CalDigit AV Drive review

CalDigit’s AV Drive may not be the most attractive, or lightweight external disk on the market, but when positioned next to a Mac Pro you begin to get the idea.

Not only does the brushed metal and grill blend in alongside Apple’s premium desktop computer, its compatibility with the new USB 3.0 technology (also known as SuperSpeed) makes it idea for pro users. To take advantage of the USB 3.0 speed—up to 4.8GBps—you’ll need to install a separate SuperSpeed PCI ExpressCard into a Mac Pro (or a portable ExpressCard into a MacBook Pro – currently only available on 17inch MacBook Pro). [CalDigit asked us to point out that it is also available on Windows PCs – Ed].

Without the SuperSpeed ExpressCard installed you can use the drive as a regular USB 2.0 drive using the same connection. That said, it’s likely that only those who really need the speed will be looking at CalDigit’s offering, video and audio professionals who are prepared to spend the extra money, rather than consumers.

Macworld managed to copy a 1GB file in 20 seconds using USB 3.0, versus 37 seconds using USB 2.0, roughly twice as fast.

If your business is the constant shuttling of HD video our high quality audio to and from a computer, the AV Drive and its USB 3.0 connection are for you. Or, if you don’t mind the effort installing the card into your Mac or MacBook Pro, you can be assured of some seriously quick Time Machine backups on your home computer.

By comparison to other drives of this capacity and physical size, the AV Drive is quiet performer with an intelligent fan that reacts to temperature change. Even when transferring large amounts of data, drive access is barely audible and the drive even powers itself down to standby mode when not in use.  

Timed trials

Copy 1GB file: USB 2.0

0:37

Duplicate 1GB file: USB 2.0

0:56

Low-memory Photoshop: USB 2.0

3:43

Copy 1GB file: USB 3.0

0:20

Duplicate 1GB file: USB 3.0

0:20

Low-memory Photoshop: USB 3.0

2:08

Copy 1GB file: FireWire 400

0:29

Duplicate 1GB file: FireWire 400

0:44

Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 400

3:06

Copy 1GB file: FireWire 800

0:21

Duplicate 1GB file: FireWire 800

0:24

Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 800

2:14

Scale=minutes:seconds

AJA tests

 

Write

Read

USB 2.0

28.3MBps

36.1MBps

USB 3.0

101.3MBps

127.3MBps

FW400

38.1MBps

39.8MBps

FW800

84.9MBps

85.5MBps

Speed testing courtesy of Macworld.com. More information on AJA System testing here.

OUR VERDICT

It’s not pretty and it’s not cheap but CalDigit’s AV Drive is what you want when the cheaper, sexier drives aren’t up to carrying the load at speed. Additional bundled software including RAID Tool and Carbon Copy Cloner add more weight to the package although you will need an expansion card for the currently USB 3.0-lacking Mac platform to take advantage of USB 3.0 speeds.

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