It's been some weeks since I last checked out a USB 3.0 product and that was early on in the game. Fast forward a little and in that time many motherboards have hit the market complete with USB 3.0 and it's easier to find USB 3.0 PCI Express controller cards on the market, too.
If you've been living under a rock for the past few months, USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed USB is the next greatest thing in connected storage and external devices. It vastly improves performance over USB 2.0 by a factor of ten times - although in practice, it isn't up to that claim in this early stage as the technology matures and develops.
Our next USB 3.0 products to be put through the paces come by way of German company RaidSonic. They actually sent us their new Icy Box USB 3.0 products several weeks ago when USB 3.0 was first hitting the market, but with Christmas, New Year, CES, a holiday and Chinese New Year, things have been rather hectic. Today, though, we can tell you about these products for you folks who are interested in getting in touch with the speed advantage of USB 3.0 for your external storage needs.
First off the blocks in the video above is the Icy Box IB-250. This is a 2.5-inch SATA HDD / SSD enclosure with support for USB 3.0, but it's also backwards compatible with USB and USB 2.0. It's made using a basic plastic material and is very light weight. Maybe a little too light, though - I'm not sure how much confidence I would having in dropping it with a drive installed from any great height. Get all the details on it in the video above.
Next up is the big daddy Icy Box IB-318, which as you guessed, is also a USB 3.0 HDD enclosure - but it supports larger 3.5-inch SATA hard drives. It impressed me much more than the IB-250, since it uses a much stronger material that gives me more confidence in the product and protecting hard drives. Its design is commendable too, with a basic black finish, but at the same time it also manages to ooze style with a classy black mesh grill on the front with a blue and a red LED to show hard drive activity and power. The Icy Box logo is etched on the side of the enclosure and overall impressions are very good. Get all the details on it in the video above.
The Performance Test
As we mentioned in the video, we decided to do a performance test with the Icy Box IB-318. With a Seagate 320GB 7200.10 SATA hard drive installed into it and plugged into a GIGABYTE X58A-UD7 motherboard (features full speed USB 3.0) and using the same included USB 3.0 cable for each test, we compared USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 performance using HD Tune Pro. This is a good benchmark for folks out there to see if they should bother upgrading their old USB 2.0 HDD enclosure to a USB 3.0 enclosure, such as the Icy Box one we are looking at here today.
Our first test shows the read performance and the advantages of USB 3.0 are pretty clear here. In the average read speed department, with the Icy Box IB-318 plugged into a USB 3.0 port on the motherboard, it offers about double the transfer speed.
In our second test that measures write performance, we basically see a really similar story as the first read test. Although here we see that with the Icy Box enclosure plugged into a USB 3.0 port on the motherboard, write performance is over double compared with when plugged into a USB 2.0 port.
Overall, we have a couple good quality products from RaidSonic here. They don't make us stand up and scream from the rafters for anything particularly noticeable or exciting, but at the same time we see a good solid package, pretty good styling and the benefits of USB 3.0. I suspect also that pricing should be pretty good, but sadly at this stage we do not have that information as neither product is readily available for sale at the time of writing.
You may want to consider your usage scenarios with a 2.5-inch HDD or SSD before buying the Icy Box IB-250. It didn't impress me with a plastic build - it doesn't give me loads of confidence in protecting your hard drive in extreme conditions. It's really just a case that your HDD or SSD sits in and not much else.