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Mediasonic Dual Bay RAID Hard Drive Enclosures Review

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AkG

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Mediasonic Firewire & USB Dual Bay RAID Hard Drive Enclosures Review




USB 2.0 Enclosure (HUR1-SU2)

Manufacturer Product Page: Mediasonic Web Store
Product Number: HUR1-SU2
Availability: Now
Price: $80CAD
Warranty Length: 1 year


Firewire Enclosure (HUR1-SU2FWB)

Manufacturer Product Page: Mediasonic Web Store
Product Number: HUR1-SU2FWBB
Availability: Now
Price: $150CAD
Warranty Length: 1 year



The idea of external drive enclosures is not a new one. In fact the original IBM "Personal Computer" (AKA IBM 5150) did not even come with an internal hard drive, and neither did early Apple computers. Up until Seagate (then known as Shugart Technology) released the ST-506 5.25 inch, 5 megabyte hard drive, the very idea of having an internal hard drive was ludicrous. Pre-1980 hard drives were huge devices with platters either 8 inches or 14 inches wide and were colloquially referred to as "washing machines” which you could make “dance” by properly timing seek and reads.

The idea of storage enclosures being in a RAID format is also not a new idea, it is simply taking another page from the server market where most if not all external enclosures come with different RAID levels. What is new is the idea of having a small light weight drive enclosure that can use normal 3.5” SATA hard drives and be able to set them up in a RAID.

Just recently Canadian-based Mediasonic, a relative newcomer to the market, released two small external enclosures named the HUR1-SU2 (USB2.0) and the HUR1-SU2FWB (Firewire & USB 2.0). These devices are marketed as low-priced, "instant" storage solutions that are designed for archival backups, large-capacity portable storage, classified/sensitive data storage, or just extra disk storage. Both of these units are small 2 bay enclosures that not only allow you to use any 3.5” SATA hard drive but also allow you to set them up in RAID 1 or 0. Even better still this requires no special hardware or software to be installed on the host computer. The enclosures take care of all the work, which makes these units complete, self sustained hardware appliances that will work equally well on Apple or PC computers.

In this review we will be taking a closer look a both the USB 2.0 and the Firewire versions of these enclosures. They each come with a one-year warranty and are widely available at various etailers throughout the country or can be purchased directly through the Mediasonic webstore.


 
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AkG

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


The box for each enclosure is done in a subtle and refined color scheme consisting mainly of white, black, gray with red highlights. There is a picture of the enclosure as well as a brief point-by-point description of the features for each enclosure.


Both Mediasonic enclosures came in very similar boxes and unless you look closely you would not be able to tell them apart. Even on closer inspection you can only tell them apart by a sticker which states what connections it supports. In this case it was a blue circle for USB only and orange for the enclosure equipped with FireWire and USB.


Besides being aesthetically pleasing the box provides you with all the information a first time buyer would need. In particular are the great diagrams on the back of the box that not only tell you what the different RAID levels are, but it also shows you everything in easy to understand icons. Overall it’s a very nice box that advertises its contents well without resorting to garish holograms or flashy bright color schemes.


When you do open the box you are greeted to the plastic wrapped raid enclosure that is loosely packed in the top section of the box.

Underneath the enclosure is a cardboard insert that separates the enclosure from its cables, cd, screws, screwdriver and power adapter. These items are also placed fairly loosely in the bottom of the case. This packaging format is common for enclosures, and I believe that shipping this unit in its retail packaging is acceptable and does not require any additional protection.


Like most external storage enclosures, Mediasonic provides everything except the necessary hard drives. In this picture you see the accessories which are common to both enclosures: an AC adaptor, an installation CD which also holds the instruction manual, a screwdriver, mounting screws, a USB cable and a power cord.

