Submitted by andrewmriv on Wed, 12/25/2013 - 22:50

I am currently looking for an external storage solution for my iMac. Someday I will hopefully be able to wholeheartedly find one that I love 100%.


iMac Late 2013

Right now, I use my new iMac 27” (Late 2013) as my main home computer as well as a home server. It has a Solid State Hard Drive that only holds the operating system install and applications. I am looking to store everything else on an external RAID array for maximum capacity and performance (RAID 0). Now of course I could be using RAID 5 or something for redundancy, but I plan to have frequent backups of this drive onto a USB RAID array. It’s a bit more risky, but I am going to take that risk for performance.

I record music in both Garageband and Logic, store lots of photos and videos in my iPhoto Library, have a ton of music and videos in a large iTunes Library, use Final Cut and iMovie for video editing, design a lot of websites, do a lot of photoshop work, do a lot of programming school work, etc. Additionally, all of my documents and downloads will be stored on here. You get the idea! I require a lot of space and lack patience, so I desire a very fast drive.

Despite all of the research that I have been doing, I have still had a lot of trouble narrowing it down! If you have any suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Thunderbolt Enclosures

G-Tech G-Raid

This was my first option since this is what is on display in my local Apple store. At first, I simply thought it looked cool since it matched the iMac’s design. I began to play around with it and noticed that it didn’t create much sound while under heavy use.


G-RAID next to an iMac

I began to do research on it and I found that G-Tech had been known to have very terrible support especially when you have a drive fail on you. Many people stated that G-Tech charges premium price (they are expensive!) for their products but do not always deliver.

On the other hand, the success stories have been great with this drive. You are given the option to choose your RAID configuration right in the Disk Utility in OS X. That freedom is nice. Also, people have reported great results. In the Apple store, I asked a worker for help and she stated that she used a few of those. One 4tb RAID 0 (x2 2tb HDDs) for her iTunes Library and with it Daisy Chained to another one which holds the rest of her documents (also 4th RAID).

It sounds like it performs well, but I am concerned that I may be out of luck if a drive fails. This enclosure comes with Hard Drives pre-installed and if one fails, it seems that G-Tech is not always willing to help you out if your hard drive fails.

LaCie 2big


LaCie 2big 4tb

This option is similar to the G-RAID except that disks can be swapped out (though that voids the warranty, I believe). The disks are also inside of an aluminum enclosure.

I like to spend a lot of time on the MacRumors forums and there have been many mixed reviews on LaCie just like G-Tech.

People either love or hate them. Some swear against LaCie and that they would never trust their important data on one. That has been what was holding me back from buying immediately. Perhaps these were just a few unlucky customers.

Otherwise, this looks like a very promising option. I would like to get a LaCie 2big with 4tb of space (x2 2tb HDDs). I would eventually daisy chain another one (all in RAID 0) for a separate drive for my iTunes Library if it were to grow.

The things holding me back from buying this are that many have complained about it in general and complaints that LaCie does not make their own HDDs.

I have seen more positive reviews than negative reviews on LaCie 2bigs, so this one is a big option for me.

Drobo 5d


Drobo 5d

I found out about the Drobo 5d when watching a video on the new 2013 Mac Pros. The idea of this intrigued me since it seemed to be the only enclosure that allowed users to mix and match any 3.5” HDDs of any capacities. It would add all of them together. It looked like you didn’t even need to turn the Drobo off when adding or removing HDDs.

My only concern is performance. Drobo uses their own type of RAID called “Beyond RAID.” Based on my understanding, it seems to be similar to a RAID 5 configuration. You are limited to that and I have not seen if you can change the configuration to allow for a RAID 0-like configuration.

I have read horror stories of people with Drobos that failed. Not the hard drives, but the actual Drobo 5d. It could only rebuild if it was pugged into another working Drobo 5d. Many complained about that but my opinion is that the irreplaceable data should have been backed up and they should not have considered the data redundancy as a backup. Also, they offer DroboCare (which sounds a lot and works a lot like Apple Care). Users with irreplaceable damage should buy DroboCare, backup their data from their Drobo elsewhere, if the Drobo fails, send it in for repair while working off of your backup, get the Drobo back and continue working.

Of course, the other option is to use another enclosure that is not bound by proprietary RAID like Drobo’s Beyond RAID.

As you can see, I am very conflicted. I like the idea of a RAID Enclosure that takes care of everything for you and lets you hot swap HDDs as you go without having to start over, but the loss of freedom and performance are making me second guess.

USB 3.0 Enclosure

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2


OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2

There are many people with strong opinions on enclosures by Promise, LaCie, Western Digital, Seagate, G-Tech, and more but hardly anything on this OWC Enclosure. Maybe it is hardly considered because it lacks a Thunderbolt version. They claim that they are working on a thunderbolt version but until then they might remain a bit unpopular.

There are not a lot of reviews on this out there, but I have not found anything negative about it. It seems to be great at keeping the HDDs cool with the fan inside and it is very easy to work with. You need at least 2 HDDs (maximum of 4) and after sliding in the HDDs, you actually set a switch on the enclosure to what RAID configuration you want. This offers a lot of freedom (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, span, and independent).

Overall, in my opinion, this seems to be the best option except for the fact that the fan is reportedly slightly louder than all Macs (not loud, but worth noting for those that record music). Also, its connections are USB 3.0 (formerly only USB 2.0 in most older models), eSATA, and FireWire800.

I have a hard time justifying buying this since it seems to feel like old hard ware. My 2013 iMac does not have eSATA or FireWire 800 ports. Just USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt. While I could connect this via USB 3.0, speeds theoretically top out at 5GB/s vs the Thunderbolt’s 10GB/s. Additionally, I would also lose the ability to daisy chain other devices and I would need to resort to using a USB 3.0 hub or something.

It is possible to get the LaCie eSATA to Thunderbolt Hub which would give me the freedom to daisy chain but I have been told that I will not get full Thunderbolt performance speeds. I could also get FireWire 800 to Thunderbolt adapters, but that would also limit me to FireWire 800 speeds, right?

This could have easily been a winner if it had only had two thunderbolt ports on the back but that is not the case.

I Need Help!

There are a lot of great options out there but none of them are clear winners to me. The race is so close that I simply keep changing my mind every day. Maybe this is a good thing so I can save up some money since these enclosures are NOT cheap.

Once again, thank you for reading and do post your opinions in the comments below.

Sources

  1. G-Tech G-RAID
  2. LaCie 2big
  3. Drobo 5d
  4. OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2
  5. MacRumors Forums
  6. Apple

Category: