By: Kenneth Kwok
June 21, 2013
It has been quite a while since I have had enough time to go over my huge backlog of tasks I wanted to complete. This week, I managed to catch up on some of the anime I wanted to watch this season. One anime many of my friends suggested is called "Hataraku Maou-sama!"; translated in English, it would be something along the lines of "The Devil is a Part-Timer!". When I first heard about this anime, and read the premise about how a demon lord on the verge of conquering some fantasy land ends up getting defeated by a hero and flees to modern day Japan, I was quite skeptical of the quality of such a show. The genre for "Hataraku Maou-sama!" is classified as a romantic comedy, which is something I would normally enjoy -- but I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did. In fact, I liked it so much, after watching a few episodes, I was quickly hooked and eagerly awaiting for upcoming episodes. If there was one thing to be taken from this, it would be to always judge something after experiencing the product itself. I am pretty sure I have said this multiple times before, but it really is true that you need to experience something before being able to fully understand it. Not only does this apply to shows or video games, but also to reviews as well. This week, we will be taking a look at a product from iStarUSA, an OEM known for making server racks and hot swap bays. It has been a long while since we last reviewed an iStarUSA product, so we look forward to seeing how their latest product stacks up. The iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER is one of these hot swap bays, and will be evaluated in depth in this week's review.
Our review unit of the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER came in a standard brown corrugated cardboard box from iStarUSA's American office in California, USA. The shipping method used was USPS via Canada Post in the United States up to our Vancouver, BC location here in Canada. The package arrived in good condition; both USPS and Canada Post handled the package very well, and kept the package safe from any noticeable damage during transportation. Although the retail box mostly fit the shipping box, some packing peanuts were also used to keep the box inside from moving around too much.
When it comes to design, the retail packaging for the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER is pretty bland. Usage of a white background with some gray and blue mixed in there doesn't really seem to jump out at you. Some people would say simplicity is the best -- well, minimalism is alive and well in this product packaging for sure. Anyway, on the top right, we have the product name "BPN-DE Series", and on the bottom right we have the iStarUSA logo/text. Only one thing really pops out, and that would be the product photo, found near the center. Interestingly, the picture of the blue version of the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS is used by default, but don't worry, the back of the box is marked off as the silver version.
Before we move on further in this review, let's take a look at the features and specifications, as obtained from iStarUSA's website:
- Aluminum Frame; light weight and durability design
- Support SAS I/II, SATA I/II/III 3.5" Hard Drives
- Data Transfer Rate up to 6.0 Gb/s
- 3TB Hard Drive Compatible
- Integrative shaping aluminum design for quickest heat dissipation
- Aluminum front bezel with metal key lock mechanism for security
- Removable fan cover for easy maintenance
- Cooling fan (70x70x15mm) with High/Low speed control
- LED for Power & HDD access
- Support Hot-Swap & Raid Configuration (need an additional RAID controller)
- Bezel Color Options: black/red/silver/blue
- Hot Swap: 3 x 3.5" HDD
- Cooling Fan: 1 x 70mm
- Standard Drive Bays: 5.25" Drive x 2
- Dimensions(W x H x D): 5.71 x 3.35 x 7.64 inches
- Material: Aluminum Design with Conductive Dissipation Grooves
- HDD Interface: SATA/SAS
- Weight: 2 lbs
- Cable: SATA Cable included (3 pcs)
After removing the small cardboard cover, we are greeted with the actual box that houses the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER. There really isn't too much to say here, other than the small white cardboard box is simplistic. The box opens easily after taking out the flap on the side, and opens as one would expect it to. Inside this box, we will find our hard drive hot swap bay and some accessories sandwiched between two foam brackets. With these brackets, everything inside the packaging does not move around, and stays in place as expected.
Removing the foam brackets, the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER is finally revealed to us, as well as some of the included accessories as well. Of course, we are most interested in the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER, which is sealed in plastic with a small instructional booklet found just above it. Included with the hot swap bay are some accessories, which include some screws, three SATA cables, and most importantly, the key used to lock the front bays. Since there is a need for security in enterprise and business usage, it is a great feature to have each drive bay come with its own locking mechanism. Nothing else can be found here save for these accessories and the product itself, which is already pretty fully stocked in terms of accessories and cables.
Looking at the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER from this angle, we can see the majority of the front of the product and the bottom as well. What I first noticed when I looked at this product was how refined the styling and how well built the drive bay was. Compared to the iStarUSA T5F-SS we reviewed years ago, there have been noticeable strides to improve the quality of their products. From the brushed black aluminum used to encase the entirety of the product to the stylish front, everything here looks great, and feels great. The build quality is also solid, with no sharp edges and no defects in the material itself.
