Today we are taking a look at the Icy Dock MB322SP-B which is a unique design in the hot swap bay market. The Icy Dock MB322SP-B combines the ExpressBay feature we liked in our recent Icy Dock MB324SP-B review with an additional 3.5″ option. The market is rife with clones of 4-in-1 (4x 2.5″ in 1x 5.25″) bay designs and 6-in-1 bay designs. Branching out and offering a unique combination of drive capabilities is what makes the Icy Dock MB322SP-B a particularly interesting option.
Icy Dock MB322SP-B Overview
Taking a look at the Icy Dock MB322SP-B we can see a 5.25″ hot swap cage this is different than we normally see. One standard is for a homogeneous set of drive bays of all the same size. We can see two 2.5″ hot swap bays but there is a cutout for a 3.5″ external bay. The 3.5″ external bay has fallen out of favor with many case designers as the floppy drive fell from prominence. There are still I/O panels that use the 3.5″ external bay form factor for USB hubs, media card readers and etc.
Surprisingly, we recently saw a workstation with a 2000 era 3.5″ Iomega Zip drive which was used for accessing old archives at a client. That panel in the front of the chassis can be removed to allow access to a 3.5″ external drive bay.
The 2.5″ bays come with ExpressCage which is Icy Dock’s tool-less tray design. The plastic trays are able to bend and securely hold drives in trays. This combines both the benefits of a traditional tool-less hot swap cage with those of a design using trays. Suffice to say for those that swap drives often, this is a game changing innovation.
The drives are held in place by latching doors. Atop of the chassis there are air vents to provide cooling. These units are likely best suited to lower power SSDs and hard drives rather than 10k+ rpm 2.5″ disks.
The rear of the unit is very simple. There is a SATA power connector and two 7-pin SATA data connectors. One will notice that there is no fan. That does mean that there is a minimal amount of cooling. For SATA SSDs this is not an issue but one might be concerned about very hot high rpm spindle disks in such an enclosure.
Being SSD only in all workstations for years now, the lack of fan is preferred given the lower power consumption, complexity and noise that trade-off generates.
The bottom of the unit is perhaps one of the most interesting we have seen for some time. The large cutout has no bottom, but it does have a faceplate covering one end of the 3.5″ drive/ accessory space. As one can see, this faceplate can be easily slid up and removed if one wants the 3.5″ bay to be available externally.
The 3.5″ bay is fixed so a hard drive installed here will not be hot swap. Also, the 3.5″ bay will utilize directly attached connections to the motherboard or peripheral cards to whatever is installed there. The bay may also require a separate power connection as can be seen with the hard drive below.
Beyond hard drives, adding a 3.5″ card reader USB 3.0 combo unit or a PWM fan control unit in this bay would be an excellent use of space.
A word on power consumption, noise and data transfer rate testing
Normally we do publish numbers on power consumption, noise and data transfer rates for hot swap cages. In the case of the Icy Dock MB322SP-B there is no fan and therefore no moving parts to make noise. Without a fan and only adding a small PCB along with LED hard drive activity lights meant that power consumption was within 0.1w of the system without the Icy Dock MB322SP-B. That is within our testing variation range so for those looking at this unit, consider power consumption impact to be negligible.
Likewise, in terms of transfer rates, we did five runs of our storage performance tests with two direct attach SATA cables. We then repeated our testing with the Icy Dock MB322SP-B. Compared to the median of our control group sample (direct attach Intel DC S3700 400GB drives), two of our five tests with 0-1% faster transfer rates and three of our five tests with 0-1% slower transfer rates with the Icy Dock installed. This was within our normal test variation so there is a de minimis impact on performance (if any) using the Icy Dock MB322SP-B.
As a bit of perspective here, we have reviewed hot swap cages ranging up to over $400. The Icy Dock MB322SP-B comes in at around $26-35 street price which is excellent. If one is looking to add two drives for a RAID 0 or RAID 1 array in a small form factor chassis, and add another 3.5″ bay drive or card reader, this is a very inexpensive solution to add hot swap capabilities as well. From a value perspective, the unit scores very highly as it is a solid offering for the given street pricing.