Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Nearly every system I use to test SSDs and HDDs has an Icy Dock tool-less quick access bay installed. When the company announces new products, I pay attention. There are several companies offering similar products, but Icy Dock is the only company that has consistently provided me with trouble free solutions that don't degrade performance.
The company's newest flexiDock series consists of six models in various form factors and drive types. The series uses robust and cost-effective materials to offer solutions to a broader market including cost-conscious shoppers.
The flexiDock MB524SP-B under the microscope today takes a new angle at the 4-bay 2.5" enclosure. The system is completely tool-less and void of drive sleds thanks to a convenient mechanical insert/eject system that is both simple and effective. If you want an easy way to turn 2.5" drives into high-speed portable storage, or just a way to simplify power delivery to a RAID array, the MB524SP-B is an effective solution.
We cut the feature list for the Icy Dock flexiDock MB524SP-B down to a manageable size to cover the important notes. There is a longer list on the Icy Dock website that covers every detail imaginable up to and including the color of the unit. I think you can see it's black without me pointing that out.
The flexiDock MB524SP-B features four 2.5" bays that support drives up to 9.5mm. The system supports both SATA and SAS drives, but SAS models run in single channel mode and must connect to a SAS controller, and that may require a special cable. Each drive has a dedicated channel back to the motherboard.
Power delivery comes from a single SATA 15-pin cable. This is the same you would use to power a single SATA SSD. The single cable power-delivery design simplifies cable management and reduces clutter.
The system uses a single 40mm fan on the back to cool the drives. You can disable the fan via a jumper on the back or control the RPMs via a wheel on the front. In our testing, we determined the fan isn't loud enough to turn down, but our testing environment isn't as quiet as most home offices.
The system fits in a single 5.25" drive bay. This is the larger space many used to install optical drives. Optical media and the drives have decreased and some systems no longer ship with this space. Workstations, like the HP Z Series still ship with the 5.25-inch bays, and that's the target market for the Icy Dock flexiDock series.
Pricing and Warranty
The Icy Dock flexiDock MB524SP-B sells for less than $60 at Amazon (USA) at the time of writing. It includes a three-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
A Closer Look
The flexiDock MB524SP-B ships in a full-color retail-ready package. We found most of the specifications on the package, so if you do stumble upon the system in a retail store, you will know what's in the package and how to use it.
Icy Dock used mixed materials to keep the cost down on this system. The outside consists of metal, and the inside is plastic (other than the printed circuit board and springs).
Also on the front is the scroll wheel that adjusts the fan speed. In our loud testing environment, the fan wasn't an issue. We've never had an issue with Icy Dock products and fan noise. The designs favor prosumer environments than pure enterprise environments where fan noise generally runs on the obscene.
With a drive in the bay, the eject button protrudes from the main plane around 3/8 of an inch. The power button sits level with the rest of the front in the off position and inside slightly in the on position. This makes it very difficult to press the power button on accident but at the same time means, fat fingers will have to work harder to engage the button.
When powered on, the power button glows from hidden blue LED.
As mentioned, the outside of the flexiDock MB524SP-B uses metal. This gives a solid base for the screws to mount. Icy Dock includes thin screws, and that may be an issue for thicker mounting systems if you don't already have a tool-less rail system. You can use standard fine thread screws, but you must be careful of the depth. Too long of a screw will scratch your SSD or take up space, so a drive doesn't mount at all.
Icy Dock did a very good job of labeling ever port on the back of the MB524SP-B. The fan sits in the middle and pulls air from the front, across the drives, and eventually into your computer case. The single power connector cuts down on the cable clutter, but you will still need four SATA cables that are not included in the package.
Mounting drives is as simple as sliding it in. Both 7mm and 9.5mm drives fit thanks to a flat plane spring that pushes the drives to the bottom of each opening. 15mm drives do not fit with this system.
With a drive installed, you simply press the button to engage power to the drive. This system allows you to easily hot-swap drives in your system as long as you have that feature enabled in the motherboard's (or adapter's) BIOS settings.
Testing and Final Thoughts
You won't see higher SSD performance with the Icy Dock flexiDock MB524SP-B. The important part is you also will not lose performance with this product. Like every other Icy Dock product I've tested, the simple data path for the data signal doesn't degrade performance. We can't say that about every product that sits between the data cable and the data source (the drive).
With rotating media, hard disk drives, it is possible to see a performance improvement under certain conditions. If you simply place a HDD on your case, the desk or some hang it from the cable, the drive will vibrate. The vibration will decrease the drive's performance by a measurable amount. The flexiDock's flat plane spring keeps the drive from vibrating around and gives it a stable platform. This allows the drive to operate at peak performance. Technically, it doesn't increase the performance of a HDD over another stable-base mounting system, but it will allow the drive to perform better than what most of us use when temporarily using a 2.5" HDD in a desktop system.
Icy Dock products have evolved over the last couple of years. When I first started testing these around a decade ago, something like the flexiDock MB524SP-B would have sold for around $100. I still have products from the company from around that time and price point. Pricing has fallen with material changes and fewer components, but the progress has also made for a better user experience while also improving the products.
The MB524SP-B gets rid of the drive trays that previous models had. The user experience and convenience is better now because you don't have to screw the drives in sleds, which is a fairly tedious task. Using plastic in strategic places helped to decrease pricing while the metal outside structure leaves the rigidity.
Priced at less than $60 on Amazon, the MB524SP-B gives users easy access to multi-booting operating systems, or a good way to use older storage drives as removable media. If you don't have a free 5.25-inch bay then look at one of the many 3.5-inch bay models like the MB522SP-B that stuffs two 2.5" disks in the smaller space.
The Bottom Line
Strong pricing and features means a great value but only if you really need to quickly install and remove 2.5" drives.