By Brady Betzel
We all know that Thunderbolt 2 has been the talk of the town in terms of storage and I/O devices for the last six months or so. Unfortunately if you don’t own a Mac Pro (2014 model), a high-end PC workstation like the latest HP z840, or have the DIY knowledge to build your Intel X99 architecture-based computer with Thunderbolt capabilities, you are kind of out of luck.
Some people, like me, still need access to “legacy” interfaces such as FireWire 800, eSATA and USB 3.0 — which is sort of on its way to be considered “legacy,” even though I use it as my primary connection. Luckily for us, Sonnet Technologies still provides outstanding external RAID devices like the Fusion QR.
Sonnet is known for its professional line of Fusion storage systems that offer configurations from the Fusion F3 mobile 6TB 2-drive external hardware-based RAID up to the Fusion RX1600 RAID, available in sizes as large as 64TB with the ability to be expanded.
Fusion QR 8TB
In this review I’m tackling the Sonnet Fusion QR 8TB: a four-drive external RAID system. The Fusion QR comes in four flavors: bare without any drives, 8TB, 12TB or 16TB (see list of compatible drives). It can also be configured in a variety of RAID options: RAID-0, -5, -10, Spanned Volume and JBOD. The chassis has a slim footprint at just less than 6”x10”x8” and offers dual FireWire 800, a USB 3.0, and an eSATA connection. It comes shipped in a very sturdy box, which I like in case I have to ship the product back for any warranty repairs. This may sound funny but you’d be surprised at how many companies ship their products in inferior boxes, rendering them useless after one shipment.
Inside the box you get a lockable eSATA cable, USB 3.0 cable, FireWire 800 cable, power brick, manual, Locktite thread-locking glue (in case you really didn’t want anyone getting your drives), extra screws and, of course, the Fusion QR itself.
Once I opened the box I immediately wanted to disassemble the Fusion QR to see what drives they sent in my 8TB demo unit. With a quick combination of sliding an unlocking button on the bottom of the Fusion QR and sliding the entire inside cavity toward the front, I was able to remove the grill and access the drives.
Inside the individually numbered drive trays were four 2TB, 7200RPM Seagate drives. If you are interested in using your own drives, as I mentioned earlier, make sure you check the list, because oddly enough all the drives that are recommended for use with the Fusion QR on Sonnet’s website have a footnote stating “Not recommended for video editing.” Personally I was editing in Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid Media Composer just fine, but that was kind of a weird footnote for a RAID device aimed at the multimedia industry.
Initially when you boot up your Fusion QR for the first time you will notice it is pre-formatted for OSX and is set in a RAID-5 configuration. Personally, I like RAID-5 the best if you want safety, speed and the most storage available in your RAID set. It offers 75 percent of your total drive’s space as well as safety if a drive fails (I’ll talk about that more later).
If you purely want speed definitely choose RAID-0, but remember that if something goes wrong your data is probably toast. I won’t go too far into what RAIDS do but if you want a fast and easy description check out the Fusion QR manual online it even has pictures!
To test out the Fusion QR I ran a few speed tests using both AJA’s System Test as well as Blackmagic’s Speed Test, which can be downloaded on your Mac through iTunes or it comes installed with any Blackmagic software download (Check out DaVinci Resolve Lite, it’s free!).
The results of my speed tests pretty much matched what Sonnet touts on the website: up to 250MB/sec read and 240MB/sec write when configured in RAID-5.
Here is a quick rundown:
RAID-10 configurations were close to RAID-5 configuration speeds, and when testing with the Blackmagic Speed Test, I found the speeds to be a little slower than when using the AJA System Test. Here are the Blackmagic Speed Test Results:
Setting up the RAIDS on the Fusion QR are pretty easy, with a few little twists, turns and button pushes. While keeping the drive powered off and connected to the system I was jumping around between RAID-0, -5 and -10 in no time. Since I was using a Windows-based PC, I also had to go into Disk Management and format the drives, but it wasn’t hard at all. For more info check out the manual I referred to earlier.
After I documented the speeds of the Fusion QR I really wanted to put it to the test so I began another speed test, configured in RAID-5 and pulled out a drive mid test. This probably isn’t recommended by Sonnet but let’s be honest, what’s a RAID configured with safety in mind if it doesn’t protect your data from unforeseen circumstances?
To the Fusion QR’s credit, it kept ticking like nothing ever happened. The LEDs on the front of the RAID notified me that a drive was out and also when I put the drive back in. Immediately upon insertion the Fusion QR began to rebuild the fourth drive and all was well with the world again. I was pretty impressed, I kind of wanted some sparks to fly, but that didn’t happen.
In the end, the Fusion QR is extremely well built and works as advertised. With a just a couple of small criticisms — a printed out B&W manual on stock paper (color manual is available online) and the 90w power brick being a little annoying (I wish it had the power adapter built into the actual RAID) — the Fusion QR is definitely on the short list of RAIDs I would purchase myself.
I tried to break it and it kept going and rebuilding itself. It even has a great handle on the top so I can bring it around town with me!
If you are in the market for a non-Thunderbolt 2 RAID check out the Sonnet Fusion QR, and maybe spring for the 16TB model to hold all of that footage.