by Andrey Kuznetcov
11/13/2005 | 08:07 PM
If your system case is not big enough for an additional hard disk drive or an optical drive, this article may be exactly about a product you are looking for. We are going to tell you today about an external USB 2.0 enclosure that may help you resolve this problem. We have already reviewed a couple of similar solutions in the past, so the today’s hero will not be studies carefully under the magnifying glass but will also be compared against the solutions tested previously.
The moment we removed the enclosure from the box we got a very pleasant impression of a solid well-made product. And the more we looked at it, the stronger this confidence got. There is every reason for this positive experience. The aluminum plates used for the enclosure case are thick enough and are very well finished. You can be absolutely sure that this device will stand any reasonable mechanical impacts and will protect the HDD or the optical drive installed into it. Here I would also like to say that we really liked the high-tech exterior design of this device: the developer really did a great job on the elegant lines and decorative elements that look very fashionable against the silver background of the casing. The overall design of the enclosure is very well-planned.
In order to ensure that the enclosure will sit firmly when positioned horizontally on the desk surface, there are four miniature “legs” made of rubber plastic. If you decided to set the device vertically in a special stand that goes with it, you will also find that it is equipped with pads that will prevent the stand from sliding along the desk surface. The front of the enclosure is covered with a panel that is as thick as the rest of the casing. When you need to install the storage device inside, you will first remove this panel by unscrewing two screws inside the enclosure.
There is a Power On button on the rear panel of the enclosure, the power supply connector and a USB port. There are also two sets of vent holes. Their size and amount will guarantee sufficient cooling even if there is no fan at all (the enclosure doesn’t have a fan by default thus ensuring silent operation of the drives installed in it).
At the top of the casing there is the major peculiarity of the Muse enclosure: it is the data transfer indicator. There is a transparent round window glowing blue when active, that looks very much like the battery charge status indicator in a car. The needle-pointer that moves along the scale when the data is transferred, the user can get an idea of the data stream intensity. There is a button on one of the casing side panels that releases the cover and opens the enclosure. If you are installing a regular 3.5” hard drive, you can use four rods with rubber washers at the bottom of the enclosure to fasten it. The HDD sits on these rods and is pressed with an anti-shock rubber frame at the top. This padding frame is glued to the top cover of the enclosure. This way the hard disk drive is locked reliably inside the enclosure and is also protected against vibrations during operation. Since the rods stand out above the bottom of the chassis, there is some free room between the bottom panel and the HDD that ensures sufficient cooling of the latter.
If you are using a 5.25” storage device, there are two brackets that are locked in specifically shaped up gaps, with no screws necessary. The enclosure is quite large and heavy so you wouldn’t really want to move it around a lot and use it as portable “on-the-go” companion. Its most optimal application is to serve as a common external storage device that couldn’t fit into the system unit.
Now l;et me say a few words about the technical specifications of this device. It supports IDE/USB 2.0 interfaces. It uses Cypress AT2+ chip. The enclosure can accommodate 5.25” optical storage devices as well as 3.5” hard disk drives. The enclosure is 270mm x 178mm x 55mm big and weighs 1,536g.
The enclosure is supplied with a vertical stand, power supply unit and a power cable, a USB cable, two metal brackets for 5.25” devices mounting, rubber padding, user’s manual and a CD disk with the drivers.
Thermaltake Muse enclosure is currently selling for approximately $62.
To test the performance and efficiency of the Thermaltake enclosure we installed into it a Hitachi HDS722525VLAT80 hard disk drive. The potential performance of this HDD allows to load the USB 2.0 interface to the full extent. We evaluated the efficiency of this enclosure solution basing on the results taken from the HDD installed into it. Besides, we have also tested it with a LiteOn SOHW-1653S optical drive (CS09 firmware version) by measuring the DVD-ROM disk read speed.
During our test session we used the following benchmarks:
The testbed was configured as follows:
During our tests we connected the device to the mainboard USB 2.0 port.
We will start discussing the WinBench99 results with the internal data transfer rate graph. The screenshot you see indicates that in this case the maximum data transfer rate via the USB 2.0 interface is limited at the 32MB/s. we can state that the straight transfer graph shows that we cannot use up the entire performance potential of the HDD installed into the enclosure. Now let’s take a look at a more detailed results report:
At first let check out the NTFS file system, when the entire HDD was formatted. Note that on all diagrams the results are sorted out according to the highest High-End Disk WinMark score. As we can see, the Thermaltake Muse enclosure appeared the second fastest solution in our race.
