Friday, April 5, 2013

Mediasonic HFR2-SU3S2 RAID Enclosure Review & Fan Replacement

The Mediasonic HFR2-SU3S2 is a nice little USB3.0/eSATA HW RAID box that's perfect for various storage applications. Personally I use it in RAID5 mode over USB3.0 with 4x SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 ST2000DL004 2TB hard drives for backup and media storage.  It has been working for almost two years now without a single hiccup and even when a hard drive died it proceeded to reconstruct my array with a replacement drive without any problems.

The Mediasonic HFR2-SU3S2 has a reasonable MSRP of $199.99 but can often be found on Newegg with a rebate or promo code (or even both) which brings the price down to around $129.99.  This is a great price for a plug and play USB3.0 hardware RAID box.

Manufacturer Page:
Newegg Page:

Build Quality, Features, and Service
The enclosure is constructed mainly of metal and feels very heavy and solid with the exception of the front door which doesn't seem to latch too well and feels rather light and flimsy.  The indicator lights on the front of the enclosure provide some useful information and are laid out in an intuitive and logical manner.  Overall it's a pretty nice looking enclosure and the build quality is much better than you'd expect for the price.

One aspect of the design I don't like is the power brick; the cable for it feels of rather low quality and it's a bit on the short side in my opinion as well.  If I put the enclosure on the top of my desk, the power brick will end up hanging off of the ground because of how they've placed it which is rather annoying.  I'm also not a big fan of the power connector coming in from the side rather than from the back, but this is a fairly minor complaint.  It's would've been better if they integrated the power brick into the enclosure and put the plug in the back much like on the Sans Digital TR4UTBPN.

I use my enclosure in RAID5 mode with 4X SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB HDDs. (no TLER I believe) The auto USB on-off functionality performs as expected and I haven't seen any disconnect issues like some others report except for one time when I was copying data off of it for 10 hours straight. It randomly powered off during the copy but after I rebooted it I never saw the issue again so I have no idea what happened.

I've shipped this thing across the country three times with hard drives installed - twice in the trunk of my car and once on a domestic plane flight in my checked luggage. (in the original box) After my plane flight I opened up my checked luggage to find the metal HDD retention bracket warped with the drives partially hanging out of the enclosure next to a TSA inspection note.  Upon trying to power the enclosure up the red light next to one of my hard drives lit up to indicate it was bad. (needless to say I was not very happy that day)  I immediately replaced the dead hard drive and the enclosure completed the rebuild overnight without any hiccups.  During this time I was able to access all of my data without any issues, albeit at much reduced speeds.

Mediasonic documentation isn't the best, but the setup is really fairly straightforward and you can get whatever additional help you'll need on the forums.  Generally speaking you only need to consult the manual once to set it up at the beginning and you won't need it for anything afterwards.  Mediasonic support is generally very fast to respond to questions on their forum or via email. I asked for a replacement fan when mine was getting rumbly and received one within only a few days with no questions asked - all I had to do was email them.

CrystalDiskMark Results (USB3.0)
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The HFR2-SU3S2 isn't exactly a speed demon but it's respectably fast enough for a budget external USB3.0 RAID array. It's fast enough for me to store and run all my Steam games off of it without load screens feeling particularly long, and loading media files off it is fairly snappy as well.

Final Words
I think this is a great product if you need a 4-bay RAID enclosure; it's not only cheaper than most of its alternatives but offers a good set of features and solid build construction to boot. Mediasonic isn't exactly a well known company, but their support has been more helpful and responsive in my experience than that of many larger companies I've had to deal with.

The Sans Digital TR4UTBPN would probably be the closest competitor to the Mediasonic HFR2-SU3S2 and it's worth looking at as well.  The TR4UTBPN is from a more reputable company and looks to be quite a bit speedier while costing a little bit more.  I am unsure if the Sans enclosure automatically turns on and off with your computer, and this is a feature I use a lot since my RAID array is basically like a secondary drive to the SSD in my desktop.

Replacing the Stock Cooling Fan
The stock fan is a DFC802012H from Young Lin Tech Co. LTD.  It's an 80mm fan with 20mm thickness and a hybrid ball/sleeve bearing.  It's held in by M2.5 screws that are about 25mm long.
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YLTC DFC802012H Nominal Specs
-Voltage:  12V
-Current:  0.23A
-Speed:  3500rpm
-Airflow:  37.8CFM
-Pressure:  4.24mmH2O
-Noise:  41.33dB[A]

I really don't like this particular fan because it seems to exhibit a faint clicking/rumbling noise and you can feel the vibrations from it quite easily by putting your finger on it.  Most people would probably never notice this, but as the rest of the fans in my system are ultra silent fans running at 800rpm it actually ends up being audible for me.  If the stock fan were a pain to get to I probably wouldn't have bothered, but fortunately you need only remove four screws in the back and it simply pulls straight out.

As I could not find any good 80mm x 20mm fans in stock at any of the big distributors I chose a slightly thicker Sanyo Denki 9S0812F4011 San Ace Silent Type 80mm x 25mm fan as the replacement.  It has fairly similar performance to the stock fan but is much quieter.  I was able to order this fan along with a KM80 80mm fan grill from Mouser Electronics.

Sanyo Denki 9S0812F4011 Nominal Specs
-Voltage:  12V
-Current:  0.11A
-Speed:  2800rpm
-Airflow:  32.8CFM
-Pressure:  3.63mmH2O
-Noise:  24dB[A]

As the new fan is thicker I needed longer rentention screws as well, but the longest thing my local Ace Hardware had for M2.5 screws was 20mm.  I ended up using 92005A079 M2.5, 30mm L pan head screws from McMaster-Carr with some nylon washers I had laying around to bolt down the new 25mm thick fan and finger guard.

Connector from stock fan soldered onto new one - just match up the wire colors.
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I had use my dremel to make a little slot for the wires to go through in the same spot it normally would on the stock fan, or it ends up crammed between the new fan and the enclosure.
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New fan and finger guard installed on the Mediasonic HFR2-SU3S2.
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I'm pretty happy with the Sanyo Denki fan for the most part and I can't feel any vibrations from it at all.  It exhibits only a faint low frequency hum which can't be heard at all over the spinning hard drives and I trust that the ball bearings will last for as long I live.  I keep it running with the enclosure fan setting in auto mode and I've never seen it go above the lowest speed.  The new fan seems to move a pretty good amount of air and I'm sure that removing the restrictive stock fan cover helped as well.

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