Fantom Drives DataDock II

The DataDock II is a quad interface RAID solution by Fantom Drives. Featuring two hot swappable bays designed for 3.5-inch drives and the ability to configure the drive for RAID 0, 1, and spanning, the DataDock offers impressive versatility and security on a relatively cheap budget.

The DataDock II comes pre-populated with two either two 500GB, 1TB, or 2 TB hard drives, giving the unit a capacity of up to 4TB. The 1TB model we tested came out of the box in a RAID 1 setup and formatted for FAT 32. There's no software required for setup, but in order to configure the drive for use with the Mac, you'll need to reformat it to Mac Journaled HFS+.

In order to switch RAID configurations, from the back of the drive you'll need to switch the alignment from RAID 0 to RAID 1 to spanning. You'll also need to hold down the Commit RAID Mode button. Though not intuitive, it's fairly simple to initiate. While some users may wish for a disc with flashy software, the no-frills approach to the DataDock will appeal to others who just want a serious storage solution with no hassle.

The drive is a bit noisy once it starts up, but that's not surprising considering the fan in the back and the two 3.5 inch drives contained within. The gray aluminum DataDock II is roughly the size and shape of a breadbasket and is therefore longer than your typical hard drive. At five pounds, it's too bulky to pick up and transport easily--it's best relegated to your desk.

The versatility provided by a quad interface drive ensures that virtually any machine can take advantage of the drive's power and storage capacity. The DataDock II features USB 2.0, FireWire 400, eSATA and two FireWire 800 ports. The drive also comes with one-year warranty and NTI Shadow 4, a backup software product. The DataDock II is Time Machine compatible; simply set the DataDock II as a destination and you're good to go.

Drive failure is a constant worry for users and just because you use your hard drive as a backup doesn't mean your data is safe. RAID 1 solutions offer mirrored data redundancy and the DataDocK II offers automatic data rebuilding with its RAID 1 configuration to ensure increased reliability. With the drive's two-bay RAID 1 configuration, if one drive fails, you have a backup ready to go. LED lights on the front of the drive denote the status of each drive and the hot swappable nature of the DataDock II means switching out a failing drive with a new one is a simple process.

The 7200-rpm drive mechanisms has a 16MB cache and offers plenty of power. Additionally, the press materials boast of the Oxford Semiconductor's OXUF960DSB chip that is supposed to "deliver best-in-class performance across all interfaces."

While the DataDock II offers a versatile storage solution for users who want to ensure their data is protected and the press materials boast of its performance, the unit only offered pedestrian times in our lab tests. Compared to G-Techonology's G-RAID 4TB ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), the DataDock II offers competitive read/write times in our AJA tests. Despite similar AJA scores, the DataDock II still managed to score better with its 1GB copy test and duplication test than the G-RAID. The DataDock's FireWire 800 25-second 1GB test result was particularly impressive, as was the 34-second duplication test also using the FireWire 800 connection.

Unfortunately, where the DataDock II struggled was in our Low Memory Photoshop tests. Across all connection types the drive was beaten by the G-RAID. What this means for users is that while the drive will be comparatively fast for copying and reading your files on the unit, but more complex tasks will be harder for the drive. This may not be a big issue for some users, but audio/visual professionals who may want to use the DataDock II as a scratch disk will find its performance doesn't compare with other drives.

The DataDock II 1TB retails for $280 and comes pre-populated with Western Digital drives. The unit has a price per gigabyte of 28 cents, not bad considering the multiple RAID configurations and versatile connection types available.

Macworld's buying advice

The DataDock II is a versatile two-bay RAID solution that boasts reliability and functionality. While switching RAID alignments isn't as intuitive as it could be and the low-memory Photoshop tests were not as swift as audio/visual professionals would like to see, you'll be hard pressed to find a two-bay hot swappable RAID solution on such a tight budget.

[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]

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