Mediasonic Dual Bay RAID Hard Drive Enclosures Review

by AkG     |     January 13, 2008

Interior Impressions

When you first remove the two side case doors you are greeted to fairly spacious and neat interior. Nothing is cluttered or bunched up; rather, everything is well laid out and you can tell careful planning went into the placement of every part and its effects on airflow within the enclosure.

The grey-painted ard drive rack in the center of the unit can hold a pair of 3.5" SATA hard drives and as you will see in the installation section, it is also quite easy to remove.

The exhaust fan that creates this air flow is a standard 40mm fan that uses a standard 2 pin connector. Removal of the fan consists of unplugging the fan from the printed circuit board (PCB), and sliding it out of its cradle. This attention to details is very nice, and having the exhaust fan as an end user replaceable part is a great idea. This is especially important if you are in a high temperature environment, as it can be easily swapped out for a more high performance fan.

As a side note, the fan that is included is a very quiet fan that should provide ample cooling for most hard drives. If one is planning on installing Western Digital’s Raptor hard drives you may want to upgrade it, but for most other drives it should be more than adequate.

The backplane board itself is mounted to the hard drive cage with 4 screws and is also easily removed. As a side note the backplane board was the same in both devices and marked as “HUR1-SU2FWBB ver. A”.

This backplane acts as a data intermediary for the hard drives to the circuit board and also provides power to the hard drives. The drive cage itself uses the reliable mounting method of screwing the hard drives to the sides of the drive cage, allowing for a very secure mounting that keeps vibrations to a minimum.

As you can see in the above photos both enclosures use the same circuit board. Both boards are marked as “HUR1-SU2FWBB ver. B” with the only difference is the USB only model is missing additional voltage regulators and the Texas Instruments 1394 a/b chip. This is quiet common and allows companies to save money by allowing them to buy one circuit board and modify it as needed. It does raise an interesting question about the data recovery IF the enclosure itself fails; would you be able to simply swap out the circuit board and not loose your data? We will answer this question later in the review.

Not only do both enclosures use the same circuit board and backplane but they also use the same Oxford chip for their USB controller. This 921DS chip is not only the dual SATA to USB controller chip but is also responsible for all of the enclosures' RAID functions as well. This is an impressive performance feat and really does show how far we have come in such a short period of time. Gone are the days of needing a full daughter board to take care of RAID instructions - now it can be bundled with a full USB controller all in one chip! Needless to say both enclosures' USB performance should be very similar with any difference due to minor variations from chip to chip.

The SU2FWB enclosure uses the newer Texas Instruments TSB81BA3D chip for its FireWire controller. This one chip is capable of handling three 1394 port connections and this explains why the SU2FWB enclosure only has one 6 pin 1394a connector but has two 1394b connectors. However, even though it has 3 connectors you should not use more than one connector at a time.

While I was not expecting to see Panasonic or Rubycon capacitors, it was disheartening to see that Mediasonic opted for Evercon capacitors. These two capacitors are rated for 105c and we have no issue with this. What we do have an issue with is the fact that “Evercon” was formerly known as “GSC”. This Chinese manufacturer was one of many that sold less than optimal capacitors to various motherboard and video card manufacturers earlier this decade. In some instances these capacitors quickly swelled and failed. It is for this reason that many video and motherboard manufacturers stopped using older style capacitors and went to “solid state” capacitors.

Please note: This is a low voltage device and these capacitors are not the same model as the ones that failed. One should never condemn a company’s full line because of one bad product. We would however be remiss in not mentioning Evercon’s history and let you the consumer decide if this is a big issue or not.

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