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SilverStone TS431U 4-Bay External Enclosure

SilverStone TS431U 4-Bay External Enclosure

February 11, 2016 by Lawrence Lee

Product
SilverStone TS431U
Type
3.5-Inch External Hard Drive Enclosure
Manufacturer
SilverStone
Street Price
US$150

Though mostly known for the cases and power supplies, SilverStone sells a variety of storage devices and accessories. The TS431U external enclosure sets itself apart in that it's built and styled in SilverStone fashion, lending a bit of panache to an otherwise utilitarian product type. There are plenty of multi-bay enclosures on the market but most of them are designed for function rather than form, sort of like how PC cases used to look in the boring beige box era.



The TS431U.

The TS431U is built like a tank but is graced with a classy SilverStone brush aluminum door. It's a plug and play device supporting up to four 3.5-inch drives and is cooled by two 60 mm fans at the back. Like most enclosures of this type, it can connect either through USB 3.0 or eSATA. The TS431U is one of three SKUs that use the same chassis design. The TS431S and TS432U are identical except that the former uses a miniSAS interface, and the latter has a front control panel and RAID functionality.

The TS431U on the otherhand, is just a basic enclosure that expands the storage capacity of whatever PC it's connected to, effectively adding four hard drive bays, only externally rather than internally. I personally use such a device to perform regular local backups of my desktop as an alternative to having a dedicated backup NAS running on the network. The TS431U similarly has no network capability, so it can't share data with other machines, nor are there any redundancy features (RAID).



TS431U box and contents.



Accessories.

The TS431U ships with ~100 cm long USB 3.0 and eSATA cables and a slightly longer power cord. No external power brick is provided as the entire power supply unit is incorporated into the internal design. A software disc is included but there's nothing on it for the TS431U except for the manual.

Specifications: SilverStone TS431U

(from the
product web page
)
Model No. SST-TS431U
Enclosure Material Aluminum + SECC
Color Black
Cooling System 60mm fan x 2
HDD Drive Support SATA III/SATA II/SATA I
Certifications CE, FCC, RoHS compliance
Power Supply Internal universal power supply switch (115V/230V)

Input: AC 100-130V/200-260V, 50Hz/60Hz

Output: DC +5V/6A +12V/11A
Drive Support 3.5" HDD/SDD
Minimum System Requirements Windows XP, Vista, 7

Mac OS 10.x

Linux Kernel 2.6.31 or above

Computer with SuperSpeed USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 interface
Enclosure interface USB 3.0 (Max. 5Gbps) compatible with USB 2.0

eSATA (Max. 3Gbps)
LED Indicator Power LED - Blue for power on

HDD status LED - Blue for HDD detected

Red flashing for HDD access
Net Weight 3300±20g
Dimension 266mm (D) x 187mm (W) x 130mm (H)
Environment Operating Temperature: 5°C ~ 35°C

Operating Humidity: 20%RH ~ 80%RH

Storage Temperature: -20°C ~ 50°C

Storage Humidity: 20%RH ~ 80%RH
Accessories TS431U (hard drives not included)

USB 3.0 cable x 1

e-SATA cable x 1

Power cord x 1

User manual x 1
 

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The SilverStone TS431U exterior is composed of a brush aluminum door and a steel chassis. It weighs approximately 3.3 kg or 7.3 lb and measures 13.0 x 18.7 x 26.6 cm or 5.1 x 7.4 x 10.5 in (H x W x D). Its footprint is quite large for a device of this type as the power supply resides inside the enclosure.



Instead of an external power brick, the power supply sits inside the case, making it unusually deep compared to some multi-bay enclosures. The power LEDs are located on the top of the front bezel with the drive LEDs staggered for easier identification. The corresponding LED glows blue for power and red for activity.



The rear is home to a pair of 60 mm fans, a rectangular exhaust vent, and an on/off switch for the power supply. Both USB 3.0 (type B) and eSATA ports reside near the bottom. The chassis is covered with a U-shaped panel secured with screws at the back and underneath.



The only airflow getting into the TS431U is from the gaps at the sides of the door and a series of slits underneath the bezel. The enclosure sits on four, thick square pads that help curtail vibration. According to the label, the power supply has a combined total output of 162W.



Behind the door is a single power button at the bottom and solidly constructed, snug fitting bays for 3.5-inch hard drives.



The back of the SATA backplane is outfitted with strong metal springs that easily eject drives when the release mechanism at the front is disengaged.



The size of the circuit board and power supply substantially restricts airflow. The fans' primary purpose seems to be cooling the internal power supply rather than the hard drives themselves.



Several screws at the back and bottom (including some underneath the feet) must be removed to pull the fan assembly out. The 60 mm fans are secured with a pair of bolts each so physically swapping them out is not a problem. However, the fans use 2-pin connectors for power, so some work has to be done to adapt more common 3-pin fans.

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.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The SilverStone TS431U is a basic a 4-bay enclosure, not a server or a NAS with RAID functionality for sharing data with multiple systems. It's a dumb box for local storage only, suitable for on-site backup or if you simply need to expand the storage of a desktop or a laptop that stays mostly in one location. Build quality is easily its biggest strength as it's well-built with a tight fitting frame, a snazzy aluminum door, and a surprisingly secure drive mount/release system.

The power supply built into the back of the unit leads to a few different issues. Its takes up a considerable amount of space inside the chassis, making the enclosure unusually deep. The power supply also isn't as efficient as a quality class V external brick like the one included with the Mediasonic ProBox. Its presence further restricts the front-to-back airflow path and requires cooling, so the exhaust fans have to pull double duty. Without it, the chassis would be much smaller and they could have employed lower speed fans. The fans are fairly loud and while they can be replaced or modified, it would take some work due to the use of 2-pin connectors.

While I adore the SilverStone TS431U's tool-less drive mounting system and overall construction, it's hard to beat more affordable competition like the Mediasonic ProBox. The ProBox is sleeker, more efficient, and most importantly, it's considerably cheaper. The TS431U sells for about US$150 while the ProBox can be had for a mere US$90. Unfortunately, the TS431U doesn't offer enough value or any killer feature to justify the extra cost.

Our thanks to SilverStone for the TS431U enclosure sample.

* * *

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