Here is a full list of accessories included with each drive:

HUR1-SU2 Package Contents:

* USB 2.0 Cable x 1
* External Power Adapter (AC Input: 100 - 240V, DC Output +12V/2A, +5V/2A)
* Power cord
* Screw Driver
* Accessories Pouch (screws)


HUR1-SU2FWB Package Contents:

* USB 2.0 Cable x 1
* FireWire 400 Cable x 1
* FireWire 800 Cable x 1
* External Power Adapter (AC Input: 100 - 240V, DC Output +12V/2A, +5V/2A)
* Power cord
* Screw Driver
* Accessories Pouch (screws)


As you can see there is very little to distinguish the USB-only enclosure from the Firewire-equipped one when it comes to accessories. However, Mediasonic does bump thing up a notch by including both Firewire 400 and 800 cables with the more expensive HUR1-SU2FWB


While it is not a costly accessory, the inclusion of a screwdriver was a nice touch. No one likes having to look for tools when they try to install any new device and this attention to detail gives a very good first impression.

However, one thing that did stand out by its absence was that both units lacked installation instructions. The CD that comes with the enclosure includes fully diagramed installation instructions but having to print them off does not leave a good feeling with me and this oversight is puzzling. It wouldn't cost Mediasonic much to print up these instructions.
 

SKYMTL

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions


These RAID enclosures are 2 bay units, that can connect via USB and in the case of the SU2FWB it can also has a 1394a and b connection options. 1394a and 1394b are better known by the Apple name “FireWire 400” & “FireWire 800” respectively. Even though both enclosures have different specifications, there is nothing to distinguish them apart from one another upon first glance.

The case itself is made of plastic with aluminum side panels and while the metal is not overly thick it does not feel weak nor fragile. Considering the price range of the SU2FWB model $150 CAD) it would have been reasonable to expect a completely metal enclosure. More puzzling still is that both units are advertised on MediaSonic’s website as being made of aluminum or at the very least it infers they aluminum enclosures. In their own words “Aluminum is an obvious choice when it comes to constructing a quality hard drive enclosure”, so why did they make both partially out of plastic?


The exterior of both enclosures is a very nice and refined gray and black color scheme. This use of neutral colours allows the enclosure to blend seamlessly in with any background. I was very impressed with the inclusion of six bright information LEDs on the front of the units. With a simple glance you can quickly ascertain if the unit is on, the condition of the hard drives in the enclosure, if they are active and even if the enclosure is rebuilding its array. Overall it is a nice, fast and concise way of telling you exactly what is happening at any given moment. Not needing to install any software to give you all this information was very nice.


On a positive note both units also have 4 rubber feet on the bottom of the enclosures, and does make for secure mounting when placed on a desk. A minor annoyance is that you can not lay the unit on its side since its slippery aluminum sides it does have a tendency to slip and slide around on a desk.


Just as the front is for information display, the back is where all the various connection options, an on/off switch and even a 40mm exhaust fan is located. This is a very well executed layout with everything clearly labeled and does not feel cramped or cluttered.

However, one thing we did notice is the orientation of the 1394b connectors. In most instances these connectors are usually found in a horizontal orientation yet on the SU2FWB model they are in a vertical orientation. Basically what this means is instead of having the 6 or 9 pins in a long narrow row, they are positioned in very tall narrow row. This orientation can have possible negative side effects since the plastic center post no longer acts as a cable stabilizer and this means that a good connection is solely based on friction between the pins and connector. This small detail does dampen an otherwise very good first impression of these enclosures.

Overall both units look good and would fit equally well with any décor.
 

SKYMTL

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


When you first remove the two side case doors you are greeted to fairly spacious and neat interior. Nothing is cluttered or bunched up; rather, everything is well laid out and you can tell careful planning went into the placement of every part and its effects on airflow within the enclosure.​

The grey-painted ard drive rack in the center of the unit can hold a pair of 3.5" SATA hard drives and as you will see in the installation section, it is also quite easy to remove.


The exhaust fan that creates this air flow is a standard 40mm fan that uses a standard 2 pin connector. Removal of the fan consists of unplugging the fan from the printed circuit board (PCB), and sliding it out of its cradle. This attention to details is very nice, and having the exhaust fan as an end user replaceable part is a great idea. This is especially important if you are in a high temperature environment, as it can be easily swapped out for a more high performance fan.

