It's been a long time since we've last reviewed a hard drive enclosure. There's a reason for this, and the truth is there really isn't a whole lot that makes these products unique from one another. Sure, some have fancy glowing lights, or feature some sort of special cooling, but when you've seen one USB enclosure, you've pretty much seen them all.
We've passed on some review offerings of FireWire enclosures, mostly because we didn't feel these were too far removed from USB. When Antec announced their MX-1 Actively Cooled Hard Drive Enclosure, we were a little more intrigued as this was an external Serial ATA (eSATA) enclosure. As some of you may know, eSATA is on par with regular SATA meaning that the performance potential is far greater than USB. The MX-1 does offer USB 2.0 connectivity as well, but as we'll see soon enough, eSATA is where the action is at.
Antec MX-1 Actively Cooled Hard Drive Enclosure
The Antec MX-1 HDD Enclosure is wrapped up securely in a packing bag and held in place by some cardboard inserts. The box itself is glossy and slick, displaying the MX-1 prominently and listing all the key features of the product. While the drive enclosure rested in one section, all the extra accessories occupied the adjacent space.
The MX-1 is an all black enclosure made up with both aluminum and plastic. The frame is carbon-glass reinforced making the MX-1 very solid and durable. It's not as heavy as our CoolMax CD-510-U2 enclosure, but it has a more solid feel to it. The MX-1 measures 21.9 x 14.6 x 5.7 cm and should have no problem resting on top of a standard sized ATX tower. The Antec logo is discreetly advertised on the front of the device, and isn't overloaded with product branding.
The aluminum has a brushed appearance, not unlike stainless steel appliances, and the carbon reinforcements give it a nice matte touch in contrast to the more shiny aluminum. Along with adding stability to the unit as described earlier, the extra material also serves to dampen some of the noise normally associated with hard drive vibrations.
The rear of the MX-1 has all of the connections required for data connectivity. From the left moving to the right, we have the main power connection, followed by the USB 2.0 connection, eSATA and the on/off button. As per Antec's instructions, you can use either the USB or the eSATA connection, but do not hook up both to your computer the same time.
The MX-1 supports any SATA hard drive up to 750GB. While the specifications do not say if 10 000RPM drives are supported, all 750GB drives currently max out at 7200RPM. The USB interface allows a maximum transfer rate of 480Mbps and the eSATA a whopping 3Gbps. No drivers for the MX-1 itself is required, though your SATA controller on the motherboard may need special drivers if they are not already installed. If it wasn't clear already, IDE hard drives are not supported by the MX-1.
Rounding out the rest of the package are some of the required and optional accessories.
The power supply is a two part device such as those found in most notebooks. The great thing about this design is it does not eat up as much space on the wall or powerbar as a single power supply. The downside to it is you now have two potential failure points instead of one.
A plastic stand can be used to prop the MX-1 on its side if space does not allow for the device to rest horizontally. Take some care when sliding the MX-1 in so you won't scratch it, but once it's in, it's a secure fit. In normal desktop traffic, the stand is quite stable though we would refrain from putting it on the edge of a desk or balancing it on an uneven surface.
Rounding things out are the cables. Both the USB and eSATA cables are of decent length, measuring about 2 feet each. The eSATA PCI bracket is simply an extension that plugs into any free SATA connection on the motherboard.
Installation and Interior
Installing a hard drive into the Antec MX-1 HDD Enclosure is as simple as undoing a few screws and installing the drive. The included instructions are very clear, with decently sized pictures demonstrating the procedure.
To access the MX-1's interior, all you need to do is remove one Phillips screw and slide the aluminum cover off.
Inside, the interior is lined with a silicon pad which reduces some of the hard drive noise. The cooling fan is designed to draw in exterior air and blow it directly into the motor area of the hard drive which happens to generate the most heat. The fan operates at 22dBA, and when the MX-1 is fully sealed, the noise level drops to 20dBA... without the hard drive. This is worth pointing out that while the MX-1 itself is not noisy, the overall noise of a fully operational MX-1 will vary depending on the type of hard drive you install.
The circuit board inside the MX-1 is for the SATA chip as well as regulating the power for the drive and fan.
The SATALink SPIF215A-HF021 chipset is a native solution and is one of the best performers on the market. As mentioned earlier, no drivers are needed in any version of Windows post-2000.