Data, data, data, where to store it all? With digital cameras creating 40MB files on a routine basis, it doesn’t take long until you are pushing data storage to its limits. We look at storage solutions from three well known suppliers, Other World Computing, Seagate, and SanDisk Professional. Fast, reliable storage is imperative for everyone from everyday consumers to professional content creators.
Other World Computing
We first met Larry O’Connor years ago when he had just a few products, was working out of his home, and was keen on all things related to Apple. In the years since, his company Other World Computing / MacSales has gone on to become a powerhouse for storage, not limited to the Mac platform. One thing we enjoy about OWC products is that they are very much into providing for the DIY (Do it Yourself) community. From bare hard drives, SSDs, to populated and unpopulated RAIDs, they have it all. Best of all, they stream a variety of professionally produced videos on how to install equipment, which is a huge stress reducer, or to let folks know if they should hire a professional to do the work, if the task is beyond their comfort level.
We have reported on other OWC products in the past, so this time we are concentrating on two products that we think are standouts. The OWC Envoy Pro Elektron USB C 3.2 Portable Storage Solution is, according to OWC, “the fastest, toughest mini-sized SSD in the universe. It’s crush proof, dust proof and water proof for transferring gigabytes of data in seconds anywhere with your Macs, PCs, iPads, Chromebooks, and Android tablets.” Our tests back up that claim. It’s super speedy, tiny, and elegant in the same way that LaCie products are. It’s a great external drive solution for users of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. One requirement of Lightroom makes fast external storage critically important to a serious workflow.
With modern laptops and desktops switching to SSDs for internal use, there simply isn’t enough room on that SSD to store files on. Maybe a small amount of data, but since most computers are shipping with 500GB drives, and with the Operating System and Applications files, take up another chunk, you might have roughly 150 MBs for image files, which really isn’t that much. Not only that, it’s best practice to keep upwards of 25% of the drive space open for dynamic memory allocation, or else performance suffers. So, placing those files on an external drive is a given, and this is where the performance bottleneck hits the hardest. Thunderbolt is the preferred choice, with the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron USB C 3.2 Portable Storage Solution, a perfect match for serious users. We found that it was one of the only external storage solutions to keep up with Lightroom using large RAW capture files, such as those created with our Sony A7 IV. Waiting for Lightroom to respond is not only slow, it’s distracting as you often have to plow through multiple files to do global corrections, thus the latency is hugely noticeable. In our tests using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test application the drive hit 1134.5 Write/1012.6 Read speeds, surpassing OWC’s claimed results, something you rarely encounter. Fortunately the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron is there to chase the latency blues away.
Our 2022 Storage Product of the Year is the OWC Gemini. Ironically it actually ships without storage if you prefer. The Gemini might not seem all that special, but what it offers is a Thunderbolt 3 and Dual-Drive RAID solution in an elegant black metal case. Unlike most cases, this will accommodate either SSDs or spinning disk media, so that you can populate it however you choose, and update mechanisms or SSDs in either the 2.5- or 3.5-inch form factor. It’s user-defined if you want to populate as a hardware based RAID or mirror, or in our case, we used it to test the newest generations of Seagate Iron Wolf Pro 20TB drives. The Gemini also features seven ports of connectivity, including a SD 4.0 Card Reader, 1Gb Ethernet port, (2) USB 3.2 (5Gb/s) ports, and a handy Dedicated DisplayPort 1.2 for adding up to a 4K display. It’s backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 2- and Thunderbolt 3-equipped Macs. It’s easy to open and install drives – all you need is a Phillips head screwdriver.
By including the Display Port, SD Card Reader, Ethernet port, and USB ports, the dock has effectively been replaced, and once you factor in the ability to add two drives with up to 773 MBs speed, it’s quite the bargain. At press time an empty Gemini starts at under $300 without drives. It’s truly a Swiss Army Knife for anyone who seeks an effective tool to declutter their workspace, add connectivity, and drive flexibility. Add some drives and you have a powerful, plug and play solution that will make Santa very happy.
For more information on the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron visit: https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/owc-envoy-pro-elektron
For more information on the OWC Gemini visit: https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/owc-gemini
Seagate Iron Wolf Pro
We have long felt that NAS drives, designed for a continual workflow, are a good choice for workstation drives. While they might not be as speedy as faster workstation drives, their speeds are often in the same ballpark, and they have the added benefit of a higher MTBF (mean time between failures) since they are designed for 24/7/365 operation. Seagate Iron Wolf and Iron Wolf Pro hard drives are standards for the industry: robust, fast, with extended warranties, rugged and reliable. When we first started testing hardware RAIDs and RAID software such as SoftRaid, they were our go-to drive of choice.
