Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review

Icy Dock shipped us a very high quality three HDD into two 5.25" bay adapter that looks amazing and is very functional. The dual USB 3.0 ports on the front are just the icing on the Icy Dock.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, Mar 18 2013 11:08 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: Icy Dock

Introduction and Specifications

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review 01 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 21 IMAGES

The thing about computer HDDs is that until they die, they are always useful. Most enthusiasts have shifted their main operating system drive over to solid-state or some form of hybrid system where a small solid-state drive works in conjunction with a much larger mechanical drive. Even though Crucial is about to introduce us to the Tera Era of low costs SSDs (960GB for $600 model M500), the cheapest way to store large volumes of data is still through platter technology.

Hard drives or 'spinners' as I like to call them simply deliver the best bang for the buck when storing low access data. In the enterprise world, a common practice called tiered storage allows for data you don't often use to go on a slower HDD. Most reading this review have at least one spare HDD around the house or office, and more than a few of you have more than one idle HDD. Putting those drives in a system is often a nuisance, but if you spend a little time, the rewards pay off.

One of the pay offs is the ability to keep low access data off of your SSD. This increases the SSD performance and allows the drive to use more NAND spare as spare area, a process that increases the life of your drive and performance of it.

Icy Dock shipped us a very high quality internal bay component that is one of the best I've seen to date. First there is the quality - it is better than we expected, and even higher than what we've come to expect from Icy Dock. Next comes functionality, ease of access as a new benchmark. Finally, connivance, dual USB 3.0 ports in the front and power buttons for each individual drive to make hot swap installs easier than opening your computer case and plugging in cables.

Specifications

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The Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B is a triple HDD bay that fits in two optical bay (5.25") openings. This is just one FlexCage product among many offered by Icy Dock. The company has a long reputation for their HDD drive cage products and most are of very high quality. The MB973SP-2B is of premier quality, I can't stress that point enough, but hopefully you'll see it in our images today.

With three tool-less slide HDD bays and two USB 3.0 ports in the front and a user replaceable fan on the back, the unit has all of the bases covered. Even the sides of the unit are well thought out; the grooves are strategically placed to allow installation in a number of cases that normally block multi-bay products.

Let's dive in and take a look.

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B

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We're going to breeze though the box shots and get right into the FlexCage. Most of these products are sold over the internet and not in retail stores so the box really just needs to keep the product safe during shipping.

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The specification located on the back of the box give enough details to get the point across.

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The inner package is what we really care about today and Icy Dock did a good job protecting the meat of the product. There is enough closed cell foam in place and especially at the edges to keep the enclosure safe in transport.

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Inside the package we found a paper manual with installation instructions, screws for mounting the enclosure to the case if needed and two SATA power to 4-pin Molex connectors.

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We finally get past all of the formalities and can start in with what makes this product significant. The FlexCage takes the place of two near worthless 5.25" optical bay covers that could be used to do something. Since none of us are using optical drives for anything other than pirating Blu-ray movies that we're hoarding on our NAS servers, we don't need two optical drives, if even one.

So, instead of two covers we have a trio of 3.5" HDD bays that are tool-less and hot swappable. You can insert and remove drives without shutting the computer down. Two USB 3.0 ports flank the left side and a three individual power buttons, one for each bay, are close by. The buttons also double as power and status LEDs.

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At the very bottom is a three-position switch that controls the fan speed. The settings are high, low and our preferred setting, auto.

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The bottom half of the unit has standard mounting points for the 5.25" standard. The slit in the middle isn't to save metal; it's there so your computer cases mounting doesn't keep you from sliding the unit into the case.

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A large 80mm fan keeps the internal drive cool and also injects cool air into your computer case. When set on the highest setting the fan is noisy. It's not NVIDIA Dustbuster loud, but it's audible. On the low setting it's inaudible, but then you'll worry about your temperatures as well as not take advantage of the cooling capabilities. The auto setting was perfect when running three Seagate 3TB enterprise SATA drives. The system never exceeded silent operation when set to auto.

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review 11 | TweakTown.com

The three SATA ports are on the other side of the enclosure. The user replaceable fan plugs into the PCB on this side. An additional two pin fan connector remains unused. You may of noticed the two cables coming out of the back, they are like tentacles that you can't remove and since they come out of two holes, make plugging your SATA cables in a bit of a pain. We would have preferred the two USB 3.0 cables come out of one area and zip tied together.

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You get a generous amount of cable, a little more than necessary for motherboards with USB 3.0 headers in the middle of the board, but just enough for motherboards with headers at the bottom of the board.

We did find one design issue and it has to do with the location of the cables. Most computer cases put the CPU at the top of the case, the standard, non-upside down, traditional design. With that in mind, the cables come out of the wrong side to hide the cable easily in your case. The same is true for the SATA ports. Since the USB 3.0 cables are all the way to the right, you have to bend them over the SATA ports and that's why it can be difficult to just toss the FlexCage in an existing bay quickly. You have to plan your installation carefully.

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review 13 | TweakTown.com

Once installed the system becomes completely tool-less. You don't need to put the drives in a sled; they just slide right into the FlexCage. The front doors push the drive in place, but it doesn't spin up until the front, child safe button is pressed.

To remove the drive you power it down with the front button and then simply open the front door. The door engages a mechanism that slide the drive out of the cage enough to grab. The design is really good from a mechanical port of view. You just need to spend a little time getting the cables tucked away.

Benchmarks

Desktop Test System

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review 50 | TweakTown.com

ATTO Baseline Performance

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review 51 | TweakTown.com

Seagate 3TB HDD attached directly to the system

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Seagate 3TB HDD with the Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B

In our first test the Icy Dock FlexCage doesn't adversely affect the performance of the Seagate drive used in our test.

Crystal Disk Mark

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Seagate 3TB HDD attached directly to the system

Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B 5.25-inch HDD Bay Adapter Review 54 | TweakTown.com

Seagate 3TB HDD with the Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B

If I didn't see it, twice, I wouldn't believe it. Even though we used the same SATA port for this test and there is little study why it should be, the Seagate drive when used in the Icy Dock FlexCage actually performs a little better.

I can think of only one reason why this happened, vibration. We used a 7,200 RPM drive and when outside of the Icy Dock system it was setting on a table. HDDs slow when introduced to vibration.

I've never been able to use that video in a review, but the time was finally right. So, the Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B can actually increase the performance of your HDD. Who saw that coming?

Final Thoughts

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Newegg has the Icy Dock FlexCage MB973SP-2B, the model we looked at today, for $96.99. The same unit without USB 3.0 costs $10 less and is available at Newegg as well.

The price doesn't make this FlexCage great value for those without a specific need for a drive cage. It does fill the need for those of us with spare HDDs that get swapped around different machines often. If you pull drives from one machine to use in another quite a bit then it would make sense to buy a FlexCage for each of your computers.

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The system performs well and adds a nice level of convenience for users. In our tests, the HDD actually performed a little better inside the MB973SP-2B than it did just sitting on a desk. I can't count the number of times I've formatted or read data back from a drive with it just sitting on desk. What I never considered is how bad the vibration is to the HDD. If just sitting on a desk is enough to slow the drive a small amount, then it can't be good for the delicate components inside. If you have data on a spare drive the chances are it's important data, so putting it at risk isn't something you want to do.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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