Storage is critical to what we do around here, so we take it pretty seriously. We’re always on the lookout for more storage solutions, and RAID setups are a big part of that.
Newer Direct Attached Storage (or DAS) devices are utilizing Thunderbolt 3 to further reduce bottlenecks during data transfer, meaning not just faster transfer speeds, but other features like daisy chaining that substantially improve the user experience.
We lucked out when we got these AKiTiO Thunder3 Duo Pro enclosures in the studio. These lovely aluminum cages allow us to RAID drives with the speed we need via Thunderbolt 3, so we thought we’d put them to the test by using them in our editing workflow.
You can pick up an AKiTiO Thunder3 Duo Pro for $320.
While normally we’re not that concerned about the aesthetics of our storage solutions, the chassis for these DAS units are classy enough to mention. The polished metal feels incredibly durable and the construction allows them to be stacked if you have need for more than one.
There’s an indicator on the face of the unit that shines a steady LED when the enclosure is in operation. There are also vents on the front that allows fans to pull air through to keep temps a bit lower. If you're using SSDs, there’s a switch to turn the fan off in the back if noise is a concern.
There are also two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB 3.1 Type B, and a full DisplayPort 1.1 output alongside the 100-240V AC external power adapter input.
If you want to switch the RAID configuration, you have to open the unit using the two thumbscrews located on the back and use a flathead screwdriver. It’s easy to open, and it means you can’t accidentally switch your RAID setup in the middle of use. If you’re someone who changes configurations frequently this could be an issue, but for most people this added security is probably worth the minor inconvenience.
In order to install the drives, it’s a simple matter of opening up the unit, popping in your HDDs or SSDs, setting your RAID configuration, and powering on. Because it’s hardware RAID, setup is fairly straightforward.
Overall, it’s a slickly designed and attractive chassis that’s both easy on the eyes and highly practical.
We’re all about that.
Here’s where we get to what really matters...performance.
The maximum data transfer speed is up to 785 MB/s. The enclosure can support two drives, up to 8TB max.
It supports four configurations: Non-Raid, SPAN, RAID 0 striping, and RAID 1 mirroring.
Of course, no hard drive is going to be able to write at the 40Gbs speed Thunderbolt 3 is capable of. If you’re using HDDs, it’s not going to be anywhere close to that. There’s virtually no difference performance-wise from an internal RAID setup and the AKiTiO Thunder3 Duo Pro, so you aren’t suddenly going to bypass the physical limitations of hard drives.
With that in mind, let’s see what we're working with here.
We started with a simple transfer test of a 55GB folder from our GIGABYTE Aero 15 to the first AKiTiO enclosure. We were getting speeds of around 461 MB/s. Not bad.
We expected some speed degradation when transferring from the laptop to the second daisy chained enclosure, so we were surprised when we got pretty much the same speed.
Looks like that 40GBs transfer speed allows us to push data all the way through with no issues. This is great for backups.
We mentioned earlier the Displayport 1.1 output on the back of the enclosures, so we wanted to check that out too.
You can plug in a monitor at the end of the daisy chain (as a node) and see what you’re working on via DisplayPort lanes in the Thunderbolt 3 signal.
It works like a charm. We were able to stream 4K videos from YouTube with no issues whatsoever through the daisy chained drives.
The Thunder3 Duo Pro enclosures gave our storage Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, and though the speeds are nowhere near what Thunderbolt 3 is capable of given the limitation of the hard drives, it’s still substantially faster than USB 3 or Ethernet. The added flexibility of daisy chaining drives together with almost no speed degradation is useful as well.
They look good, and do exactly what we need them to. Looks like we'll be keeping these around for a while.
Check it out here.