I-Rocks IR-9300 3.5" HDD Enclosure
I would like to thank I-Rocks for providing the review sample.
I-Rocks offers a complete line of HDD enclosures in all sizes and with all types of connections. Besides these enclosures, you will also find input devices like mice and keyboards from the company. But that is not all, as there are a lot of different USB based PC accessories being offered by I-Rocks as well. We get to take a look at the I-Rock IR-9300 Combo drive, which features USB 2.0 and Firewire connectivity. Interstingly enough, their website does not mention firewire at all, just the USB 2.0 is listed.
There are two colors availble, black/silver and silver/blue. I-Rock sent us the black & silver variant for testing.
Package & Contents
The packaging pictures the enclosure and lets the potential buyer know of its main features. While the top left corner only mentiones USB connectivity, an additional sticker lets the customer know that this enclosure also features firewire. The back lists the features in detail in three different languages.
The enclosure itself is placed inside a bubblewrap bag and sealed with a "PASS" sticker. The rest of the contents are found under the IR-9300 in a seperated compartement.
I-Rock has included everything needed. There is a silver, plastic stand, a bag of screws, a 8 cm driver CD, all nessesary cables and a very small power supply. This is the second time we have seen such a small PSU. The Akasa Integral! Fusion which we reviewed here featured such a small PSU as well. The USB 2.0 and Firewire cables are both about 1m long. This is fairly short and my not be sufficient, if your PC is standing under the table, with the enclosure on the desk.
The case itself is constructed of aluminum, while both ends are made out of plastic. This makes the enclosure relatively long. While the space may be needed for the rear part, as that is where the PCB is located, there is no reason for the front plastic part to be so long.
A Closer Look
The front seems to have no functionalty when looked at from up top. The buttom of the front actually holds the open switch. If you move the lever over in the direction of the arrow, the back of the case pops up. It is that simple to gain access to case. Very nice!
The back features a power switch, the USB upstream port, two firewire plugs and the PSU connector. The four screws used to secure the PCB to the back are of some special kind and look like small hex screws. I did not have any tools which could have been used on these.
Once the open lever is moved, the back pops out about one inch and can be pulled out completely.
The inards of the case are made out of plastic. This does work, but the plastic used has a very cheap feel to it.
The power brick is made by "Sunny" and rated at 2.0A output. It does feel solid and heavy. It also does not emit any kind of noise or ticking sound when plugged in. The one thing of concern is the lack of certification logos. This may be the case, as I-Rock has shipped the wrong kind of PSU for Germany/Austria and such certifications are not required where this PSU was intended to be used. I had no trouble using it as it accepts an input of 100V-240V.
To install the hard drive, the cables were connected first, and then the HDD was placed upside down onto the tray. Next the drive was secured with the supplied screws. The tray then slides back into the casing perfectly, closing with a clicking sound, as the open lever snappes into place.
The I-Rock IR-9300 has LEDs on the side of the case. the right side lights up in a very bright blue LED. This means the enclosure is on. The left side has a very dim read LED, which denotes hard drive access. A better balance of brightness between the two would have been nice.
Since I-Rock included a CD with drivers, I had to try it out. The CD contains a single setup file. Turns out, it installs the drivers for Windows 98.
A Samsung T133 300GB 8MB cache 7200RPM drive was used for our performance tests.
The USB interface is quite constant at 26MB/s throughout the entire drive. This is not very fast compared to other USB 2.0 hard drive enclosures.
This image shows how the hard drive behaves when hooked up directly to the IDE channel (blue) compared to the USB speed achieved (red). As you can see, the Samsung hard drive is always faster on IDE compared to USB 2.0.
The ATTO Disk Benchmark gives us the same results as HD Tach. The IR-9300 Combo maxes out at just over 26MB/s.
The actual performance with Firewire is almost 10MB/s faster than USB 2.0. This means the the I-Rock actually performs very well on firewire. The CPU utilization went from 8% to 0%. You may notice the dip in performance toward the end of the benchmark. This is due to the Samsung drives outer reading speed being less than the performance of the firewire. This means that the hard drive became the bottleneck towards the outer edge of the performance test.
The ATTO scores show a large jump in read speed, while the write speed shows only a smal MB gain.
Value and Conclusion
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The I-Rocks IR-9300 Combo enclosure is just like a two sided coin. The enclosure is build with high quality aluminum on one hand and somewhat flimsy plastic on the other. The same goes for the LEDs. One side is nice and bright while the other is barely visible. Even the performance fits into that pattern. While the USB 2.0 is not very fast, the Firewire speed gives brand name enclosures some tough competition. If you are planning to use the IR-9300 combo on Firewire, by all means get this enclosure. If you are solely looking for USB 2.0 you may want to evaluate the slew offerings out there as well. Overall the I-Rocks IR-9300 combo works well and not so well, there is no other way to say it. But it certainly works and will get the job done.
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