Supplied by Nanopoint
The ICY BOX
promises to change the way we look at personal external storage. The ICY BOX is
an external hard drive enclosure designed to be driverless*, portable and
provide fast connectivity. External hard drives are very convenient but aren’t
as fast as the same hard drive that is connected internally and directly to a
PATA or SATA header, however, the ICY BOX may just change that.
*Windows2000 or XP only.
External hard drive enclosures are quite common in this modern computing age. External enclosures
containing a hard drive can often be found sitting on the side of the PC desk next
to the monitor. It is an infinitely useful device for transferring large files where an intranet doesn’t exist and data transfer is required. External hard
drives can be removed from and connected to another PC quickly and easily. They
are not recommended for hauling around in a backpack but are a useful way to
transport information from PC to PC without the need for networking. Convenience
is the key.
External hard drive enclosures traditionally have been connected via Firewire
or USB. These interfaces are quick (50MB/s for 1394 and 60 MB/s for USB 2.0) but
never quite match the speed of connecting directly to the IDE bus on the
motherboard itself (100 MB/s for ATA100 and 150 MB/s for SATA 150). It’s small
price to pay when considering that normal hard drive installation requires
removing the side of the PC case and installing the drive in a 3.5 inch drive
bay if a bay is even available.
The creators of the ICY BOX took a different route. They added the latest
standard of IDE interface; Serial ATA as well as USB 2.0. Serial ATA and USB 2.0 are
fast and hot-swappable. Most current motherboards now support Serial ATA with
onboard chipset controllers from Silicon Image, HighPoint or Promise. Therefore
one might assume connecting an external enclosure directly to the motherboard’s
Serial ATA or USB 2.0 port should bring a speed increase compared to a bridging
technology like USB 1.0.
The premise of the ICY BOX connectivity is very simple; drop a parallel ATA
hard drive of choice into the unit, affix lid, place in docking tray, connect to
either an USB 2.0 or Serial ATA cable, turn on and boot computer. The result is
an instant connection to the contents of the drive.
The ICY BOX is also designed to be silent. It has no fans inside. The only
noise emitting from the enclosure is the sound of the hard drive itself. The
designers have borrowed a simple techniques from CPU cooling to keep the drive
inside cool during usage. These techniques will be examined later in this
The ICY BOX
when used in conjunction with Windows 2000 or XP is also designed to be
completely driverless. Drivers for older versions of Windows are provided.
The ICY BOX retail packaging has transparent window to show part
of the enclosure.
Contained within the box are:
- The ICY BOX enclosure
- Stand for the unit
- Driver CD for pre-Windows 2000/XP users
- Simple manual and instructions for loading pre-Windows 2000/XP USB 2.0
- Power Adapter to power the unit
- Long Serial ATA cable
- Long USB 2.0 cable
The enclosed cables for USB 2.0 or Serial ATA connectivity are of
a good length which gives plenty of reach from PC to where the ICY BOX will be
located (eg: desk)
The clear plastic stand is used to mount the ICY BOX on edge or
the ICY BOX can be left flat on the rubber feet. On-edge is recommended to aid
the natural air flow (rising heat) through the box and thus keep the hard drive
The enclosure is made of brushed aluminum which is very appealing
to the eyes. It’s simple but striking. An ICY BOX logo on one side finish’s off
the clean look.
At the back of the unit power and I/O ports. From left to right:
Power on/off, DC power in (for provided adapter), USB 2.0 and Serial ATA cable
interfaces. All are clearly marked.
On the opposite side to the ICY BOX logo are two screw holes.
These holes are provided to screw in and support the hard drive. Initially it
would appear that only two screw holes would hamper stability inside the
enclosure but in fact the fit inside the unit is very snug.
The four sides of the enclosure are a mesh aluminum material.
This mesh allows heat build up during usage to escape. The thermal capabilities
of the aluminum casing effectively turn the ICY BOX into one giant heatsink for
a hard drive. A simple combination of the natural ambient air through the mesh and the snug fit to the aluminum casing mean heat from the drive is not circulating inside the enclosure but instead out of the enclosure.