As a side note, the fan that is included is a very quiet fan that should provide ample cooling for most hard drives. If one is planning on installing Western Digital’s Raptor hard drives you may want to upgrade it, but for most other drives it should be more than adequate.


The backplane board itself is mounted to the hard drive cage with 4 screws and is also easily removed. As a side note the backplane board was the same in both devices and marked as “HUR1-SU2FWBB ver. A”.

This backplane acts as a data intermediary for the hard drives to the circuit board and also provides power to the hard drives. The drive cage itself uses the reliable mounting method of screwing the hard drives to the sides of the drive cage, allowing for a very secure mounting that keeps vibrations to a minimum.


As you can see in the above photos both enclosures use the same circuit board. Both boards are marked as “HUR1-SU2FWBB ver. B” with the only difference is the USB only model is missing additional voltage regulators and the Texas Instruments 1394 a/b chip. This is quiet common and allows companies to save money by allowing them to buy one circuit board and modify it as needed. It does raise an interesting question about the data recovery IF the enclosure itself fails; would you be able to simply swap out the circuit board and not loose your data? We will answer this question later in the review.


Not only do both enclosures use the same circuit board and backplane but they also use the same Oxford chip for their USB controller. This 921DS chip is not only the dual SATA to USB controller chip but is also responsible for all of the enclosures' RAID functions as well. This is an impressive performance feat and really does show how far we have come in such a short period of time. Gone are the days of needing a full daughter board to take care of RAID instructions - now it can be bundled with a full USB controller all in one chip! Needless to say both enclosures' USB performance should be very similar with any difference due to minor variations from chip to chip.


The SU2FWB enclosure uses the newer Texas Instruments TSB81BA3D chip for its FireWire controller. This one chip is capable of handling three 1394 port connections and this explains why the SU2FWB enclosure only has one 6 pin 1394a connector but has two 1394b connectors. However, even though it has 3 connectors you should not use more than one connector at a time.


While I was not expecting to see Panasonic or Rubycon capacitors, it was disheartening to see that Mediasonic opted for Evercon capacitors. These two capacitors are rated for 105c and we have no issue with this. What we do have an issue with is the fact that “Evercon” was formerly known as “GSC”. This Chinese manufacturer was one of many that sold less than optimal capacitors to various motherboard and video card manufacturers earlier this decade. In some instances these capacitors quickly swelled and failed. It is for this reason that many video and motherboard manufacturers stopped using older style capacitors and went to “solid state” capacitors.

Please note: This is a low voltage device and these capacitors are not the same model as the ones that failed. One should never condemn a company’s full line because of one bad product. We would however be remiss in not mentioning Evercon’s history and let you the consumer decide if this is a big issue or not.
 

SKYMTL

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Features & Specifications

Features and Specifications

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; WIDTH: 74%; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top width="74%">Microsoft Window 2000 / XP / <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 /><st1:place w:st="on">VISTA</st1:place> and Mac OS

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>NTFS for Window 2000 / XP / <st1:place w:st="on">VISTA</st1:place>

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>HFS+ (Mac OS Extended) for Mac OS

</TD></TR><TR><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Raid Setting

</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>:

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Single Mode: Computer will show up as two independent drives

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Raid 0 - Spanning Mode: Two HDDs will show up as one large single drive

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Raid 0 - Stripping Mode: Two HDDs will show up as one large single drive but speed performance will boost up

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>

</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Raid 1 - Mirroring Mode: Creating an extra copy set of data to second drive

</TD></TR><TR><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Hard Disk Drive Jumper Setting

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>

</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Master / Single

</TD></TR><TR><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>AC Power Adapter

</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>:

</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>

</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Input: 100V - 240V ~ 50 / 60 Hz Max 1.5A; 75 ~ 100VA

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in" vAlign=top>Output: 5V - 2A, 12V - 2A

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</TD><TD style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0in; PADDING-TOP: 0in; HEIGHT: 12.75pt">145 (w) x 225 (L) x 59 (H) mm

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</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>


Enclosure modes:

Below are the jumper settings as detailed by the instruction manual provided by Mediasonic

SINGLE MODE or “Non-RAID Mode”:


This mode requires only 1 hard drive, but if two are used both will show as two independent drives. Mediasonic’s literature states that “This function can be use if only one HDD is installed. Or, two different brands or capacities of HDDs are installed.” However, our two identical Seagate 7200.10 320GB hard drives that we used for testing showed up as two independent 320GB drives.


