November 5th, 2010 by Brian Beeler
Icy Dock 3 in 2 Internal Backplane Review (MB973SP-B)
The MB973SP-B is Icy Dock's latest backplane unit that allows users to install three 3.5" hard drives inside a computer case's two 5.25" device bays. To make life easy on those who make frequent drive swaps, the backplane is tray-less and screw-less. There are plenty of other highlights as well, including individual drive power buttons, SATA 6Gb/s support, front ports for more functionality and a fan with three speed settings.
The unit itself is rock solid, sturdy in every aspect. The body is full aluminum, with plastic only reserved for the front panel and doors.
The front of the backplane of course features the three drive doors, which open and close easily enough with a single finger. Each drive gets an LED indicator that's blue when a drive is properly inserted and flashing blue when in use. Each drive has its own power button as well, which is not something we're used to seeing in devices like this. The only complaint is the buttons require a deep press to actuate, but that's by design, Icy Dock calls them childproof, IT professionals might call them "sales department proof."
There are a number of other useful features on the front of the unit, including an eSATA and USB 2.0 port. These are fantastic for some builds where it may be difficult to access these ports on the machine for whatever reason. There's also a fan speed control, which operates in high, low or auto mode.
Around the back of the unit we find two power ports (both are required), three SATA port connectors, wiring harness for the front ports, and the 80mm fan. Incidentally, the fan is designed to be changed easily and the unit offers both 2 pin and 3 pin power connectors for the fan. We think most users wil be fine with the default fan though, it does well to draw enough air in from the front to keep three drives within operating parameters. One other fan note, it will only power on when drives are powered on, so even when the bay is full but the drives are off, the fan will not engage.
In using the bay, it really comes down to how easy it is to load/eject drives. We worked through several insertion/ejection cycles with each bay. Drives fit in snuggly with little or no room to wiggle. When opening the door, an arm in the back unseats the drive and pushes it out enough to grasp.
The Icy Dock 3 in 2 backplane does what we'd expect, while throwing in a few bonuses like individual drive power buttons, extra front ports and three mode fan; all for a street price of $99. Our only complaint is the lack of SAS support, but that's a minor gripe. Overall the build quality is strong, the features are strong and the price is right, a trifecta making it easy to recommend.