Do you have a need for speed? A need for speedy and vast quantities of storage? Then you’ll probably want to take a look at the CalDigit T4 RAID, a fast Thunderbolt 2 RAID array that is designed for those who work with big files on a regular basis.
- 4TB ($899)
- 8TB ($1,199)
- 12TB ($1,399)
- 16TB ($1,699)
- 20 TB ($1,999)
- 4TB SSD ($3,299)
- Weight: 7.2 lb. (3.3 Kg) with 4 SSD installed, 12.5 lb. (5.65 Kg) with 4 HDD installed
- Dimensions: 5.8 x 5.3 x 9.5 inches (148 x 135 x 242 mm)
- Interface: Two Thunderbolt 2 ports with transfer rates up to 20 GB/s
- RAID: Supports RAID 0,1,5 and JBOD, auto disk failure detection, hot swappable disks
The T4 is quite small for a 4-disk RAID array. It’s actually smaller than the 4-bay Drobo, which comes equipped only with USB 3.0. Rather than a plastic case as with many 4-disk arrays, the T4 is made of aluminum. The drives can be either SSDs or HDDs and are housed in proprietary drive modules. Don’t let the word proprietary throw you off; CalDigit has priced these so it’s not too much of a hit to your wallet — 1TB ($129), 2TB ($179), 3TB ($229), 4TB ($299), 5TB ($399), and a 1TB SSD ($799). The drive modules can be locked into place with a set of included keys, and there’s a Kensington lock slot on the back.
There are small blue LEDs on the front of the array to let you know that the device is busy, and they’re useful without being distracting. The T4 is extremely quiet, even with a built-in fan to keep all of the drives cool. Power is supplied by an external power brick.
The T4 is a no-brainer to set up. Plug a Thunderbolt cable into your Mac, then plug the other end into one of the two Thunderbolt 2 ports on the back of the T4. Plus in the AC adapter, then plug the power supply cable into the T4. Turn on the T4 with a press of the front-mounted power button, and it comes right up.
The T4 can be set up as RAID 0, 1,5 or as a JBOD (“just a bunch of disk”) array. For consistency with earlier benchmarks, the device was set up in RAID 0 although it comes set up as RAID 5 out of the box. Benchmarking was done with Intech’s SpeedTools QuickBench 4.0.6 app, and the computer used for testing was a MacBook Pro with Retina display with two Thunderbolt 2 ports.
The test ran for 25 cycles, enough to get a good sample of drive throughput without taking too long. The complete test performs sequential and random read/write tests with file sizes from a tiny 4K up to 100 MB in size. Here are the test results for a RAID 0 stripe set, compared with a CalDigit T3 using a Thunderbolt connection:
- Sequential Read: 324.063 MB/Sec (313.917 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
- Sequential Write: 303.615 MB/Sec (279.731 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
- Random Read: 92.613 MB/Sec (69.402 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
- Random Write: 74.876 MB/Sec (62.263 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
- Large Read: 906.819 MB/Sec (538.599 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
- Large Write: 1045.913 MB/Sec (763.516 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
- Extended Read: 739.724 MB/Sec (552.096 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
- Extended Write: 671.629 MB/Sec (553.392 MB/Sec for CalDigit T3 connected via Thunderbolt)
Yep, the T4 is fast — previous testing proved the T3 to be one of the fastest drive arrays we’ve seen, and the T4’s Thunderbolt 2 connectivity really helped it to blast right by the T3. The small file speeds (the first four test results) are faster than those seen with the T3, but not significantly faster. It’s when you look at large file sizes that the T4 really shines. The large read test, for example, was 68% faster than the T3. The average large write test result was 1045.9 MB/sec, absolutely the fastest RAID array we’ve seen to date.
These results mean that the T4 is designed for those who do a lot of video and/or photographic work. Of course, creative professionals are the usual target market for RAID arrays, but they’ll find the T4 to be quite reasonably priced compared to other devices on the market. Using a CalDigit T4 with something like a Mac Pro or MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 2 will be a wonderful solution for fast mass storage.