CalDigit T3 6TB review

CalDigit is a new brand specialising in storage products for the Mac. Its expanding range is aimed at media professionals and anyone that needs to work with large volumes of data.

To achieve large capacity and bolster performance too, the RAID array is the usual way forward, and multi-disk RAID that lies at the heart of the CalDigit T3. As the name suggests, it’s actually a three-disk system, and hosts three 3.5in SATA disks.

Besides the T3, CalDigit also makes a single-disk AV Pro with USB 3.0 and FireWire 800; and two-disk VR2 with USB 3.0, FireWire 800 and eSATA.

Our sample included three 2 TB Toshiba disks ready installed for a total unformatted capacity of 6 TB. Also available is 3 to 12 TB pre-installed, or opt for SSDs or even a mixture of both storage technologies in the same chassis.

See also: Storage reviews

The T3 is sturdily built around a tough satin-finished aluminium case, and powered by an external laptop-style power brick. At the back of the extruded casework is a single large 75 mm fan to ventilate the disks, and two Thunderbolt ports to allow daisy-chaining. A Kensington lock slot here may prove useful to lash the box down for security.

At the front are three accessible drive bays, the disk themselves held in slide-in caddies which can be locked with an included security hex key. It’s not high security but these quarter-turn locks will deter casual fingers tempted to hook out a working disk, with potentially disastorous consequences for your data.

Even if not expressly locked, it’s not at all easy to remove the caddies as you must press a pin into small holes adjacent to the locking screws in order to pull forward the extraction levers. A special thick pin for the job is also included on a separate key.

The disks are inexplicable labelled A0, A1 and A2 and small LEDs indicate when each is working. The front fascia is finished with a metal on/off press button and series of small vents at the bottom through which cooling air is drawn.

Build quality was sound with a premium look, if not quite in the premier class for precison. Fit and finish were excellent but just shy of Apple quality. Sliding disk caddies into place was a little awkward as you must get the levers into one particular position as you reinsert.

In use the unit remained reasonably quiet, the 1500 rpm fan running steadily but not overly noisy at all times.

CalDigit T3 6TB review: Setup

Unlike some RAID systems such as those made by Promise that use hardware RAID controllers, like LaCie CalDigit relies on a software RAID to unite disks, all under the control of the OS X operating system.

The system was ready configured in RAID 0 mode, with data striped across all three disks to gain the best performance with a single big volume. There were no other software utilties included but you can reassign the RAID yourself using Disk Utility.app, to create a series of three independent disks, or with two disks as RAID 1 mirrored, for example.

Rather miserly CalDigit has secured disks in their caddies using four centre-pinned Torx T9 security screws and applied a ‘warranty void if removed’ sticker over one, but in principle you can mix and match your own disks if you want to upgrade capacity later.

CalDigit T3 6TB review: Performance

The CalDigit T3 supports the original Thunderbolt interface, rather than the newer Thunderbolt 2 standard, although with three traditional hard disks inside it should not need the added headroom of v2 anyway.

For larger sequential file transfers, the T3 averaged a round 549 MB/s for both reads and writes, about what we’d expect of three desktop-class 7200 rpm 3.5in disks RAIDed together.

Interestingly, the average speed for slightly smaller files was almost 50 percent faster, around 760 MB/s for data from 2-10 MB according to QuickBench, although this may have been accelerated by the disks’ on-board memory cache. Tested in Blackmagic Disk Speed Test we saw sustained throughput of around 530 MB/s for reads or writes, using the 1 GB data test.

At the small file level the T3 was not so quick, but quite typical when disk-based storage meets RAID slices. In fact the drive had been configured with 256 kB block sizes, which can mean files smaller than this are not optimised well – random 4 kB reads toodled along at just 1.7 MB/s for example. Nevertheless, when averaged across all data sizes from 4 kB to 1024 kB the T3 recorded 85 MB/s random reads and 63 MB/s random writes.

OUR VERDICT

The CalDigit T3 is a versatile desktop RAID system that can make good use of original Thunderbolt speeds with its pre-installed hard disks. It offers greater capacity than systems like the G-Technology G-DRIVE ev that rely on 2.5in drives, and reasonable value in capacity per pound at under 10p per gigabyte.

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