Another diagram shows the performance of our test hard disk drive when it was formatted for NTFS file system, but only 32GB of storage space were actually involved. Of course, the performance of all the tested enclosures has grown somewhat bigger in this case. Although I have to admit that Thermaltake Muse didn’t benefit that much in this case, and its performance grew not as significantly as that of its rivals. Therefore it appeared the third fastest this time.
Now let’s discuss the results obtained in FAT32 file system. When the entire storage space of the hard drive was involved, the WinMark results by Thermaltake Muse appeared lower than those of most its opponents. Although, we have to admit that this is not a dramatic failure.
The test performed on only 32GB of storage space didn’t actually reveal any new results. Again Thermaltake Muse enclosure is falling behind the competitors. This time however, it manages to get one position up in the ranks.
As usual, the major testing tool for singling out the fastest HDD enclosure is our own FC-Test. This benchmarking utility measures the time it takes to create (i.e. to write), to read and to copy several sets of files that differ in size and number of files included. Knowing this time we can calculate the speed of the drive.
The Windows and Programs patterns consist of many smaller files, while the other three patterns include just a few files but of larger size. Two 32GB partitions are created on the drive for the copy operations and the file patterns are first copied within the same partition (copy near) and then from one partition to another (copy far).
We will start with NTFS file system.
The first diagram shows how fast the testing participants can cope with file creation. Thermaltake Muse enclosure didn’t win this time, but fell just a little bit behind the winners, occupying the third or fourth position in all patterns.
The read speed test doesn’t show anything new. Our main hero is no winner again, but it is still minimally behind the leaders.
Thermaltake solution is not the fastest during file copying within the same partition. But the overall situation is again quite ok: it is just a tiny bit behind the rivals.
Here the situation is not any different again. Thermaltake Muse seems to be confidently behind the leaders in all patterns, but it doesn’t allow the gap to grow any bigger.
Now let’s take a closer look at the results obtained in FAT32 file system.
On the first diagram we see that during file creation (writing) the performance of the Hitachi HDD installed into Thermaltake Muse enclosure is lower than in case it is installed into any other external chassis we tested. It is performing especially slow when we have a pattern consisting of a lot of smaller files. In this case Thermaltake Muse turned out the slowest of all.
During file reading our hero manages to show better results. Although it cannot outperform the rivals, it is just a little bit behind the fastest solutions.
File copying within the same partition shows that Thermaltake Muse cannot work fast enough in patterns where a lot of smaller files are involved. In the three other cases it looks more attractive, but still finishes only as the fifth fastest out of 6 testing participants.
When we copy files from one partition to another Thermaltake Muse falls quite far behind the competitors. Again, just like in the previous cases, it is especially noticeable when there are a lot of smaller files involved.
I have to stress right away that the tests carried out with a DVD-drive installed into the Thermaltake Muse Enclosure was a secondary means of revealing its actual operational efficiency. As you understand, the maximum data transfer rate of 16x during the DVD-ROM reading is lower than the data transfer rate a contemporary hard disk drive can provide. We can only state that the LiteOn SHOW-1653S drive was immediately recognized by the OS and could run at the top of its abilities. I can state with quite a bit of certainty that all other DVD-ROM drives will also work just fine when installed into Thermaltake Muse Enclosure.
We have just introduced to you and tested an external enclosure from Thermaltake, which appeared a very interesting solution from the design prospective. Elegant looks, smart design of the external chassis definitely caught our eye. As for the efficiency of this solution when there is a HDD installed into it, it didn’t manage to win in any of the benchmarks especially against the background of the alternative products offered by other manufacturers. It performed somewhat better if the HDD was formatted for NTFS file system, especially if there are mostly small files involved. I will not argue about the efficiency and value of such device as a data transfer rate indicator. All I can say is that it is an originally looking detail that can make this device somewhat more attractive externally. The size and weight of the device make it absolutely unsuitable for portable needs and frequent transportation. It will most likely suit those users who do not have enough space inside their system case for an additional hard drive. However, I seriously doubt that you will feel like getting yourself a Muse like that, because if its relatively high price.
Those of you who got excited about the Thermaltake Muse enclosures would probably need to know that the company also offers different form-factors of this device, namely the enclosures that will suit for 3.5” and 2.5” storage products. Of course, they are o smaller size, but feature the same attractive exterior design. They will certainly occupy less desk space than the baby we talked about today.