SilverStone TS431U 4-Bay External Enclosure

Storage
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TEST METHODOLOGY

USB 3.0-Connected System Configuration:

  • Intel Core i5-4690K processor - 3.4 GHz (3.8 GHz with Turbo Boost), 22nm, 84W
  • Scythe Kotetsu CPU cooler
  • ASUS Z97I-PLUS motherboard - Intel Z97 chipset, mini-ITX
  • Kingston HyperX Genesis memory - 2x4GB, DDR3-1600, C10
  • Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB hybrid drive - 7200 RPM, 8GB NAND Flash, SATA 6 Gbps
  • Cooler Master Silent Pro M700 power supply - 700W, modular, ATX
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate operating system, 64-bit

Test Hard Drives:

  • Seagate NAS HDD 4TB hard drive x 4 - 5900 RPM, 64MB cache, SATA 6 Gbps (15 [email protected] idle each according to our testing)

Measurement and Analysis Tools

TEST RESULTS

Environmental Characteristics

Physical Measurements
Enclosure
SilverStone TS431U
Mediasonic ProBox
Enclosure State
Sleep
Idle (empty)
Idle (filled)
HD #1 Temp
N/A
N/A
32°C
31°C
HD #2 Temp
31°C
33°C
HD #3 Temp
32°C
34°C
HD #4 Temp
32°C
34°C
System Power (AC)
10W
7W
30W
25W
10~11 dBA
28~29 dBA
28 dBA
28~29 dB
Ambient temperature: 21°C.

The TS431U pulls 7W from the wall all by itself and an additional 23W is consumed when our four Seagate hard drives are added to the mix. We previously pegged the DC power consumption of the NAS HDD 4TB to be 4.8W at idle, so the enclosure's power supply is operating at an efficiency level of approximately 83%. That being said, the 4-bay Mediasonic ProBox, which uses an external DC brick, is considerably more frugal, using 5W less when filled with the same drives.

Unfortunately, there is no fan control offered on the TS431U, so its two fans chug away, presumably at full speed the entire time as I did not notice any change in acoustics during testing. The noise output is a considerable 28~29 [email protected] when empty and it actually lowers slightly when the enclosure is filled. This seems to indicate that the sound waves bouncing off the interior walls generate more noise than what is added by populating all the drive bays.

This effect makes the TS431U slightly quieter than the ProBox when full. The ProBox actually has fan control but the comparison figures were obtained with its fan at minimum speed. Drive temperatures are similarly low between the two enclosures despite both having a noticeable lack of ventilation. It doesn't take much airflow to keep these drives cool.

While the two 60 mm fans are loud, subjectively they don't sound too bad. The chassis and the presence of the power supply helps obscure their negative characteristics. When empty, the pitch is somewhat higher and a distinctive hollow type sound is emitted that masks what the fans really sound like. When all the bays are populated, the overall noise is better balanced and the fans' buzzing is more clearly audible.

Performance

To gauge the overall performance of the ProBox we used a synthetic benchmark, CrystalDiskMark, which tests both sequential and random performance with two different block sizes. We also performed some timed file copy tests (the same used in our hard drive test methodology), a small file test consisting of a variety of small HTML, JPEG, MP3, ZIP, and EXE files, and a large file test consisting of four AVI files, 2 x 700MB and 2 x 1400MB in size.

The copy tests were conducted between two of our Seagate NAS HDD 4TB's placed in three different configurations:

  • both as internal drives, connected to our test PC using a SATA 6 Gbps interface
  • one internal and one external in the TS431U connected to the PC using USB 3.0
  • both external in the TS431U

According to CrystalDiskMark, the Seagate NAS HDD 4TB doesn't skip a beat when placed inside the enclosure compared to being internally connected. The benchmark results are quite close and actually higher with the TS431U. The only significant difference is in the enclosure, the drive suffers in random 4K reads with a high queue depth, a type of workload that is normally only applicable in servers.

However, in real life operation, the overhead of the USB 3.0 interface is revealed. Our file copy tests exceed 100 MB/s when performed between two of the Seagate drives connected internally via SATA 6 Gbps ports. Moving one of these drives into TS431U causes the performance to dip considerably. The large file transfer rate drops by about 37% while the small file transfer rate suffers by 46%.

Operational Impressions

From an operational standpoint, the TS431U works simply with the enclosure turning off/on with the PC it's connected to. The drives appear as USB drives in the device manager but can be managed like any internal drive. The TS431U suffers from one weird quirk — if you pull a drive while the enclosure is on, the entire enclosure shuts down immediately and then turns back on after a period of about 35 seconds. This is extremely annoying if you frequently hotswap drives.

Update/Correction/Clarification, March 29, 2016:
The enclosure does not turn off during hotswapping. When a drive is physically removed while the enclosure is turned on and connected via USB 3.0, all installed drives inside power down. After 35~40 seconds, they power back up automatically and are re-detected by the OS. Adding a drive works the same but the delay for detection is shorter, in the 15~20 second range. Existing drives are not accessible during hotswap operations.


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