RAID O - SPANNING MODE


This mode requires 2 hard drives but they do not need to be the same capacity. It provides no fault tolerance and does no error checking. If one of the hard drives does become damaged, then all data on both drives maybe lost. The two hard drives will show up as one large single double capacity drive and data is written sequentially filling one hard drive before starting to write to the second drive.


RAID O - STRIPPING MODE


Using this mode requires 2 hard drives of the same capacity, brand and model number. It provides no fault tolerance and does no error checking. If one hard drive becomes damaged then all data on both drives may be lost. The two hard drives will show up as one large single double capacity drive but read/write performance will be increase. This is because the array controller splits each piece of data across both HDDs in segments.


RAID 1 - MIRRORING MODE


Using this mode requires 2 hard drives of the same capacity, brand and model number. It provides fault tolerance from disk errors and single disk failure. Under RAID1, the array will create an extra copy (or mirror) of the data to the second drive. Only one drive will be visible to the computer, but read performance will be increased as both hard drives can read and provide the requested data. If one hard drive fails simple replacing the failed drive with another drive of the same capacity will allow the array to rebuild. However, if the second hard drive fails before the RIAD array is finished rebuilding your data will be lost.
 
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SKYMTL

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Installation

Installation

As noted earlier neither case came with printed instructions. After about twenty minutes looking for the non-existent instructions we got out the CD and printed off the easy to understand icon and text based instructions.

Here is a summary of the instructions:

1 - Remove the 4 screws holding side panels on.
2 - Remove side panels
3 - Remove the 2 screws holding drive cage in
4 - Give a gently horizontal pull on drive cage towards front of unit.
5 - Gently lift drive cage out
6 - Install Hard drive(s), making sure they fit into their port on the backplane
7 - Reinstall Hard Drive Cage
8 - Screw in the 2 retaining screws
9 - Pick you RAID level
10 - Set jumpers to SET RAID level
11 - Put side panels back on and reinstall 4 retaining screws


The first step in the installation process is not too self-evident if you don't take a look at the instruction manual on the CD. You will first have to remove the four screws located underneath the feet of the Mediasonic enclosure and are partially hidden. Then you will have to remoev the side panels so you can use the included screwdriver to loosen the pair of screws holding down the hard drive cage.


When these screws are removed a gentle horizontal tug and then vertical pull removes the drive cage & backplane board from the main PCB. As easy and straightforward this is, it was found that fitting the hard drives into their data and power port on the backplane was easier said than done.

A far easier method to install the hard drives was: remove the drive cage from the enclosure, then remove the backplane from the drive cage, and gently attached the hard drives to the backplane. Then remount the backplane & hard drives in the drive cage.


For whatever reason following the manufacturers instructions we were only able to install one hard drive. With one hard drive installed there was not enough maneuvering room to get the second hard drive in its slot. This is problem may be limited to Seagate hard drives, as Western Digital hard drives had no installation issues.


Once the hard drives are installed and the drive cage is securely remounted the only thing left to do is set your RAID level or “mode” as Mediasonic calls it. This task is accomplished by setting two jumper pins over four of the six pins. Depending on which pins are shorted tells the array what mode you wish. Both enclosures come standard in “Single” mode.

Depending on which mode you choose this would be either the end of the installation or just the beginning. Unfortunately if you do follow the Mediasonic’s instructions step by step you will now have to remove the 2nd hard drive from the unit if you want RAID 1 mode. Both enclosures require you to have only one hard drive installed for first power on of RAID 1. You then have to wait until the hard drive 2 failure LED lights up, then and only then can you power down the enclosure, remove the drive cage and install the second hard drive. Then power up the enclosure for a second time and wait for it to build the array. Of course the enclosure is ready to be used immediately, just with reduced performance.


