2010 Gift Guide for Storage Geeks

If that someone special in your life has storage on their mind come the holidays, we may be able to help with gift ideas. With ideas ranging from the very affordable (free) to very expensive (skipping a few mortgage payments), we've combed the world of storage procurement so you don't have to.

Up to $50

This is one of my favorite categories for Christmas gifts because there is a wide variety of items and the prices aren’t too bad.

The widest selection of ideas for this category are hard drives. Naked, unadulterated, hard drive storage capacity. There are lots of options so I will list them in a table below to make it easier to make your decision on what to buy me your loved ones this holiday season.

Table 1 – Hard Drives

Name Form Factor Capacity Speed Cache Interface Price
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 2.5″ 500GB 7,200 RPM 16MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $49.99
Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD6400BEVT 2.5″ 640GB 5,400 RPM 8MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $59.99
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 3.5″ 1TB 7,200 RPM 32MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $44.99
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKX 3.5″ 500GB 7,200 RPM 16MB SATA 6.0 Gb/s $59.99

The four hard drives are fairly unique in different ways. The first two drives are 2.5″ drives with at least 500GB of capacity and both cost just about $50 or $60 (just a little over our target pricing). That’s a great price for a 2.5″ drive and your loved one would appreciate either drive.

The next two drives represent the extremes in capacity and performance for 3.5″ drives. The Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS is a 1TB SATA drive running at 7,200 rpm with a good size cache – 32MB. Even better is it’s price at $49.99 (an amazing $0.045/GB). The second drive is a new 6.0 Gbps SATA drive. It only has a 500GB capacity and a slightly smaller cache (16MB), but it has the next generation SATA interface. However, the 6.0 Gbps interface can give you some extra performance over the conventional 3.0 Gbps SATA interface (and who doesn’t like extra performance during the holidays?).

After hard drives we have a wide range of cool gifts. The first class of gifts we’ll tackle are mobile racks or external cases for hard drives. My personal favorite is the INEO 1-NA212-J 2.5″ USB external enclosure as shown in Figure 6 below.

Figure 6: INEO 1-NA212-J 2.5″ JBOD USB External Enclosure

It is a small external enclosure that can accommodate up to two 2.5″ SATA II drives. The drives can be logically “joined” in what is referred to as “JBOD mode” or they can be addressed individually (“single mode”). The chassis is connected to the host via a USB 2.0 interface. Plus the price is very good at $36.99. This is one of the few, if not the only, two drive external enclosure I’ve found for 2.5″ drives. This is great for adding capacity while on the road.

The next product provides additional drive space for computer cases and comes with it’s own cooling fan attached to the “drive cage”. The XIGMATEK CCA-EMFCB-U01 4 in 3 HDD Cage Extra Hard Drive Bay sells for $22.99 and is shown below in Figure 7

Figure 7: XIGMATEK CCA-EMFCB-U01 4 in 3 HDD Cage Extra Hard Drive Bay

This unit is really neat because it slides into three 5.25″ bays on the front of most cases and gives you space for (4) 3.5″ hard drives. Even better, the cage comes with a 120mm fan for extra cooling as well as rubber grommets to reduce the vibration of the hard drives. This is great gift for the storage person who has unused 5.25″ bays in the front of the case (word of advice – take a peak at the front of their case when they aren’t looking to find out if they have some unused space).

The next three gift ideas are all fairly inexpensive and allow you to take two 2.5″ drives and put them in a single 3.5″ drive space. The first one, the MASSCOOL MR-2501D Mobile Rack 2 Bay 2.5″ SATA Hard Driver shown in Figure 8, is available for $25.99.

Figure 8: MASSCOOL MR-2501D Mobile Rack 2 Bay 2.5″ SATA Hard Driver

This mobile rack takes two 2.5″ drives (9.5mm high) but I’m not sure if they are hot-swappable or not (the images on newegg sort of look like they are hot-swap but it doesn’t explicitly say so on the newegg site nor the masscool site).

