ICY DOCK MB561-S4-1 Review

Icy Dock MB561 seriesWe have reviewed external drive enclosures before, they are a really good way to increase capacity if you have no space left in your server. But the Icy Dock MB561 is a little different; why? Because it’s not ugly and it’s not finished in shiny gloss black paint, so is it a good enclosure or just a pretty box?

The enclosure

Right from the minute you hold the packaging, you know this isn’t going to be your typical PC peripheral. ICY DOCK know they have created an unusually attractive design, and have even cut a hole in the box to give you a glimpse of what awaits inside.

MB561 Outer packaging

And what’s inside is a quad bay external enclosure finished off with a solid aluminum alloy outer case and white end panels, offering connection to your data via USB 2.0 or eSATA connections.

The aluminum outer casing makes this enclosure feel incredibly solid and strong, and the silver and white theme even extends to the white LED activity lights for each drive caddy. The ICY DOCK web page lists the MB561-S4-1 as having a ‘Mac Mini design concept’, which I can sort of see, but the reality of it is simply an attractive modern design that will look good partnering any server and not just with a Mac Mini.

MB561 Front

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HP MediaSmart VGA/PS2/Serial Debug Board

VOV Technology debug boardThe MediaSmart VGA/PS2/Serial debug board from VOV Technology is very useful gadget which allows you to add a screen, or optionally a keyboard and mouse or even a serial device to your HP MediaSmart server to convert it from a headless appliance back to a fully functional PC.

In addition to the HP MediaSmart and DataVault server families,  the debug board is also supported on the Acer Aspire easyStore H340.

VOV Technology lists the reasons you would want this device as:
— You want to play with the BIOS settings or re-flash your BIOS
— You want to boot from a USB stick to install another OS (Vail, Linux, Windows Server 2008, OpenSolaris)
— You are a software/kernel/addons developer
— You want to tinker but not risk shorting your MediaSmart Server
— You don’t have the time to build your own custom cable
— You don’t want to buy expensive tools for a one time project
— You want the ability to troubleshoot any bootup problems without running a recovery that will destroy existing data
— Buying is cheaper than building!

The range of debug boards

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Tranquil PC Safe Server Module Review

SSMI have to confess to being a little puzzled when I was first handed the Tranquil Safe Server Module. From the brief I was given, I had assumed it was some sort of backup device to keep server data safe, used like an external hard disk.

But no, after visiting Tranquil PC product page for the Safe Server Module (SSM), I fully understood what this device is and what it is supposed to do. What we have here is a replacement system hard disk, one with dual 500gb hard disks, configured in a RAID 1 mirror, in the shape and size of a single SATA hard disk. Total WHS system disk protection.


Although primarily intended for Tranquil PC’s SQA-5H range of servers, in reality the SSM should fit in all shapes and sizes of home servers and will protect them all equally. The SSM body is constructed from a brushed metal alloy, with plastic front and rear and feels strong and robust in the hand.

Tranquil SSM front

Up front are the drive bay doors and a couple of status lights. Accidental opening of the doors is prevented by the use of locking switches. The status lights normally blink green but will change to red in the event of a problem with a drive. If you have the SSM mounted out of sight inside a server, management software is supplied supplied to let you know what is going on.

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ASUS TS mini Review

Asus TS Mini frontASUS have taken a rather different path for their home server, forgoing the traditional four bay caddy design favored by other manufacturers for a sealed case that can hold two internal disks. So this is only a small capacity server then, aimed at users who don’t want to store a great deal of information? Well no, because if you spin the TS mini around and look at its rear, you will find six x USB 2.0 and two x eSATA connections meaning that you can expand the storage of this little server far beyond the limitations that its two internal drive capacity suggests.


Finished in shiny black with a silver top grill, the TS mini is an attractive little server which takes up no more space than a couple of hardback books, 245mm (h) x 96mm (w) x 204mm (d) to be exact.

The power button is on top, and the front panel has four status LEDs to let you know what’s going on. Having no hard disk caddies to slide in and out means it has no doors to open, which this gives things a nice clean and uncluttered look and a decidedly solid feel.

Around back you find the afore mentioned USB 2.0 and eSATA connections along with a gigabit Ethernet port.

Asus TS Mini rear

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The HP StorageWorks X300 Data Vault

HP have announced the HP StorageWorks X300 Data Vault.

HP X300

Following on from its big brother with the X500 range, the X300 comes in at under $600 for the 1TB capacity model and is powered by the Intel Atom Dual Core processor running at 1.6 GHz.

HP X300 Specifications

The HP StorageWorks X310 1TB Data Vault will be shipping from HP from the 9th June at $549 (shipping and tax not included).

Its great to see Home Server being targeted more towards the small business owner as well as to end users.

More details are available from here.


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Sans Digital TowerRAID TR5UT-B Review

TR5UT front        So you have your Windows Home Server, with its four built-in drive bays already maxed out with storage. How are you going to expand it so you can rip the rest of your movie collection or store all of that TV you record on the Media Center?

Perhaps you can expand by connecting standalone external USB hard disks, but the thought of all of the cables and power bricks put you off. Instead why not look at using a five drive expansion case, and good start would be to consider the Sans Digital TowerRAID TR5UT-B.

I will start off by saying that this device is a little bit over specified for a Windows Home Server, because it has a very comprehensive RAID capability. I know there is debate over whether a WHS server should or shouldn’t have a RAID array connected to it, but for the purposes of this review, I am going to leave the RAID off and review it as a simple Port Multiplier eSATA controller connected to an HP MediaSmart server.

What do you get?

TR5UT front open

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2TB Hard Drive Roundup

Computer hardware review site HotHardware has a roundup of 2TB hard drives from Samsung, Seagate and Western Digital (WD).

Its a great 11 page review which looks at general purpose hard drives, performance drives and those designed for the enterprise.

HotHardware 2TB HDD Roundup

Loads of benchmarks are included plus cost per GB and bang-for-the-buck graphs, which you can find here.


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