Overall, Mediasonic has taken a fairly easy, user friendly installation process and made it complicated and confusing. It is unclear if this is because the instructions were translated from another language and something was lost in translation or just that they let the engineer’s write the manual. Either way, the first time you try to setup a RAID 1, expect your installation time to be double that of any of the other modes.

As a side note, of the four possible modes, only RAID 1 takes a good amount of time to be completed. Single and both RAID 0 modes take less than 20 seconds for it to be ready and perform at its full potential. Just like the other modes, RAID 1 allows you to copy information to the enclosure as soon as your computer recognizes it, BUT depending on the size of your hard drives it will take many hours to complete. For example two 320GB hard drives took just over 5 hours for the array to be fully built. This extra time is to be expected with any RAID array and setting up the stripping does take time. The easiest way to think of it is to think of RAID 1 building as a hard format of two drives being done at the same time by the one controller.


Where these enclosures are geared towards Small Office / Home Office environments it was puzzling that no networking connection options were included. You can easily set this unit up as a shared drive so that other computers on your network can access it BUT the host computer must be left on to act as the intermediary and process all requests. In an $80 dollar enclosure this oversight is to be expected, however with the higher priced enclosure this oversight was conspicuous by its absence. If a manufacture is going to print SOHO on the sides of its enclosures it should do its research into what that particular market niche requires.

Before continuing I would also like to mention a potential long term negative we found with the SU2FWB model. Namely all three FireWire port connectors did display an alarming amount of flex while plugging in a cable. On close inspection it becomes apparent that none of the ports are reinforced and this flexing is the actual solder connections flexing. These solder points may break after extended use because of this flexing. It is puzzling why Mediasonic did not notice this issue in product testing, or did they notice it and did not see fit to reinforce the connectors? Could this be the reason two 1394b connectors are included?
 

SKYMTL

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Performance Testing Methodology

Performance Testing Methodology

Testing an external storage array is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto the arrays drive folder in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account.

For these tests I used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach and the SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark. For all USB & 1394a testing an ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard was used, with it’s built in USB and FireWire controllers. For all 1394b testing a PCI daughter card with a Texas Instruments controller chip was used.
All tests were run 4 times and only best results are represented.

For information purposes here is the theoretical maximum each connection is cable of:

USB 2.0 = 50MB/S (480Mbit/s)
FireWire 800/1394a = 40MB/s (400Mbits/s)
FireWire 800.1394b = 100MB/s (800Mbits/s)

Theoretical numbers aside, FireWire is a much less resource intensive connection based on “Peer-to-Peer” architecture where the device itself is “intelligent” and handles most of the data transfer and data collision work. USB relies on the older “Master/Slave” architecture where the host computer has to do all the necessary work.

This means that more of USB’s throughput is used just to keep the connection alive (AKA overhead), this leaves less useable bandwidth for information. This is why a theoretically slower connection (1394a) will usually have better speeds than its USB counterpart.

Complete Test System:

Processor: AMD X2 4800+
Motherboard: ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe
Memory: 2GB Corsair TwinX PC2-6400
Graphics card: Evga 7900gtx 512mb
Hard Drives:
2x Seagate 7200.10 320GB (used for enclosure testing)
1x Western Digtal Se16 500GB
1x Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Power Supply: Enermax Liberty 620W
Case: CM Stacker 830 w/ 8 Scythe E fans
Firewire PCI Card: PPA Int'l 1225 FW800 card
 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

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Read Bandwidth / Random Access Time

Read Bandwidth

For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed that you are likely to experience with these enclosures.

USB 2.0


As we suspected, there was little to no difference between the two enclosures when USB was used. These minor variations can be consider statistical aberrations and are too small to be considered different.


FIREWIRE


Here you can see the real benefits of with the use of the Firewire connections. Not only is the Firewire 400 faster than the USB 2.0 connection we saw before but the Firewire 800 results were blazingly fast with a peak of 86.8MB/s in RAID 0 Stripe mode.


