, if you can shed some light on my questions as I am running out space in my EX490 very soon.

Alex Kuretz October 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Steve, I’m not going to be able to perform all those performance tests. I used the enclosure with my EX495 and with the Data Vault x510, both of which use the same eSATA chip on the server, and experienced no issues. The performance and compatibility come down to the chips used in each component, and I experienced no issues with the Icy Dock and any equipment in my lab.

It only really makes sense to get another server if you need to back up more than the 10 client PCs that a single WHS supports. If you just need more storage space, an eSATA or USB enclosure should meet those needs for you.

2 servers can exist on a network, though a client PC can only back up to a single server. Search the forums for more info on this if you like.

steve lee October 14, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Alex,

I am touched by your prompt assistance.

You have convinced me to get the Icy Dock, because all I want is plug in the cable, then add additional 2 TB hard drives as needed without having to worry about whether the 2nd, the 3rd or the 4th Hard Drive is connected or supported by a single eSATA cable.

Again, with many thanks,

Jeff C. November 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I have read that the with 4 drives occupied that the drives run a bit hot. Also someone suggested using the more vented MB453TRAY-B trays which are compatible with this device. The only issue is that these are black and the unit is white. If only they made these in white.

Also why did they not use a 120mm fan on the back and make it standard wiring so one can do aftermarket switch to preferred fan. The 120 since its larger will produce more CFM yet be quieter.

Carlos B. April 13, 2012 at 11:22 am

Can I put a 4TB drive on each bay?

Alex Kuretz April 13, 2012 at 11:32 am

I have no clue, you’d have to contact the manufacturer. Let us know what you find out.

Bob March 4, 2013 at 3:30 am

Alex can I ask a very noob question please.

My EX490 is almost full and I was thinking of buying one of these. Money is short so I would only get one hard drive for it.

Is it ok to add other driver later?

Do I need to power off anything to add them, or do anything in the server control panel?

Thank you for your time.

Alex Kuretz March 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Sure, you can add drives as you need them. The enclosure is hot swap so you can add drives without powering down your server. You’ll need to add drives via the Home Server Console if you want to add them to the storage pool or designate them as backup drives.

I recommend you post in the forums if you have further questions, the community can easily support you there.

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

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