We are working with their latest offering (as of December 2022), the upgraded 20TB Iron Wolf Pro models. We tested them for speed against their 12TB predecessor, and found they were about the same, or even a bit faster. For example, in our tests using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test application the drive hit 177.1 Write / 214.4 MB/s speeds in the OWC Gemini Dock with Thunderbolt 3 cabling and connections, on an M1 14-inch Apple MacBook Pro.
The same drive in an older cheese grater MacPro, turned in even faster times, of 211.4 Write / 212.6 MB/s Read, revealing the impact of a native SATA connection vs. SATA through Thunderbolt. Obviously in this case, to get the most out of the drive, one should use it directly in a computer with a SATA port. Using the same MacPro with the older 12TB Iron Wolf Pro, the drive pulled 218.4 Write / 224.6 MB/s Read. Interestingly enough, the new 20TB model feels faster and more sprightly, and extended catalog work with Lightroom Classic was quicker and more responsive. All measurements were in line with a SATA 6GB/s, 7,200 RPM drive. Before we used the new drives, we used SoftRaid 7.0 to run their "Certify" feature, which writes to ever sector on the drive. This took over 80 hours per drive, but we feel is a necessary step before integrating mission critical drives into service. The results, 0 failures for every drive, which was music to our ears!
The new “NT” revision sports the following specs: up to 550TB/year Workload Rate Limit, it has a five-year hardware warranty, with three years of data recovery. For data center folks, it is rated as “Unlimited” for number of drive bays, has Rotational Vibration Sensors, and has the respected “Helium” Drive Design, which has consistently provided superior drive reliability statistics. Unique Features for the NT revision include, AgileArray FW, Low Acoustics, and Low Emitted Vibration. The Health Management Tools were also upgraded to, IHM3.0 (4TB and higher capacities), RAID Rebuild Assist, Field Firmware Upgrade, and Advanced Bad Block Healing. We also tested the drives in a Synology NAS, with consistent and expected results. We highly recommend the Seagate NAS IronWolf Pro 20 TB Hard Drives.
For more information on the Seagate NAS IronWolf Pro 20 TB Hard Drive visit: https://www.seagate.com/products/nas-drives/ironwolf-hard-drive/
G-Drive from SanDisk Professional
SanDisk is one of the giants of the storage world, and has long provided solid-state memory to the industry and consumers. Some of the best and earliest Compact Flash cards were from SanDisk, as were their innovative SD cards. They purchased the G-Drive business from Hitachi, which had one of the best reputations in the industry among creative content providers and storage vendors. So, it’s of interest to see that Western Digital and SanDisk are continuing the G-Drive line with some superb products.
The G-Drive ArmorATD is a 2.5-inch, 5 TB USB Type-C spinning disk drive. It promises up to 135MBs transfer rates, and comes in a metal grey metal case surrounded by darker rubberized protective bumper. The lone Type-C port is covered by rubber cover, and is buried deep inside the drive to protect it from damage. There is also an LED light to indicate power on, or power off. It’s rated to 1,000 lbs. of crush resistance. (We have to take their word on that, as we weren’t willing to drive our car over it.) It’s also rated to one-meter drop resistance, as well as carrying a IP54 rating for rain, so it can get wet, provided the port is covered.
It carries with it Time Machine compatibility for Apple Mac OS users, and we think it’s a great tool for this option for users on the road with their laptop. At 135MBs transfer rates, it might not be fast enough for hardcore Adobe Photoshop Lightroom work or video editing, but for a tough, portable, protected, backup drive, it’s ideal. The G-Drive ArmorATD carries a three-year warranty, and is compatible with MacOS 10.12+ and Windows 10+. We think the G-Drive ArmorATD will make you very happy this holiday season – what better tool to save your photos of Santa with?
For more information on the G-Drive ArmorATD visit: https://www.westerndigital.com/products/portable-drives/sandisk-professional-g-drive-armoratd-usb-3-1-hdd#SDPH81G-005T-GBAND
Happy Megabyte Holidays!
Harris Fogel, Nancy Burlan, and Frank Schramm, Posted 12/8/2022