|IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Network Storage Device|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Monday, 28 November 2011|
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Closer Look: IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE
The NetDISK 351UNE is a single-disk device, supporting all standard 3.5" SATA drives. SATA I, II, and III are supported, primarily because each new revision of the SATA standard has been backward compatible with the previous one. The physical enclosure is a bit larger than a typical external HDD unit, and it has feet molded into the case rather than a separate stand or holder. Gone are the days when you needed to keep an HDD in the same orientation that it was formatted in, but for heat reasons it's probably best to keep the 351UNE in the vertical position. The unit is very well ventilated, which you'll see as we look at all the various angles, and cooling is entirely passive. There is no fan included in the enclosure, which helps keep down the noise. Small fans tend to create the most irritating noises, so I definitely appreciate the passive approach here, even if it means some HDD chatter leaks out of the enclosure.
Both sides of the NetDISK 351UNE are about the same, as far as appearance goes, although one of the sides is a removable piece. The entire external surface is produced from injection-molded plastic, which is a step down from some of the nicely detailed aluminum drive enclosures available on the market. Considering the ultra-low cost of this unit, compared to its high level of functionality, it's no surprise that any extra bling was left on the designer's drawing board. In my case, all the routers and switches in my house are stuffed into a corner, closest to the telecom gateway. In a perfect world, I never have to pay any attention to that corner of the room, with the exception of a good cleaning every now and then. Oh wait, in a perfect world I never need to clean the house.... As a result, looks don't matter as much to me, for this type of device. An external drive enclosure tends to be located closer to the user's workspace and gets handled every now and then, so bright-and-shiny makes more sense for them.
The back of the NetDISK 351UNE is where all the goodies are, the front just has two LEDS for Power and Access status. Going from left to right (which is actually top to bottom), the first port you encounter is the 1000BASE-T Ethernet jack, with the standard RJ45 8 Position Modular Connector. Two LEDs are present in the corners, which helps verify that you have a physical connection and the devices are communicating. Next up is an eSATA connector that allows you to use the 351UNE as a simple direct-attached-storage device. The last option is a mini-B USB jack, which operates at USB 2.0 speeds of 480 Mbps. Finally, there are the 12VDC power connector and the On/Off switch, which reside at the bottom of the unit. It's important to note that only one of the data ports can be used at any time. There is a hardware hierarchy, where the eSATA port takes precedence over the other two, even if they are plugged in, but it's best just to have one cable plugged in at a time.
The bottom of the NetDISK has four good-sized feet, with rubber inserts covering the full footprint of each one. The Philips head screws in the center of the top two feet are there to secure the two halves of the enclosure together. They thread directly into the plastic of the bottom half; there are no metal inserts, so be careful not to strip them upon re-assembly. The front and rear portions of the bottom surface have ventilation holes, which is very useful for cooling off the system board that is located at the rear of the unit. In the center is the product label, which wouldn't normally garner a mention, but it has the Device ID and "Write Key" located on it. You need these to register the device on the network, and they aren't documented anywhere else in the manual or in any other packing materials. Best to write them down somewhere safe, which for me usually means someplace that I can't remember after about a month has passed.
The box contains everything you need to get the NetDISK 351UNE up and running, minus the hard drive. Cables are provided for each of the three possible interfaces, and they are decent quality, if a little short. There is a set of screws to hold the user-supplied HDD in place on the drive tray inside the unit, and a nominal screwdriver that seemed like it was one size too small, i.e. a Philips 'Size 0' instead of a 'Size 1'. The power supply is a standard two-prong Chinese wall wart rated for 120-240VAC on the input and 12VDC and 2.5A of current on the output.
A Quick Installation Guide and a driver disk are enclosed, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the driver version on the CD-ROM was up to date. The internal packaging was all cardboard, and recyclable. There's nothing inside that's particularly shock sensitive, so the packaging was completely adequate for protecting the contents.
At the end of the install, this is what the inside of the unit will look like. The HDD is tightly contained within the metal drive tray, and it is connected directly to SATA power and signal jacks that are mounted to the system board. There are no cables to mess with, thankfully; they've been somewhat annoying on some of the external HDD enclosures I've used in the past. Everything lined up reasonably well when it was time to slide all the pieces together and bolt it all down. Once I put the cover back on, there were no rattles, and everything seemed solid. Because of all the empty space inside, it didn't have the "brick" feeling that smaller, metal enclosures have, but it still felt rugged enough to transport freely.
Now that we've had a thorough tour of the exterior, let's go back to the beginning of the build process, do a full tear-down and see what the insides look like. The next section covers Insider Details.