The SilverStone TS431U is a basic 4-bay USB 3.0/eSATA external enclosure that’s built like a SilverStone case.
February 11, 2016 by Lawrence Lee
|3.5-Inch External Hard Drive Enclosure|
Though mostly known for the cases and power supplies, SilverStone sells a variety of storage devices and accessories. The TS431U external enclosure sets itself apart in that it’s built and styled in SilverStone fashion, lending a bit of panache to an otherwise utilitarian product type. There are plenty of multi-bay enclosures on the market but most of them are designed for function rather than form, sort of like how PC cases used to look in the boring beige box era.
The TS431U is built like a tank but is graced with a classy SilverStone brush aluminum door. It’s a plug and play device supporting up to four 3.5-inch drives and is cooled by two 60 mm fans at the back. Like most enclosures of this type, it can connect either through USB 3.0 or eSATA. The TS431U is one of three SKUs that use the same chassis design. The TS431S and TS432U are identical except that the former uses a miniSAS interface, and the latter has a front control panel and RAID functionality.
The TS431U on the otherhand, is just a basic enclosure that expands the storage capacity of whatever PC it’s connected to, effectively adding four hard drive bays, only externally rather than internally. I personally use such a device to perform regular local backups of my desktop as an alternative to having a dedicated backup NAS running on the network. The TS431U similarly has no network capability, so it can’t share data with other machines, nor are there any redundancy features (RAID).
The TS431U ships with ~100 cm long USB 3.0 and eSATA cables and a slightly longer power cord. No external power brick is provided as the entire power supply unit is incorporated into the internal design. A software disc is included but there’s nothing on it for the TS431U except for the manual.
Specifications: SilverStone TS431U
product web page)
|Enclosure Material||Aluminum + SECC|
|Cooling System||60mm fan x 2|
|HDD Drive Support||SATA III/SATA II/SATA I|
|Certifications||CE, FCC, RoHS compliance|
|Power Supply||Internal universal power supply switch (115V/230V) |
Input: AC 100-130V/200-260V, 50Hz/60Hz
Output: DC +5V/6A +12V/11A
|Drive Support||3.5″ HDD/SDD|
|Minimum System Requirements||Windows XP, Vista, 7 |
Mac OS 10.x
Linux Kernel 2.6.31 or above
Computer with SuperSpeed USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 interface
|Enclosure interface||USB 3.0 (Max. 5Gbps) compatible with USB 2.0 |
eSATA (Max. 3Gbps)
|LED Indicator||Power LED – Blue for power on |
HDD status LED – Blue for HDD detected
Red flashing for HDD access
|Dimension||266mm (D) x 187mm (W) x 130mm (H)|
|Environment||Operating Temperature: 5°C ~ 35°C |
Operating Humidity: 20%RH ~ 80%RH
Storage Temperature: -20°C ~ 50°C
Storage Humidity: 20%RH ~ 80%RH
|Accessories||TS431U (hard drives not included) |
USB 3.0 cable x 1
e-SATA cable x 1
Power cord x 1
User manual x 1
The SilverStone TS431U exterior is composed of a brush aluminum door and a steel chassis. It weighs approximately 3.3 kg or 7.3 lb and measures 13.0 x 18.7 x 26.6 cm or 5.1 x 7.4 x 10.5 in (H x W x D). Its footprint is quite large for a device of this type as the power supply resides inside the enclosure.
USB 3.0-Connected System Configuration:
- Intel Core i5-4690K processor – 3.4 GHz (3.8 GHz with Turbo
Boost), 22nm, 84W
- Scythe Kotetsu CPU cooler
- ASUS Z97I-PLUS motherboard – Intel Z97 chipset, mini-ITX
- Kingston HyperX Genesis memory – 2x4GB, DDR3-1600, C10
- Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB hybrid drive – 7200 RPM, 8GB NAND
Flash, SATA 6 Gbps
- Cooler Master Silent Pro M700 power supply – 700W, modular, ATX
Windows 7 Ultimate operating system, 64-bit
Test Hard Drives:
- Seagate NAS HDD 4TB hard drive x 4 – 5900 RPM, 64MB cache, SATA 6 Gbps (15 dBA@1m idle each according to our testing)
Measurement and Analysis Tools
to monitor system temperatures.
as a benchmarking tool.
AC Power Analyzer 380803 AC power meter, used to measure system power consumption.
- PC-based spectrum analyzer:
SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digitalaudio interfaces.
- Anechoic chamber
with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
HD #1 Temp
HD #2 Temp
HD #3 Temp
HD #4 Temp
System Power (AC)
Ambient temperature: 21°C.
The TS431U pulls 7W from the wall all by itself and an additional 23W is consumed when our four Seagate hard drives are added to the mix. We previously pegged the DC power consumption of the NAS HDD 4TB to be 4.8W at idle, so the enclosure’s power supply is operating at an efficiency level of approximately 83%. That being said, the 4-bay Mediasonic ProBox, which uses an external DC brick, is considerably more frugal, using 5W less when filled with the same drives.