Four thumbscrews hold the side onto the main body of the unit.
Access to the inner workings is gained by removing these thumbscrews.
Inside the ICY BOX is a small PCB for the IDE to USB 2.0, IDE to Serial
ATA converter, IDE connector and ATX power connector. The unit is completely
self-sufficient for power as it draws the necessary power from the included power supply. Using an external power allows the ICY BOX to be
connected to any USB 2.0 capable PC eg. a suitably equipped laptop.
At the heart of the Serial ATA conversion is a Silicon Image Sil
3611 1.5 Gbps Serial ATA-to-Parallel device bridge. This chip acts as a
bridge between a drive’s native PATA IDE interface and the Serial ATA interface
that the enclosure terminates into. Theoretically the Serial ATA interface
should prove to be more efficient when connected directly to a motherboard’s
Serial ATA header.
A 40 GB 7200rpm 8mb cache Maxtor DiamondMax hard drive was used as
a sample hard drive for testing. Installing the drive was painless. A snug fit
against the mesh sides but no force was required to fit the drive into place. The mesh sides hold the drive in place well. It becomes a very smooth fit when the lid reattached
The ICY BOX mounted into it’s sturdy stand, connected and ready to
go. It was a smooth and easy installation overall.
Is the performance of the ICY BOX through either an USB or SATA
interface as good as the ICY BOX looks? SiSoft Sandra was used to test the performance
- Connecting the drive to the motherboards native parallel ATA/IDE
- Connecting the drive enclosed in the ICY BOX via USB 2.0 to motherboards
- Connecting the drive enclosed in the ICY BOX via Serial ATA to
motherboards VIA onboard Serial ATA.
Parallel ATA/IDE mode.
The ICY BOX produced a respectable score of 25983kB/s with the drive connected to a standard motherboard IDE connector.
The ICY BOX produced a respectable score of 19618kB/s with the drive connected via the USB2 interface. Just a little over 20% slower than when the drive was connected natively to the parallel IDE interface. Not bad performance at all..
The ICY BOX produced an outstanding score of 25962kB/s with the drive connected to the Onboard Serial ATA interface. This score was just under what the native ATA connection produced. This is where the ICY BOX really shines.
The ICY BOX is a great external enclosure. It’s elegant looks and simplistic design should not deter an end user from considering a purchase. The ICY BOX has perfectly exceptable performance when by connected by USB 2.0. The ability to just connect the unit, power on and access those key files at a reasonable transfer speed certainly is excellent. Using USB 2.0 connectivity with an external power supply allows the user to practically connect it at a moment’s notice to any modern PC. Very flexible usage.
Connecting the unit via Serial ATA is a different animal altogether. The ICY BOX shows a clean pair of performance heels when connected via SATA. Cutting through with a performance on par with a native parallel IDE/ATA interface. Utterly brilliant. Any fears about poor hard drive performance are wiped clean away.
The ICY BOX does get warm after several hours of being in constant use. Initially the concept of no internal cooling was a concern but the mesh and aluminum design does a tremendous job in dissipating heat produced from the drive. The enclosure may not stay ice cool but it was certainly never hot enough to warrant any concern. The drive itself was only warm to the touch after 5 hours constant usage.
In conclusion, the ICY BOX is a fabulous enclosure with clean looks, good USB 2.0 performance, blistering SATA performance, rock solid driverless installation and won’t cook the drive contained within.
It really is a great product. This reviewer loved it!
Short-Media thank Nanopoint for their continued support.
- Great looking unit
- SATA connectivity is as fast as PATA connection
- Good price
- Can only use PATA hard drives
|Design & layout||9||Looks stunning.|
|Documentation||8||While the ICYBOX is so easy to use, the enclosed manual is clear and concise.|
|Features & options||8||USB 2.0 or Serial ATA, you choose.|
|Performance & stability||9||Blistering SATA performance sets this apart from any other enclosure.|
|Presentation||8||Clean and tidy packaging.|
|Price / value||9||At a snip over £34, the ICY BOX is great value|