This is the Icy Dock MB881US-1S-1 SATA hard drive docking station.
What you will first notice about this docking station is that it is completely different from any of the other “mini toaster” looking hard drive docks. Not only does it’s looks set it apart but it’s versatility also stands above the crowd compared to all other docking stations I’ve used. I’ll tell you why in this review.
It came to me in a clear plastic container showing off it’s largest components. The dock itself and a black carrying case.
I was wondering what the green arm was for even before I got it out of the box. Here is the stand fresh out of the package.
The case, or protective pouch as Icy Dock calls it, was loaded with the USB and eSATA cable.
The bottom of the package contained the rest of its contents.
The external power adapter, SATA to eSATA port for your computer, and the instruction booklet.
It’s contents are as follows:
- Drive Stand
- AC Adapter
- Power Cord
- eSATA Cable
- USB 2.0 Y Cable
- Protective Pouch
- Single Port eSATA Bracket
I was anxious to get it fired up on my Windows Home Server but started fiddling with the drive stand and found that the green stand is removable. This is by design which allows you to detach the stand with a 2.5” hard drive attached and transport it with the protective pouch. That is certainly a selling point if you have a 2.5” drive that you would like to make portable.
In this review I’ll be using a 3.5” drive.
Beyond the design differences, it’s still a hard drive dock. It can be used with your computer via USB and eSATA with the external power brick or it can be used with the supplied USB Y cable which allows you to power the unit. I don’t like using two USB ports to power a drive but if you want to forgo the external power brick at least you have that choice. If you don’t have an eSATA port you will have to crack your PC case and install the bracket. The bracket’s cable measures roughly 11” long so it should reach any SATA port on your motherboard. It’s a straight connector so some distance may be lost by plugging it in to your motherboards SATA port. I also like the power switch on the front of the unit. If you’re not going to use the drive in your storage pool you can power it down to save energy costs.
The unit feels solid too. I’ve held some cheap plastic docks and this feels nothing like that. It’s a nicely made product.
Using the Icy Dock with your Windows Home Server
If you are like me you are always looking to upgrade storage in your Windows Home Server. I replace small hard drives with larger ones and this always leaves me with a couple of drives laying around. With this dock you can put them to good use backing up shares or using BDBB to make an external copy of your backup database. Take a look at my server setup.
The top drive is listed as a “Non Storage Hard Drive.” This is the Icy Dock.
Another view of my storage can be seen via the Disk Management Add-In.
The Icy Dock is at the bottom in this shot. It shows up as an unmanaged disk which allows you to use Add-In’s like BDBB to create, “Backups of your Backups.” I’m using the Icy Dock and a 500Gb drive to do just that.
You can see here in the WHS BDBB settings tab that the J: drive is the one I am using. That’s the Icy Dock. You can use a single drive with your Windows Home Server or rotate hard drives to perform different functions. I will also use the dock to backup a couple of my Shared Folders for additional redundancy.
USB vs. eSATA
The obvious answer to this question is speed. The eSATA spec is up to 3 Gb/s and USB 2.0 is at 480Mbits/s(60MB/sec). My personal issue with the eSATA port is that I am using the MediaSmart Server so there is only one of these ports available. If I continue to use the dock via the eSATA port I won’t be able to upgrade my storage pool with the many available port multiplier products on the market. If you take a closer look at my storage situation I am in need of some larger drives or a port multiplier solution.
A positive note about using the eSATA port beyond the speed gain is the ability to get SMART data off of the drive. This is not possible via USB.
This shot shows you the HomeServer SMART add-in with the data about the drive in the Icy Dock. A comparison shot is the USB drive I have attached to the server.
There is no SMART data on this drive. USB simply does not support it.
Using the Dock
Once you have decided where you will use, what port you will use and how you will power it you simply need to add a hard drive. My 3.5” drive slid nicely down the dock and into place. There is a ridge on the left hand side of the dock that guide the drive into place without any fear of messing up pins or connectors.
You will inevitably want to face the drive to you or to the front of your equipment and that makes the cables have to bend and route back. This is all dependant upon your setup but you can see the cable routing in photo.
You can see in this photo that I’m using the eSATA connection which is the flat cable. The power connector is below it. The power plug on the unit is in a tight spot. It can't be plugged in blindly. You will have to turn it sideways and "eyeball" it in.
The USB port is on the opposite side of the unit and is also very easy to get to.
This photo shows the dock removed from the stand and in the protective case. A 2.5” hard drive can remain mounted to the dock and inside the case for travel. I’ve seen in some reviews where there is a concern for the dock tipping over. I would discount those concerns mainly because your interaction with the dock is primarily seating and unseating drives into it. It will remain on a flat surface just fine.
Solid design. Does not feel cheap like other external docks.
Will it tip over?
Power plug in an awkward spot.
Higher cost than ‘most’ competitor docks.
You might say that hard drive docks are “a dime a dozen” as the old saying goes. I think most would pick a dock for either the port they have in their system (USB/eSata/FW) or the size hard drive they have to use with the dock initially. (2.5” or 3.5”) Beyond that I think price is going to be the major factor in a dock decision. Perhaps Free Shipping from the vendor may persuade you. They Icy Dock comes in at the higher end of the price range although not the highest I found. It does however, offer more for your dollar at that price range.
The Icy Dock certainly looks better than their competitors. Honestly, some of the other docks are butt-ugly. But, does that matter? It’s just a dock right? To some it might.
I think it comes down to price, function, and quality. Does the dock have the features you want compared to the cost you are comfortable with? I don’t think you can find much better in the area of quality when it comes to this dock compared to others. It’s simply a well made product. If you look around hard enough you can find this dock in a comparable price range to others. I say…shop frugal, but always shop smart. This one will be worth the money paid for it.
Where to buy
Amazon - Icy Dock MB881
by: David McCabe, homeservershow.com
FTC Disclosure: Icy Dock has not asked for this unit back so I continue to use it. That had no effect on the review however. (I'll update this spot if/when this status changes)