Unfortunately, there is no fan control offered on the TS431U, so its two fans chug away, presumably at full speed the entire time as I did not notice any change in acoustics during testing. The noise output is a considerable 28~29 dBA@1m when empty and it actually lowers slightly when the enclosure is filled. This seems to indicate that the sound waves bouncing off the interior walls generate more noise than what is added by populating all the drive bays.
This effect makes the TS431U slightly quieter than the ProBox when full. The ProBox actually has fan control but the comparison figures were obtained with its fan at minimum speed. Drive temperatures are similarly low between the two enclosures despite both having a noticeable lack of ventilation. It doesn’t take much airflow to keep these drives cool.
While the two 60 mm fans are loud, subjectively they don’t sound too bad. The chassis and the presence of the power supply helps obscure their negative characteristics. When empty, the pitch is somewhat higher and a distinctive hollow type sound is emitted that masks what the fans really sound like. When all the bays are populated, the overall noise is better balanced and the fans’ buzzing is more clearly audible.
To gauge the overall performance of the ProBox we used a synthetic benchmark, CrystalDiskMark, which tests both sequential and random performance with two different block sizes. We also performed some timed file copy tests (the same used in our hard drive test methodology), a small file test consisting of a variety of small HTML, JPEG, MP3, ZIP, and EXE files, and a large file test consisting of four AVI files, 2 x 700MB and 2 x 1400MB in size.
The copy tests were conducted between two of our Seagate NAS HDD 4TB’s placed in three different configurations:
- both as internal drives, connected to our test PC using a SATA 6 Gbps interface
- one internal and one external in the TS431U connected to the PC using USB 3.0
- both external in the TS431U
According to CrystalDiskMark, the Seagate NAS HDD 4TB doesn’t skip a beat when placed inside the enclosure compared to being internally connected. The benchmark results are quite close and actually higher with the TS431U. The only significant difference is in the enclosure, the drive suffers in random 4K reads with a high queue depth, a type of workload that is normally only applicable in servers.
However, in real life operation, the overhead of the USB 3.0 interface is revealed. Our file copy tests exceed 100 MB/s when performed between two of the Seagate drives connected internally via SATA 6 Gbps ports. Moving one of these drives into TS431U causes the performance to dip considerably. The large file transfer rate drops by about 37% while the small file transfer rate suffers by 46%.
From an operational standpoint, the TS431U works simply with the enclosure turning off/on with the PC it’s connected to. The drives appear as USB drives in the device manager but can be managed like any internal drive. The TS431U suffers from one weird quirk — if you pull a drive while the enclosure is on, the entire enclosure shuts down immediately and then turns back on after a period of about 35 seconds. This is extremely annoying if you frequently hotswap drives.
Update/Correction/Clarification, March 29, 2016:
The enclosure does not turn off during hotswapping. When a drive is physically removed while the enclosure is turned on and connected via USB 3.0, all installed drives inside power down. After 35~40 seconds, they power back up automatically and are re-detected by the OS. Adding a drive works the same but the delay for detection is shorter, in the 15~20 second range. Existing drives are not accessible during hotswap operations.
These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
- SilverStone TS431U
— idle, empty (28~29 dBA@1m)
— idle, filled with 4 x 4TB Seagate NAS HDDs (28 dBA@1m)
The SilverStone TS431U is a basic a 4-bay enclosure, not a server or a NAS with RAID functionality for sharing data with multiple systems. It’s a dumb box for local storage only, suitable for on-site backup or if you simply need to expand the storage of a desktop or a laptop that stays mostly in one location. Build quality is easily its biggest strength as it’s well-built with a tight fitting frame, a snazzy aluminum door, and a surprisingly secure drive mount/release system.
The power supply built into the back of the unit leads to a few different issues. Its takes up a considerable amount of space inside the chassis, making the enclosure unusually deep. The power supply also isn’t as efficient as a quality class V external brick like the one included with the Mediasonic ProBox. Its presence further restricts the front-to-back airflow path and requires cooling, so the exhaust fans have to pull double duty. Without it, the chassis would be much smaller and they could have employed lower speed fans. The fans are fairly loud and while they can be replaced or modified, it would take some work due to the use of 2-pin connectors.
While I adore the SilverStone TS431U’s tool-less drive mounting system and overall construction, it’s hard to beat more affordable competition like the Mediasonic ProBox. The ProBox is sleeker, more efficient, and most importantly, it’s considerably cheaper. The TS431U sells for about US$150 while the ProBox can be had for a mere US$90. Unfortunately, the TS431U doesn’t offer enough value or any killer feature to justify the extra cost.
Our thanks to SilverStone for the TS431U enclosure sample.
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