Silverstone MS04

Introduction

Whenever I think/hear of the name ‘Silverstone’ I think of an extreme aluminium fetish. Far from being a bad thing, every product that they make has a fair percentage of the ultra light metal in it. The MS04 external HDD enclosure is no different, the curved body and inner tray is their trademark brushed aluminium. Whilst it is undeniably sexy, let’s see whether it performs as well…

Specs

The Silverstone MS04 is a versatile 3.5” hard drive enclosure with excellent thermal and functional properties. It has both USB 2.0 (backwards compatible with USB 1.0) and Firewire (IEEE1394) connections for wide range of applications. With its unique two Firewire ports, it is possible to daisy-chain the MS04 for more storage options or simply to retain a free Firewire port in the system. Built from exquisitely crafted all aluminium and finely brushed, the MS04 has a finish that matches the best hi-fi components in the world. Its enclosure is not only beautiful, but also designed to accommodate hi-end IDE drives with abundant cooling. To complete the package, a vertical stand is also included to create a mobile storage solution that is both practical to place anywhere and stylish!

Enclosure material

Aluminum

Color

Black

Silver

Dimension

142mm (W) x 40mm (H) x 223mm (D)

Power requirement

34W AC to DC adapter (included)

Cooling system

Open vents and 30mm fan

Fan size

30 x 30 x 10mm

Fan airflow

3.10CFM

Fan noise

18.9dBA

Fan lifetime

25,000 hours

Drive size support

3.5”

Drive interface support

Enhanced IDE, ATA/ATAPI-6

Drive support

Up to 48-bit addressing for large hard drive

IDE support mode

PIO modes 0, 2, 4 and UDMA modes 2, 4

Enclosure interface

USB 2.0 (480Mbps), Firewire IEEE1394 (400Mbps)

Operating system support

Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP, Mac OS

MS04, not another superbug

Silverstone MS04
Silverstone MS04

The MS04 is packed in the standard Silverstone box and the front lists the products specs, and has a picture of the MS04 itself. The rear of the box gives you a little blurb about the product and all its attributes. This particular model is the black version, although there is a ‘virgin’ silver aluminium coloured one as well.

Silverstone MS04

Inside, you’ll find a plethora of attachments and wires. You get a power block with a standard UK plug cable, screws and self-adhesive rubber pads, a USB cord, a FireWire cord, the MS04 itself, a manual and the vertical stand.

Silverstone MS04

The curved body of the MS04 is an interesting take on the rather boring external hard disc enclosure market. The body is extruded aluminium and there are several air vents along the body stopping your HDD sweating inside. There is a huge shiny Silverstone logo that adds even more class to the unit; if you buy this unit, you want people to know who made it.

Silverstone MS04
Silverstone MS04

At the front, there is a large oval shaped vent which hides a tiny fan behind. There are two LED’s, blue and red which show power and hard disc activity respectively. The edges of this front and the back are all bevelled and aren’t anodised black, but left chrome shiny. The back of the MS04 has cut outs allowing you to connect the power, USB cord, FireWire and to turn the enclosure off when not in use.

Silverstone MS04
Silverstone MS04

Interestingly, the enclosure doesn’t allow SATA hard discs to be mounted. This seems odd for such an awesome looking product; you would have thought Silverstone would have at least given you the option. Silverstone say that people will be using the enclosure for their older IDE drives and use the newer SATA type in their PC’s. Also USB can’t fully utilise the bandwidth that SATA has to offer. This to me seems like a bit of an assumption, rather than solid market research.

There also isn’t the option to connect the enclosure via e-SATA which is the faster protocol compared to either FireWire or USB. That said, the uptake of offering e-SATA hasn’t been huge and there is yet to be a significant market for it.

After removing the front two screws (which were quite tight, and the black paint got scratched off) you can side the tray out that you put the hard disc in. Again this is made of aluminium and is matt black in colour. You find the short IDE cable, and the right-angle elbow molex connector to power your HDD.

Silverstone MS04
Silverstone MS04

As HDD enclosures go, this is by far the most attractive and looks very ‘business man’ professional. This is definitely not something that you would be ashamed of having on your desk.

Installation

To install a new hard disc, you first have to remove the front two screws and pull out the tray. You then simply slot your hard disc in, and screw it in using the supplied screws on the side. The rubber self-adhesive pads come into play here as you can use them to prevent vibrations from the HDD being transferred to the enclosure itself.

Once it’s all installed, you have the fun task of sliding the tray back in. You have to line the tray up with the grooves in the side of the main case, and then have to watch out that the cables on the bottom of the tray don’t get caught on anything. After a few tries the MS04 was ready to go.

Silverstone MS04

The front LED’s are attached to the case by hot melt glue, and the top blue LED fell off whilst I was installing the hard disc. A little ‘studio engineering’ soon got it back in place (read: impact adhesive).

Testing

The MS04 will be tested using a Western Digital 80GB IDE hard disc which is probably the size of disc that the MS04 would be used for.

I tested the hard disc directly connected to my PC used SiSoftware Sandra Lite XIb. I also tested a SATA version of that hard disc (80GB Western Digital 80GB SATA) and a 160GB Western Digital 160GB SATA for comparison.

The MS04 will be up against the Viso Luxon HDD enclosure which we reviewed a while ago. Only the IDE results were taken as the MS04 can’t support SATA HDD’s.

Each test was repeated three times and the results averaged for fair and accurate results. If one of these tests was very different from the others. The whole set of tests were scrapped and the testing repeated.

Silverstone MS04

As you can see, the results are on par with the Luxon enclosure when using USB. The graph in Sandra showed that this speed was continuous across the whole drive, implying that the USB connection is limiting the transfer speed; this was the same for both enclosures.

Once the MS04 was switched over to FireWire, it left the Luxon lagging behind by a clear 8 mb/s. If you have a FireWire port, then you’ll definitely want to opt for using it although access times are slightly increased. As switching from USB to FireWire added extra speed, it shows that the connection is limiting factor, as the drives full potential ~50mb was far from fully utilised.

The front of the MS04 looks awesome when in use due to the bright LED’s. The blue LED signifies power on, while the lower red LED shows hard disc activity. Speaking of activity, the front fan behind the grill doesn’t make any noise at all, but at the same time, doesn’t really pump a viable amount of air. It seems rather pointless, as the drive doesn’t support SATA, so you can’t put any high temperature drives in (e.g. Western Digital Raptor). A better idea would be to use a larger coaxial fan at the front that fully uses the space at the front of the enclosure.

Silverstone MS04
Silverstone MS04

The desktop stand is great for anyone who doesn’t want the MS04 to get scratched. The inside of the stand has little rubber strips that grab the curved edge of the unit and stop it from slipping out or being scratched.

Silverstone MS04

Pricing

The MS04 retails for £45-49.99. This is a lot more than your average enclosure. However, most enclosures don’t have the styling and presence that the MS04 has. This is obviously an upmarket choice for an otherwise uninteresting product type. The whole package is strudy and feels like it is expensive, you are definitely getting your monies worth.

Conclusion

Hard drive enclosures are becoming more and more necessary as data sizes increase. Silverstone have done an excellent job of styling an enclosure for the more discerning customer. However, the lack of SATA drive support and e-SATA connectivity bring down its overall usefulness.

If you are looking for not only a fast enclosure, but an eye-catching design, choose the Silverstone MS04.

ProsCons
Looks sexyTroublesome installation
Fast over FireWireNot the cheapest
Desktop standOnly IDE

I’d like to thank Silverstone for providing us with this HDD enclosure.

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