Random Access Time

Once again, HDTach was used for the benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive.

USB 2.0


Once again there was no difference between the two enclosures when USB was used. Overall, such a small increase in random access times is to be expected as a second controller is now involved in data communications.


FIREWIRE


Unsurprisingly the slower 1394a connection was totally outclassed by the larger potential bandwidth of the newer 1394b. As you can also see FireWire had faster read speeds regardless of mode used, however the difference between FireWire and USB was fairly small and the cheaper model certainly held up its end in the random access tests.
 

SKYMTL

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark

The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

USB 2.0

Please note: USB results were exactly the same for both enclosures. For ease of viewing only one set has been included.



Both enclosures posted some very impressive results. One thing that does stand out is that both enclosures' speed is being limited by the USB interface. None of the 4 modes showed much difference from each other when it came to speed and that tells me this Mediasonic enclosure's true potential will never be achieved over USB. However, 34MB a second is not bad performance at all and these are some of the higher numbers I have seen for USB enclosures. Overall very impressive performance for a less than $80 device, and very good performance for a $150 device.


FireWire 400



Now we are getting somewhere! Just as you should, you can now start to tell a difference between the various modes. Once again though, this enclosure’s true potential is being limited by the interface, and while 40MB/s is very good the speeds are still showing an artificial limit to them. They are still not showing what this enclosure can really...until the next test.


FireWire 800



Nearly 93MB a second for FireWire 800 is simply amazing. Once again one has to wonder if the 1394b interface standard is the limiting factor for the SU2FWB’s maximum speed. Let me just repeat that: 100 MB/s connection speed may not be fast enough to show this enclosures true potential. That is simply astonishing.
 

SKYMTL

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Sandra Removable Storage Bench / Extended Runtime

Sandra Removable Storage Benchmark

This test was run with the removable storage benchmark in Sandra XII Standard. All of the scores are calculated in operations per second and have been averaged out from the scores of 4 test runs.

Please note that both enclosures' USB results were the same with the biggest deviation being 2ops/min. For ease of use only 1 set of USB results have been included.


As you can see, FireWire 400 and USB have nearly identical numbers when it comes to RAID 0 and it is only in RAID 1 and single mode that the 1394a standard starts to distinguish itself. Once again, proving that a higher theoretical limit does not equate to higher real world numbers. Regardless of how well both the USB and FireWire 400 results are, FireWire 800 is simply in a league of its own.


Extended Runtime Testing

Since both these units are marketed towards the SOHO environment, it is reasonable to expect them to be able to handle extended usage with random multiple requests for data. To test how robust these units are and how well their cooling would work under a heavy workload, both enclosures were subjected to 48 hour nonstop sessions. During this time the enclosures were directed to not only fill and then empty their contents but were also expected to handle multiple simultaneous read and write requests from different computers on the network.

After 48hrs of nonstop use both enclosures hard drives were warm to the touch but neither was hot and both appeared to be adequately cooled. More importantly the Texas Instrument chip and both Oxfords did get very warm, some would say “hot” but neither was in risk of being damaged and they continued to work perfectly. Both enclosures passed this torture test and continue to work fine.

The only issue we had was with the Firewire-equipped and more expensive SU2FWB. Even before testing started it suddenly stopped being recognized by any system, regardless of whether the lone 1394a or either of the 1394b ports were used. Strangely it was instantly recognized when the USB connection was used. After replacing the FireWire 800 pci card and using a different system for 1394a it still did not work.

It was then discovered that the FireWire cables and the FireWire ports themselves on the SU2FWB had become loose and allowed the cables enough flex in the ports which causes random disconnects. This problem was only temporarily alleviated by replacing the cable with a known good one. The final solution was to place the unit on its side and use the known good cable. This new orientation, did not allow the cables to sag enough to disconnect and the different orientation also did not in any way affect performance nor did it seem to affect hard drive temperatures. If one is planning on using this model in a SOHO environment you may want to invest in a good cable management system that supports the cable and seriously consider the cables that come with the unit as “backup only” cables.
 
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