Areca ARC-8050T2 review
Areca’s ARC-8050T2 Thunderbolt 2 desktop storage appliance is one of the most versatile 4K video-editing solutions we’ve seen. You can buy the unit diskless, and it supports up to eight hot-swap 6Gbits/sec SAS or SATA LFF and SFF drives.
The appliance is well built: the solid-metal chassis matched with a set of equally sturdy metal drive carriers. The central panel has a blue backlit LCD panel and the buttons below can be used to manually configure arrays. There’s no power button: the appliance switches itself on and off when the host system starts up and shuts down.
At its heart is an 800MHz dual-core RAID-on-Chip controller with 1GB of DDR3 RAM, and Areca offers an optional battery backup unit. Cooling is handled by a pair of fans at the rear, which emit only a faint whine that gets slightly louder when the array is under load. If you want to position the appliance some distance away, you’ll need to buy a long Thunderbolt cable – only a 1m cable is included in the box.
An unusual feature is the appliance’s LAN port for out-of-band management via a web browser. The LAN port comes into its own for monitoring as the appliance is SNMP-compliant and can send out traps if required. Give it internet access and it can also send alert messages to four different email addresses. However, whereas LaCie’s 8big Rack Thunderbolt 2 and Promise’s Pegasus 2 appliances focus solely on Mac users, Windows users can join the Areca club since it offers its MRAID software for both operating systems.
For testing, we loaded an octet of 4TB WD Enterprise SATA drives and connected the appliance to a Mac Pro. Areca’s OS X install routine loads the required driver and the MRAID utility for in-band management access over the Thunderbolt port.
Neatly, the OS X utility and web interface are identical. Each offers a remarkable level of access to the appliance’s features: you can create multiple arrays, tweak any number of their parameters, clone disks and designate drives as global or dedicated hot-spares.
We used the quick-start wizard to create an eight-drive RAID5 array, which took around 15 hours to build. You can access the array immediately if you select the background initialisation option, but performance is impeded during the build and it takes nearly twice as long. It’s also possible to turn the host system off during this if you wish – the appliance’s power can be controlled using the reset button at the back.
For 4K speed tests, we used the AJA System Test utility configured for a 16GB file and a top video frame size of 4,096 × 2,160 with 10-bit RGB colour. Averaging the results from five runs, we saw read and write speeds of 1,070MB/sec and 1,010MB/sec – around 100MB/sec slower than the LaCie 8big Rack Thunderbolt 2. General performance results were superior, however, with Intech’s QuickBench 4 software reporting fast average read and write speeds for its 2MB to 10MB file test of 1,269MB/sec and 1,209MBsec.
Only the ARC-8050T2’s price gives any real cause for concern: a model populated with 24TB of storage costs over £400 more than an equivalently specified LaCie 8big Rack Thunderbolt 2. In addition, 4K video performance isn’t on a par with its rival. But it’s no walkover, and the Areca’s more compact desktop form factor, cross-platform compatibility, and support for SAS and SATA hard disks will be enough to win it many friends.