The front of the product where the drive bays are accessible is where the design really shines. Our review unit was the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER in case you have missed it – which is the silver version, as its name suggests. The bezel on the right side of the drive bay doors is the color indicated at the end of the model number. Of all the possible colors, which include black, red, silver, and blue, we chose the silver version, as it most appealed to me. There are also a few holes on the silver bezel to allow for airflow through the device. The doors are easily opened using the plastic hinges on the side. In addition, there is also a lock for the drive bay doors, as that is very important in some settings as mentioned before. We will delve deeper into installation of hard drives later on in our review.
Going to the back of the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER, we can see the part that will be housed inside the computer chassis. On the left, there is a moderately sized 70mm fan. Given the size of this product, the inclusion of a 70mm fan seems just right, as it is just big enough to fit on to the back without having it protruding too much. This fan protrudes by at most 20mm from the rest of the product, and should do an adequate job of cooling our three hard drives. Other than the holes in front and the opening for the fan, there is no other room for air to dissipate except through the aluminum. Hopefully your computer case used will have enough cooling to draw the air back out of this area quickly, since a lot of heat will be generated if three hard drives are all in use at once.
On the right side, we have all the different connectors that need to be attached to different components inside the computer. Starting from the left, we have three SATA ports for the three separate drive bays arranged in a vertical configuration going from the top bay to the bottom bay. Next to that, we have two SATA power connectors for powering up our device, which would include powering both the hard drives and the exhaust fan. Lastly, we have two switches; the one on top is for enabling and disabling the HDD activity lights, and the second one on the bottom is for adjusting the fan speed between high and low. The low setting can be chosen for builds that have a good amount of cooling, and a little bit of excess heat won't hurt the thermal capacity of the system -- while the high setting is used if the heat may become a problem or if all three drives are constantly used at once.
Installation of the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER was a straightforward process. The whole enclosure just needs to be slid into place. The hot swap bay enclosure takes up two normal 5.25" drive slots, and can house three 3.5" hard drives. After pushing the drive bay into place, all one has to do is to secure the drive bay with the included screws, or in our case our screw-less installation system inside of our NZXT H2 chassis. When the bay is secured, all that is left is to plug in the three SATA cables, and the two SATA power cables. When that is all completed, the drive bay is ready to be used. With installation complete, I can say the style and refinement of the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER is very agreeable, and mixes very well with the rest of our system.
When it comes to actually using the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER, it does not disappoint at all. Accessing the drive bay is as easy as popping open the front panel using the spring lock mechanism by simply pulling up on the plastic handle. Next, we just need to insert the hard drive, and then close the front door back up, and we have completely installed our hard drive. This is the main reason people use these hot swap bays, as they provide simplicity and ease of access. Taking a hard drive back out is just as easy, due to the spring lock that pops the drive back out when you open up the front door to any of the drives. Two keys are also provided with the package, which allows users to lock up the individual drive doors and discourage people from removing the drives. Although it may not be too useful for home usage, in an enterprise environment, or even taking your PC to a LAN party, security is important. My only concern with this device overall is the noise emitted from the fan, since it is fairly small at 70mm, a slight buzzing can be heard on high. It is more acceptable when the fan is set to the speed setting of low, but the lack of vibration dampeners seems to hurt it a bit when the drives start spinning up.
All in all, the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER is a great offering for those looking for a hot swap drive bay enclosure. Using only two 5.25" drive bays to convert them into room for three 3.5" drives is a great feature for many users who need to have hard drives in and out of their computers very often. Starting from the impressive looking polished black aluminum construction, with the included colored bezel that further adds to the sophisticated look, and solid construction throughout, iStarUSA has definitely stepped up their game when it comes to design and execution of products. Installation was a breeze and completely painless, especially if you are using a screw-less installation system such as in our setup. The backside also has more than enough features, which include the ability to disable the HDD activity light and adjusting the fan speed. There is only one thing that sets the product back, and that would be the noise that is produced from the 70mm fan. This is due to the fan being so small, having it run on high can be quite noisy at times, and the lack of vibration dampeners doesn't help in that regard. All in all, the iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER is a great product, and has a very high potential in today's market.
iStarUSA provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.7/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The iStarUSA BPN-DE230SS-SILVER is a fully featured and great looking 3.5” hot swap drive bay rack if noise is not a concern.
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