Intelligent Design Enhance Mobile RackReview date: 18 November 1998 Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Well, you’ve got to give Enhance credit for impressive product naming.
The box of their SI-145 removable hard drive dingus is emblazoned with more impressive slogans ("PROTECT YOUR HDD MORE SAFELY"; "Thermal Prevention Design"; "SUPER Mobile Rack"…) than the average megawatt-stereo boom car. Unfortunately, the product itself gives you more of the features you don’t need and fewer of the features you do, and ends up being rather poor value for money.
Removable hard disk cradles aren’t new. Pull-out drive mount gear has been around for years, and the basic design remains the same – a cradle you screw into your computer like a 5.25 inch hard drive and connect the power and data cables to, and a tray in which you mount the 3.5 inch hard drive itself. The tray duplicates the connectors plugged into the cradle - in this case, the power and high-density Wide SCSI connectors; IDE, regular SCSI and SCA fibre channel versions of the SI-145 are also available. The tray slots into the cradle when the drive is needed and slides out like a removable car stereo when you want to pack the drive away or take it to another computer.
Features, features everywhere
Enhance’s effort has some novel features. The SI-145 has an LCD display on the front that tells the user how hot the drive is, and the total length of time it’s been powered up for, and the 12V and 5V supply voltages, and even the time. It’s got a little fan at the back of the cradle that runs all the time, and another little fan at the front of the holder that kicks in when the temperature of the drive exceeds a user-configurable margin. It’s also got a barrel lock to keep the drive secure (the lock is spring-loaded, so it’s impossible to leave the key in it). There’s a warning buzzer for error conditions. And the included documentation, while in somewhat broken English, covers the mounting and display control procedures adequately.
Unfortunately, that’s the end of the good news. This product costs $250 including tax. For that kind of money, you expect top-flight workmanship, and no problems. The Mobile Rack doesn’t measure up.
For a start, there are unnecessary features. The thermostat-controlled front fan is a nice idea, but the power consumption and noise output of a 40mm slimline fan such as is used here are negligible in an ordinary PC. If the fan’s a good quality unit it should last for years, and if it isn’t you shouldn’t be using it. There’s thus no reason to include a temperature-controlled fan; you might as well run it all the time. I suppose it’s nice to know how hot your drive is, though.
The clock feature is odd, as every computer in the world knows what time it is and usually displays said time on screen by default. And the elapsed-time counter is a really silly feature. The manual grandly calls it a Mean Time Between Failures display, which it blooming well isn’t, because it doesn’t let you average failure times, and it doesn’t know when a drive has failed. All it tells you is how long the Mobile Rack has been powered up since the last time you pressed the timer reset button. You’re rather unlikely to kill enough hard drives to need such a grim device anyway, but even if you do, this isn’t it.
The tray has no shock-absorbing components between it and the hard drive. This is a serious omission; any removable drive gadget worth its salt should have rubber grommets between the drive and the tray, because any drive that’s plugged and unplugged a lot will, eventually, get knocked around.
The cast-aluminium frame and drive holder mate fairly smoothly, but the powder-coated steel slide-off top and bottom panels on the holder aren’t as good. The top panel on the review unit failed to slide quite all the way forward, preventing the drive holder from seating completely into the cradle unless you slid back the bottom panel a bit and pushed up on the middle of the top panel’s front edge. This is easy enough to do, until you’ve actually mounted a hard drive in the holder. Then the drive gets in the way of your finger.
This is a product for people who appreciate blinking lights and buttons
over actual usefulness. Enhance make simpler versions of the Mobile Rack;
the SI-146, for instance, lacks the unnecessary electronics and doesn’t
come as standard with a second fan, but you can add one. If losing the silly
features takes a big bite out of the price, that’d make the SI-146 a much
better product than the SI-145. No matter what the box says.
Price: $250 inc. tax.