iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Cooler Master CoolDrive 5 Review

August 25, 2006

We are again to review a Cooler Master accessory for a PC case. We have already tried CoolDrive 4, now it's turn to test CoolDrive 5. This time it's a symbiosis of a HDD cooler and a Musketeer-series device. In its turn, it means that it's another multi-functional front panel with analog indicators.


Like most panels, CoolDrive 5 is installed into a 5.25" bay. Dimensions:

Length 196 mm
Width 146 mm
Height 42 mm

Key features:
  • Analog indicator of HDD activity
  • Reading temperature from one thermal sensor
  • Seven backlight colors
  • Built-in HDD fan
  • Controlling the rotational speed of the built-in fan

The device without package weighs 700 g. Temperature monitoring range: 10°C - 80°C (50°F - 176°F).


The device comes in a high-quality colorful cardboard box. The device is secured well inside the box. You will hardly damage it, when the box is dropped or gets a hit. The bundle includes the following elements (along with the device itself):

  • One temperature sensor
  • Cables for HDD activity indication
  • Screw pack
  • User Manual in eight languages

Each installation step in the manual is illustrated, so everything is clear even if you don't know the language.

It's strange to see the following trend: the more functions are offered by a device, the thinner its manual. For example, CoolDrive 4 comes with a thin manual on a single sheet, while CoolDrive 5 comes with an 80-page manual.


The front panel houses two 35 mm analog indicators and a protective grille for the built-in fan, which also acts as a dust filter. The front panel also contains two small buttons: the left button changes the rotational speed of the built-in fan, the right one is responsible for a backlight color.

There are eight mounting holes at the sides - four at each side. This device is installed like an optical drive for a 5.25" bay.

Like in CoolDrive 4, the bottom is removable. When you remove it, you get access to the back of the front panel. You'll need it only to disable the bundled fan, if necessary. The other wires cannot be removed. They are grouped in two bunches and secured on the sides with double-sided scotch tape. It makes the installation much easier and reduces the resistance to the air flow through the device, which should also help reduce its operating noise.

Installation and Tests

To install a hard drive into CoolDrive 5, first of all remove the bottom by removing four screws. Then align mounting holes on the metal base and HDD and then secure the HDD with bundled screws in four places. The screws have rubber gaskets, which reduce vibrations transmitted from a hard drive to the rack. At this stage, you'd better have a magnetized screwdriver, or the installation process may turn into tedious "screw basketball".

But there is a simpler method. Insert screws into the holes on the bottom of the HDD, but do not tight them. Then put the HDD onto the mounting plate and tight the screws.

The most difficult part is done. Then place the bottom back, secure it with four screws and install the device into a PC case. All eight mounting holes are perfectly aligned with those on the PC case rack, we had no problems at this stage. As the mounting holes are made in standard places for 5.25" devices, CoolDrive 5 can be easily installed into a PC case with a screwless mounting system.

The bundled temperature sensor is connected to the device via the two-pin header, which is equipped with a mechanic "key" to avoid plugging its wrongly. The manufacturer recommends to use this thermal sensor to monitor temperature of the hard drive inside CoolDrive 5. But you can install it in any location inside your PC case, fortunately the cable is rather long.

HDD activity indication is activated in the following way: the bundled HDD LED_IN cable is plugged to the corresponding header on the rear panel and to the HDD_LED header on the motherboard. You can also use two HDD activity indicators simultaneously: on the PC case and on the front panel of CoolDrive 5. The cable from the PC case LED should be connected to the HDD LED_OUT header on the rear panel of the device. If the cable is not long enough, you can use a special extension cable, included into the bundle.

The device is powered from a single standard 4-pin connector, like the one for HDD. The power splitter is not available in the bundle, so you'll have to power your hard drive from another cable.

As soon as you power on your computer, backlight of the analog indicators lights up. It starts changing colors for several seconds and then settles down to red. You can change the backlight color by pressing the COLOR button on the front panel. There are eight backlight modes: seven colors and the eighth mode, when the backlight color rapidly changes; but this mode is distracting and tiring to the eyes. The device does not remember the chosen backlight mode after power off.

HDD activity indicator works well, we had no gripes with it during our tests: the pointer on the indicator moved briskly in time to HDD cracking.

The only good thing about CoolDrive 5 thermometer is its instantaneous reaction to temperature changes: the response time is fractions of a second. But it's absolutely impossible to understand how much the temperature changed – the scale is too small and irregular. The 20 degree interval takes up slightly more than 5 mm, which makes it absolutely unreadable and useless.

Let's proceed to testing this device as an HDD cooler. Testbed configuration:

HDD temperature is monitored with SpeedFan 4.26. Room temperature inside the testlab was 24°C. Temperature readings were taken after an hour of copying files from one disk partition to another.

Comments on the diagram: CASE on and CASE off stand for case fans (available/not available), CD 12V and CD 5V - voltage on the built-in CoolDrive 5 fan. We also measured HDD temperature, when the drive was installed in the HDD cage - the results are published in the CHASSIS line.

According to our tests, CoolDrive 5 can cool a hard drive below 40°C even if there are absolutely no case fans. Quite a good result. But if a case rack can accommodate 120 mm fans, there is actually no real need in such coolers. Note that the bundled fan is very quiet. When running at low speed, you can hear it only if you put your ear close to the front panel of the device.

Bottom line

It's another device for those users who like to decorate their computers. Its price is comparable to that for Cooler Master Musketeer 2. But from the functional point of view, CoolDrive 5 seems a better device in our opinion.


  • Attractive exterior
  • Good results as a HDD cooler


  • High price
  • Low functionality

Eugene Sidorov aka SeeD (seed@ixbt.com)
August 25, 2006.

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