The second mobile rack also takes two 2.5″ drives and puts them into a mobile drive case that slides into a 3.5″ drive bay. The StarTech SATDOCK2520 3.5in Trayless Hot Swap SATA Mobile Rack for Dual 2.5in Hard Drives sells for $32.99 at Newegg and is shown below in Figure 9.

Figure 9: StarTech SATDOCK2520 3.5in Trayless Hot Swap SATA Mobile Rack for Dual 2.5in Hard Drives

What is really cool about this mobile rack is that you don’t screw the drives into the rack. You just pop them in like floppies or CD’s. Then you press the lever closed and they are secured into the rack. Plus, the manufacturer says they are hot-swappable (i.e. you don’t need to turn off the power to swap out drives – although I recommend knowing which drive is which and unmouning the drive before removing it).

The third mobile rack is similar to the second one and is by the same manufacturer, StarTech. The StarTech HSB220SAT25B 2 Drive 2.5in Trayless Hot Swap SATA Mobile Rack Backplane is a 3.5″ mobile rack that accepts two 2.5″ drives as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10: StarTech HSB220SAT25B 2 Drive 2.5in Trayless Hot Swap SATA Mobile Rack Backplane

It sells for $44.99 at Newegg. It has about the same basic features as the SATDOCK2520 (the previous product), but it seems to be a little sturdier.

The final mobile rack product is a bit unusual but I think it’s really cool. If you look at most desktop systems they have unused PCI Exress slots in the back of the case. Many times those slots are fairly useless. The StarTech S25SLOTR 2.5in SATA Removable Hard Drive Bay for PC Expansion Slot allows you to use the space taken by the PCIe slot for a hot-swappable 2.5″ hard drive bay! How cool is that?!! Figure 11 below shows what it looks like.

Figure 11: StarTech S25SLOTR 2.5in SATA Removable Hard Drive Bay for PC Expansion Slot

Basically you screw this tray into the back of your case using any open drive slot in the case (it doesn’t have to correspond to an open PCIe slot on the board). Then you can pop in a hard drive like a floppy or tape cartridge and have hot-swap access to it! Plus the price is very reasonable at $29.99 at Newegg. One might think that this idea is a little strange because how often do you reach around to the back of your case? At least in my situation I have some cases turned around backwards for benchmarking, making drive access in the back easier than in the front. This is one cool gift idea for me your loved one during the holidays.

One other cool mobile rack gift idea is the Silverstone HDDBOOST Mobile rack as shown in Figure 12.

Figure 12: Silverstone HDDBOOST

I’ve written about this rack in the past. It is a cool concept that combines a regular 3.5″ hard drive and a 2.5″ SSD (Solid State Disk) allowing the SSD to mirror a portion of the hard drive. For example, if you have a 32GB SSD it will mirror the first 32GB of the attached hard drive. The performance potential of using the HDDBOOST is interesting. Nonetheless it’s a pretty cool holiday gift for $49.99.

The last set of great gifts in the “under $50″ category for the Linux storage inclined are some fun things from ThinkGeek. ThinkGeek is a great place for fun gifts for the Linux geek (or anybody else – just ask Dr. Sheldon Cooper). The first cool gift from ThinkGeek is a roll-up USB keyboard. While it doesn’t pertain to storage per say, it’s still a cool gift for your road warrior who gets tired of the small awkward laptop keyboard in the hotel room. Plus, at $23.99, it’s a pretty cool thing to have so you can type on your con-calls from your home office without anyone complaining about the noisy keyboard.

The last ThinkGeek gift(s) are USB drive watches. They contain a USB drive up to 8GB in size and they actually tell time too!. This allows you to store your vital information inside your watch so you can secretly slip into Best Buy and reboot their machines into Linux. Plus at $23.99 they are fairly affordable (if they only had a multi-line display and calculator as well… ).

Up to $100

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