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Going big and fast for storage used to mean buying a super expensive RAID system. Other World Computing, a company with a lengthy track record in the hardware industry since 1988, has come up with a 4-drive bay enclosure that is software RAID and SSD ready, supports a 4K screen and has dual Thunderbolt 2 ports.

Review: OWC ThunderBay 4 mini Drives Huge Performance With SSD & Thunderbolt 2

Overview

The OWC Thunderbay 4 mini chassis is a black metal enclosure with circular vents on the front, a large quiet fan in the back and is only as long as a pencil. No longer are the days when a big RAID system is needed for ultra high definition 4K video production or for sustained speeds up to 1,346 MB a second.

OWC’s ThunderBay 4 mini with its four 2.5” drive bays work best with SSDs installed, but if more storage space is needed and transfer speed is not so much an issue, it can handle up to 8TB of 5400 RPM standard hard drives, resulting in sustained speeds of up to 531MB a second.

Review: OWC ThunderBay 4 mini Drives Huge Performance With SSD & Thunderbolt 2

With OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G Solid State Drives installed on my test unit, the ThunderBay 4 mini can drive multi-stream compressed 4K video and other workflows requiring a high amount of available bandwidth. The enclosure is so versatile, it can handle SSDs and standard spinning 2.5” hard drives. Or go all in with RAID software to enable data-redundancy.

Review: OWC ThunderBay 4 mini Drives Huge Performance With SSD & Thunderbolt 2

The SSD disks included in the package test unit have impressive capabilities and are firmware upgradable. Those that have owned RAID or multi-drive enclosures before know that the chips driving it are as important as its connecting ports.

Each Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G comes with a SandForce 228x Series Processor with 7% Over Provisioning. The type of NAND flash memory on SSDs in this type of professional system are equally important for long term reliability. That is why these drives comes with tier 1 Major Multi-Level Cell (MLC) High-Performance Sync-NAND Flash. These are not single system SSD drives either. They are qualified by OWC for single drive and multiple drive production workstations with RAID levels 0/1/10/0+1 and SPAN

The words EXTEME and Pro only mean something if the SSD can actually perform. Testing of the Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G by OWC have yielded the results below:

  • Sustained Reads 6Gb/s (up to) 559MB/s
  • Sustained Writes 6Gb/s (up to) 527MB/s
  • Sustained Reads 3Gb/s (up to) 284MB/s
  • Sustained Writes 3Gb/s (up to) 266MB/s
  • Read Incompressible Data Rate (up to) 479MB/s
  • Write Incompressible Data Rate (up to) 282MB/s
  • Random 4K Read Up to 60,000 IOPS
  • Random 4K Write Up to 60,000 IOPS
  • Read Latency less than 0.1ms
  • Write Latency less than 0.1ms

Security for externals drives is important to OWC and so these SSD drives incorporate chip based 128-bit data level encryption that is AES-compliant.

Those that want to put a ThunderBay 4 mini into a production environment right away should look into their preconfigured units with their multi-hour “burn-in” and a three year warranty. With JBOD compatibility, use each of the drives independently if you wish.

The compatibility with a Mac OS X system that has Thunderbolt 2 ports will allow it to boot up the computer externally. That is a fine option for those that might need to upgrade a production level work environment with minimal downtime. Keep several backup copies of the system on its various disks to downgrade at any moment. The hassle of carrying around a very large RAID system is over with the ThunderBay 4 mini.

Review: OWC ThunderBay 4 mini Drives Huge Performance With SSD & Thunderbolt 2

OWC is all about expansion to meet with higher end data and bandwidth product needs. This external device can expand up to six ThunderBay 4 minis via a single 20Gb per second Thunderbolt 2 port, or use it to drive a 4K monitor.

Verdict

OWC offers everything needed for a 4k video production environment. Professionally burning-in SSD drives is important to make sure once the system arrives, it can be put to use immediately. Their pairing of the Extreme Pro 6G SSDs makes deciding on this system easy, some SSD enclosure companies do not offer pre-installed drives. That is an impressive amount of expansion for a system with a three year warranty priced currently at $999.88.

Rating:

Rating: 4.5/5

Pros:

  • Four 2.5” Drive Bays SSD & SATA Compatible
  • Pre-tested with lengthy “burn-in”
  • Software RAID-ready With Up To 8TB of Storage
  • Mix SSD & SATA Drives
  • Two Thunderbolt 2 Ports
  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Enclosure Available

Cons:

  • 4TB of SSDs Costs $2k+

 

Disclosure: I have been provided a OWC ThunderBay 4 mini 1TB at no cost for review. I have not been compensated for the review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos are courtesy of MacSales.com.