The sheer number of ports on the Akitio Thunder3 RAID Station ($369.99) signifies that you should utilize this external hard drive not solely to retailer mountains of information, but in addition to attach almost any peripheral you may need or need to purchase sooner or later. This versatility joins a number of different promoting factors, together with simply configurable RAID modes, the power to disable the cooling fan, and a sturdy, well-designed enclosure to make it probably the greatest exterior RAID enclosures you should purchase so long as you do not want screaming data-transfer speeds.

Sensible and Fashionable Design

The Thunder three RAID Station comes with each of its drive bays empty for $369. It is some huge cash to spend on what is actually an empty onerous drive enclosure and some ports, however professional-level exterior storage is dear in contrast with client tools, and it isn’t overpriced relative to its rivals. The LaCie 2big Dock Thunderbolt three begins at $649, as an example, though it comes with two preinstalled drives.

A part of what makes the Thunder3 RAID so costly is its design high quality. The enclosure is product of silver aluminum, and it will look nice in an workplace with post-industrial decor, the form of place the place many freelance videographers and photographers work (or no less than dream of working). The aluminum end can be darkish sufficient to enhance a House Grey Apple iMac Pro or MacBook Pro. Nevertheless, at 5.78 by three.35 by 9.38 inches (HWD), it’s miles from petite, so it’s possible you’ll find yourself stashing it beneath your desk to save lots of house.

The back and front of the enclosure are perforated to permit air to move by and funky the drives, facilitated by a fan mounted on the again. It is not loud by any means—I could not hear it in any respect above the ambient noise from the HVAC vents in PC Labs—however neither is it silent. So Akitio has thoughtfully added a kill change for the fan should you plan to make use of it in a recording studio. Silent operation is nice, though you will not need to use it this fashion for lengthy to keep away from injury to the drives, particularly should you’re utilizing heat-spewing SSDs as a substitute of onerous disks.

Accessing the drive bays to take away or change a drive is a cinch. It is held closed by captive thumb screws, which suggests you do not want a screwdriver and they’re held in place to make sure they do not get misplaced. Merely loosen the 2 screws on the again and pull the one sled towards you from the entrance of the enclosure. The 2 bays are mounted on the sled back-to-back, and the thumbscrews on the highest and backside can maintain both three.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives. To streamline drive set up, Akitio has thoughtfully labeled which screws you need to use for SSDs (just one per drive). In the meantime, 4 screws (two on the highest and two on the underside) safe 2.5-inch or three.5-inch onerous disk drives.

As soon as the drives are put in, you slide the sled again into the case, tighten the rear screws, and plug the included Thunderbolt three port into your laptop computer or desktop and the included energy adapter right into a wall plug. In case you’re utilizing a Mac, you are achieved; the drive ought to merely present up mounted as a single quantity in your desktop due to its default RAID zero setting. In case you’re utilizing a PC, you may seemingly should obtain the newest Windows 10 Thunderbolt drivers from Akitio’s web site. Word that you could have a PC with a Thunderbolt three port to benefit from this drive’s full potential; a daily USB-C port (which seems similar to a Thunderbolt three port) will not lower it.

Akitio features a two-year guarantee for the Thunder3 RAID.

Planning Your RAID

In case you’re simply on the lookout for a easy RAID enclosure, the Thunder3 RAID will fortunately oblige. It helps both RAID zero (striping) or RAID 1 (mirroring), in addition to non-RAID (typically known as JBOD for “only a bunch of drives”). Switching between these modes is fantastically easy, and requires no set up of clunky apps or digging by menus. You merely disconnect the drive and use a screwdriver to maneuver the RAID change on the again to the specified configuration. It is a easy approach to experiment with which RAID storage most accurately fits your wants.

However utilizing the Thunder3 RAID just for exterior storage squanders its potential as a Thunderbolt dock, one thing you may virtually definitely want should you simply purchased a brand new Thunderbolt-only MacBook Professional. Round again, you may discover two USB three.zero ports, a full-sized DisplayPort connector, an Ethernet jack, and two USB-C Thunderbolt three ports (one in every of which you employ to attach the drive to the PC). There’s additionally a full-sized SD card slot on the entrance.

Akitio Thunder3 RAID Station 2

Collectively, this assortment covers almost each trendy port that Apple left off of the MacBook Professional (and that a lot of its clones are lacking as effectively). It means that you may plug in a single Thunderbolt three cable to your laptop computer and immediately have entry to the whole lot in your desk, from a keyboard to a 4K monitor. As a result of Thunderbolt three helps daisy chaining, you may also join as much as 5 extra Thunderbolt units to the Thunder3 RAID should you want extra storage. There’s additionally 27W of energy supply over USB-C, but it surely’s not sufficient to cost most USB-laptops. The MacBook Professional, for instance, wants 65W.

Quick, However Not the Quickest

As a result of the Thunder3 RAID solely consists of two drive bays and makes use of the SATA interface as a substitute of the faster PCIe, it would not provide the screaming efficiency that you’re going to get with bigger PCIe-equipped RAID enclosures. I examined it within the default RAID zero configuration with two 256GB price range SanDisk U100 SSDs, and it achieved learn speeds of 752.8MBps and write speeds of 560.2MBps on the BlackMagic benchmark. That compares favorably with single-SSD drives just like the Samsung Portable SSD T5 (505.6MBps learn, 477.2MBps write). However, it’s kind of slower than a RAID array with 4 or extra bays, even ones stuffed with onerous disk drives just like the LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 (852.6 learn, 881.7 write). A performance-oriented RAID mode like RAID zero achieves sooner throughput the extra drives you may have.

The Thunder3 RAID’s rating of four,316 on the PCMark 7 secondary storage take a look at was good, however as with learn and write speeds, the SATA interface negatively affected the consequence. The quickest SSDs obtain scores higher than 5,00zero on this proprietary take a look at, together with the Samsung Moveable SSD T5 (5,449) and the Akitio Thunder3 PCIe (5,477).

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However, the Thunder3 RAID posted a lightning-quick time of two seconds on our timed file-transfer take a look at, which makes use of a 1.2GB folder of combined file sorts. This consequence locations the Thunder3 RAID on equal footing with the Seagate Innov8 and the LaCie Bolt 3 because the quickest drives we have encountered on this take a look at.

Ports for the Win

In case you’re anticipating the Aktio Thunder3 RAID Station to supply the screaming efficiency and gargantuan capability you’d count on from a RAID station with 4 or extra drive bays, you may be disenchanted. This two-bay exterior drive enclosure presents satisfactory speeds for infrequent information transfers and accessing recordsdata, however its actual strengths are a wonderful built-in Thunderbolt dock and a purposeful, sturdy, and trendy design. In case you want a hub however aren’t on the lookout for extra storage, you may need to try the Kingston Nucleum USB Type-C Hub. In the meantime, should you want a spot to retailer huge quantities of information, you possibly can try a RAID array with extra muscle just like the LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2, however be ready to spend so much extra.

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