Storage

EZQuest Thunder RAID ESATA/USB 2.0

While EZQuest's Thunder RAID eSATA/USB 2.0 Portable System weighs in at a hefty 16 pounds, this portable external RAID storage device has a rather compact build, considering it houses four hard drives that can hold all your striped or mirrored data. It even features a hard aluminum handle so you can lug it around when you're out of the studio and in the field.

The four hard drives in the Thunder RAID comes pre-configured as RAID 5 (formatted for the Mac), but there are several different supported RAID level options: 0, 1, 3, 5, and 10, as well as JBOD (the unit we tested had four 1.5TB drives).

The Thunder RAID has a dual-interface that allows for a slower-but-convenient USB 2.0 connection, or a speedy eSATA connection. The two included Ethernet ports are used for administration, not for data transfer. The Thunder RAID also has 128MB of DDR2-400 SDRAM and a 400MHz storage I/O processor.

After turning the device on, a loud beep occurs and the fan will immediately begin whirring. Although EZQuest says the fan operates on an "ultra low decibel," it's actually quite loud. To help you with setup, the drive also features an LCD display that can show the status of the drive and will indicate to you if a drive failure has occurred, along with a few navigating buttons.

For our tests, copying a 1GB file through a USB 2.0 connection took an average of 53 seconds, and our file duplication test took 1 minute and 7 seconds. In our low-memory Photoshop test, the Thunder RAID took 1 minute and 37 seconds over USB. Using eSATA, copying and duplicating the 1GB file took 23 and 22 seconds, respectively, and the Photoshop test took an average of 51 seconds.

We also ran the AJA system test, which mimics writing a full scale, high quality, HD video. We set the video frame size to 1920-by-1080 10-bit RGB and the file size to 2GB. With the USB 2.0 connection, the Thunder RAID performed at 28.3MBps for writes and 31.0MBps for reads. An eSATA connection shows 107.3MBps with writes and 121.7MBps for reads.

When we wanted to reconfigure our settings to RAID 0, navigating through configuration menus using the small LED screen proved to be very difficult. Using the Web interface, however, was fairly easy-once we read the note in EZQuest's documentation regarding possible incompatibilities with Safari. We connected the drive to our office network with an Ethernet cable, opened Firefox, typed in the IP address that was displayed on the drive, and after entering in the given username and password, we were able to access the RAID console and maximize the capacity of our EZQuest drive.

Under RAID 0 configurations, times remained relatively similar. The only result that was significantly different was when we copied a 1GB file through USB; on average, it took 13 seconds faster with RAID 0 settings than with RAID 5. All other tests yielded times that were about 1 or 2 seconds faster than the RAID 5 times. Our AJA system tests for a USB connection gave us write and read speeds at 28.4MBps and 31.4MBps, respectively. With eSATA, write speeds were 108.1MBps and reads were 123.5MBps.

Although we don't often review four-drive RAID devices, the Thunder RAID's performance was impressive. Through the USB connection, the drive was 10 seconds faster copying and duplicating a 1GB file than CalDigit's VR mini ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), a two-drive RAID device. Copying and duplicating via eSATA yielded faster results as well, taking 8 and 4 seconds faster, respectively, compared to the CalDigit.

The Thunder RAID, is also faster than G-Technolgy's G-RAID mini2 SSD ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), another two-drive enclosure, which took 12 seconds longer to copy a 1GB file with a USB connection, and 9 seconds longer to duplicate the 1GB file than the Thunder RAID. With eSATA, times were comparatively closer, but the Thunder RAID was still faster, taking 10 and 7 seconds less to copy and duplicate a 1GB file than the G-RAID mini2.

We took a look at our AJA test results and compared it to Ci Design's iStoragePro iT1 Dock 2TB ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), as well. While holding similar write and read scores with the USB connection, the Thunder RAID held noticeably faster speed scores with eSATA.

Macworld buying advice

The Thunder RAID eSATA/USB 2.0 Portable System is great for multi-stream video playback. The multiple RAID configurations give it an available degree of fault tolerance and reliability. At around 26 cents per gigabyte, we find the Thunder RAID well worth the few kinks we experienced during our RAID reconfigurations.

[Lynn La is a contributor to Macworld Lab.]

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