OWC’s Mercury Helios 3S, the expansion solution that adds an external PCIe slot to your Thunderbolt 3 equipped computer, can be fitted out with a U.2 NVMe Interchange System, and that system can house several removable trays, one of which is the U2 ShuttleOne for exactly one NVMe SSD. You can use the U2 ShuttleOne to quickly offload footage from a U.2 capable video capture setup like the BlackMagic URSA Mini Pro 12K camera with URSA Mini Recorder, in server racks, game computers, etc, etc.
I tested the U2 ShuttleOne with a Mercury Helios 3S. OWC sent me a unit with a 1TB Aura P12 Pro on board. It arrived in an unassuming brown cardboard box with the U2 ShuttleOne, a heavy aluminium NVMe SSD enclosure with heat dissipation built-in. You can use it in any compatible mounting system. As I mounted it in the Mercury Helios 3S, I concentrated on how that works out. The unit plugs into the removable tray with its U2 connector, but to install it securely, you’ll need to fasten it with at least two of the four mounting screws in the tray.
Unfortunately, you cannot just plug it in and leave the screws for what they are because the NVMe Interchange System design demands that you insert the removable trays upside down. That is impractical if you plan to use it for offloading. In that use case scenario you will want to quickly exchange one unit for another, which means you’ll want to plug-unplug only.
Specifically for that use case, the removable tray should come with a quick release system instead of screws.
Install your own SSD
I guess some people will want to install their own NVMe SSDs. OWC has a longstanding tradition of offering empty enclosures and that hasn’t changed with the U2 ShuttleOne. To see how difficult it would be to install your own, I opened the unit, removed the Aura P12 inside and installed a DOA SSD that I had kept for this sort of tests.
The U2 ShuttleOne has a backplate held in place with four tiny Philips screws that you first have to remove. That aluminium plate has a special strip on the inside that needs to touch the SSD as it leads the heat towards the cooling ribs on the outside of the enclosure. The U2 ShuttleOne accepts any size of NVMe drive by using a tiny removable metal ring that goes over any of the screw mounts — there is one for each “standard” size NVMe.
Performance-wise, the U2 ShuttleOne has an upper limit of 8GB/sec. That is because it supports PCI Express 4.0 which you will currently find in some high-end PCs and in Apple M1 Macs. By the way, just because a manufacturer includes PCIe 4.0 in their motherboard design doesn’t mean they’re using it to the fullest of its abilities. Apple’s M1 Macs allegedly aren’t.
Thunderbolt 3 and 4 only support 40Gb/sec, so you’ll never bump into that 8000MB/sec upper limit when using Thunderbolt mounts. I tested performance with Blackmagic Design’s Speed Test and AJA’s test app and found the 2230MB/sec read and write speed at 1200MB/sec to be plenty fast. As the U2 ShuttleOne isn’t holding back the Aura P12 inside, the latter also showed its consistent throughput with only one frame per testing cycle dropping in speed.
And so we come to the end of this review. OWC’s released a brilliant product once again, just a pity of the upside down mounting in the Mercury Helios 3S if you want to use it for offloading footage from a U2-capable film/video camera/recorder.
The U2 ShuttleOne with 1TB Aura P12 inside retails for €181.77 ex VAT. An empty unit costs €37.34.