December 24th, 2012 by Lyle Smith
Icy Dock ToughArmor MB994IPO-3SB Review (3-in-1 with Optical)
The ToughArmor MB994IPO-3SB is Icy Dock’s newest full metal dual bay 2.5” SAS/SATA hard drive/SSD mobile rack cage built with a Slim Optical Disk Drive (ODD) slot for use in a single 5.25” device bay, specifically designed for a small form factor system or server such as IPC, HTPC, NAS, Home Servers and All-In-One computers. The MB994IPO-3SB is a really effective and unique device as it is equipped with not only two integral 2.5” drive bay caddies, but also a slim optical drive caddy so that two 2.5″ SAS drives or SSDs can fit in the same space. Icy Dock's reasoning for this combination--though the trend is declining each year--is that the distribution of most PC software is still through CDs/DVDs; an ODD is usually a handy component to have. The problem with many of the rack cages on the market is that they take up full 5.25” drive bay. The ToughArmor MB994IPO-3SB is Icy Dock's solution to this problem by allowing users to take advantage of new trends in technology, making a standard server or workstation chassis more useful and practical.
Icy Dock ToughArmor MB994IPO-3SB Specifications
- Color: Matt Black
- Host Interface: 7 pin SATA x 4
- Drive Fit: 2.5" SAS / SATA HDD or SSD x 2, Slim type ODD x 1
- Drive Bay: Single 5.25" half height device bay
- Structure: Aluminum & SECC
- Device Power: Dual 4 pin Molex power
- Drive Cooling: One 40mm rear cooling fan + fan power switch, Metal heat dispersion
- Power Indicator: Solid Green LED (Power On)
- HDD Access Indicator: Flashing Amber LED
- Dimension (L x W x H): 6.70" x 5.75" x 1.63"
- Weight: 1.77 lbs
Design and Build
The quality of the ToughArmor MB994IPO-3SB's build is fantastic. It weighs quite a bit since almost every inch of this drive dock is aluminum and SECC-the only plastic being the handles that are attached to the drive trays. It’s one well-built device. Where most competing hot swap enclosures have single power connectors (resulting in a single point of failure), the MB994IPO-3SB has dual 4-pin molex connectors. Here we see that the ODD SATA connector corresponds to the top row position of the optical drive. The bottom row has four 7-pin SATA/ SAS connectors. As shown here, all of the trays are an all metal build. Additionally, you can see that the 2.5″ hot swap drive trays have an EMI gasket, which is a breath of fresh air with these types of solutions. The latching mechanism for the MB994IPO-3SB is also metal and feels very solid and secure when locked. The MB994IPO-3SB uses four screws to secure the ODD in place.
Inside, you will see the two main PCB planes in the enclosure in addition to the power connectors, dual SAS connectors, and mini SATA/ power connector. The PCB planes are parallel to the unit which helps airflow in the Icy Dock MB994IPO-3SB. The back of the MB994IPO-3SB boasts all of power and data connections, including two four-pin molex power plugs, an on/off switch controls the small rear fan, one SATA port for the optical drive, and two SATA ports for each of the two hard drives. The second SATA port for each drive is for SAS devices, and is not necessary when standard SATA devices are used. To elaborate on the handy on/ off switch for the fan, it is ideal feature for users with SSD builds who want a quiet computing experience since they run on a much cooler level than HDDs. Heat seems to dissipate enough when the fan is off anyway.
Device installation and removal are essentially seamless. Users install 2.5-inch devices using four screws in the tray bottom. Once in place, simply slide it in and lock it in by pushing the face plate flush with the bay. To remove the drive, push the button that releases the face plate and then slide the bay back out. Inside the box, you will find the bay module, assembly manual, a bag of screws for attaching the device to the side rails of a computer case, as well as a bag of screws and various tools for assembling components to the caddies. These tools also allow users to remove the optical drive caddy once installed into the computer case. Note that it does not include an optical drive, the product is a bare cage.
Overall, we were very impressed with the oddly named Icy Dock MB994IPO-3SB. For users looking to store large amounts of data into a small HTPC or desktop, the MB994IPO-3SB is a very attractive option. As we stated earlier in this review, this Icy Dock unit is a great option for enthusiasts looking to expand capabilities in their workstations as well as for servers, both small and large. The biggest advantage of the MB994IPO-3SB is not so much its performance potential but its ability to get three things in a slot in a product that normally only has room for one: a slim optical drive caddy and two 2.5″ SAS drives/SSDs. Another big plus for this device is that it offers front access, which is a nice change from having to open your case to access additional drives.