The ThunderBlade V4 is designed to be rugged and dependable, but its major appeal will be its speed. It is truly blazing fast, with speeds up to 2800MB/sec read and 2450MB/sec write performance. When I first saw these specs, my first thought was that this must be the fastest external drive ever built, while my second thought was that this is the perfect drive for video producers and editors who are working with 4K/60fps and 8K footage, AR and VR content.
How efficient is a small, 2.5in mobile disk station with two disks inside? Very efficient, it turns out. Even more so if you can put those two small disks in one of four RAID modes. And if that external station also delivers on speed, you're sold — or at least, I am. It's flat, it's fanless and there are two 2.5in hard disks or SSDs inside. It's the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini, which is a mouthful for a small unit that isn't much bigger than its two internal disks put next to each other. OWC Digital sent me an SSD version with 1TB of space on its SSDs in RAID 1 mode. This small-footprint OWC device offers USB 3.1 Gen 2 performance and can be bus-powered.
The OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual features two Thunderbolt 2 ports, one USB 3.1 Gen. 1 port and all of the cables you need to start using it immediately. You can set this small-footprint unit to RAID 0, RAID 1, disk spanning and JBOD modes. It has a black minimal design and you can buy it as a bare enclosure or with disks already installed. I got the chance to test the 2TB version.
Ever since the late Steve Jobs declared war on optical discs for distributing music and movies, the industry and media have been telling us the optical disc is dead. Far from it, I'd say, especially if you think about whether you're comfortable with entrusting your precious data with cloud service providers. There isn't a month going by without a hack or a security breach, ransomware being demanded and other such alarming events. Backing up to optical media has its benefits. And with the right equipment and the media to match, your risk of data loss is considerably lower. The OWC Mercury Pro Optical Drive might fit the bill.
I tested a 480GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD with an Atomos Shogun Flame as well as with an iMac. The Mercury Extreme Pro 6G has been certified for use in Blackmagic Design equipment and has a maximum read speed of 559MB/s and write speed of 527MB/s. My own tests revealed slightly lower, although pretty impressive figures.
The last version of SoftRAID that I looked at was version 3. The latest version of the software that delivers RAID 0, 1, 4, 5 and 1+0 without you ever having to buy a RAID box has been fitted out with a new RAID Engine which has been claimed to equal the performance and reliability of dedicated hardware RAID controllers. I tried SoftRAID 5.6 using two and four bare disks I use as spare and backup drives. I tested the solution with RAID 0, 1, 5 and 1+0.
Mac users roughly have two options if they want to use bare SATA drives: use a Wiebetech (now: CRU) Ultradock device and connect the drive through legacy interfaces or USB 3, or a Thunderbolt dock. If the latter is opted for, there’s either the RocketStor 5212 with one Gen. 1 Thunderbolt port, or the Thunderbolt 2 OWC Drive Dock. And of these two, the latter is obviously the fastest way to access those bare SATA drives.
OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 dock has the looks and the ports to appeal even to those who don’t need one. The company’s selection of ports to include has so far been the best I’ve encountered. There are 13 of them and they represent OWC’s experience with users’ needs in terms of support for legacy technology.