CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 review

£799
Price when reviewed

While you can’t exactly describe it as compact or stylish, the CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 is about as unobtrusive as a three-bay. 3.5in RAID device is going to get. 135mm wide and 116mm tall, it’s noticeably smaller than the OWC Thunderbay 4 and doesn’t seem much larger than the pint-sized Promise Pegasis 2 M4, although it’s a good 6cm deeper. Also read: Out of disk space? Storage options for your media

CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 review

CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 review

The aluminium enclosure is both tough and good-looking, with chunky rubber feet to minimise vibration noise, while discreet status indicators sit at the bottom of the front panel, right next to the circular power button.

Maybe it’s the ribbed aluminium casing, maybe it’s the ambient temperature controlled smart fan, but the T3 with Thunderbolt 2 is relatively quiet by desktop RAID standards. You can hear it humming away above the near-silence of the Mac Pro we used to test it with, but it’s a restrained noise in comparison to what comes from the OWC and Promise units. This is one desktop drive you won’t mind sitting on your desk while you work, although you will need to find space for the hefty external power brick.

CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 review

Options and setup

The T3 is available in a choice of configurations, covering most budgets and requirements. The Thunderbolt 2 version we tested ships with a choice of 6TB, 9TB, 12TB or 15TB arrays, or a 4TB SSD array. The only disappointment is that there is no USB 3 version; to run this RAID you’ll either need Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2.

The 12TB version reviewed ships with three Toshiba 4TB 7,200rpm hard disks, each with a 64MB cache. The drives are replaceable, fitting into slide-in caddies which lock in place with a security hex key and only release when the tiny hole next door is prodded with a special thick pin, provided in the box. This might not be maximum security, but it should stop drives being accidentally ejected in the middle of a job.

CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 review

However, we found the mechanism slightly awkward in practice, and it’s clear that CalDigit doesn’t want you removing the drives anyway, slapping a Warranty Void if Removed sticker over one screw in each caddy.

The T3 came preconfigured as a RAID0 array, but if you prioritise resilience over raw performance, it’s easy enough to change the configuration using OS X’s standard Disk Utility or the Windows Disk Management tool.

In general, we prefer this approach to proprietary software. What’s more, where the Promise RAID had us messing around with drivers and the OWC array had us fiddling with system files to get them working under Bootcamp, the T3 worked without a hitch. While Windows users will still need to reformat the array from HFS+ to NTFS, the T3 seems a little more Windows-friendly.

CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 review

Performance

And with the Toshiba drives doing the heavy lifting and Thunderbolt 2 handling the connection it’s impressively speedy as well. The CalDigit took under 22 seconds to copy 10.2GB of 4K video files, falling only slightly behind the OWC ThunderBay 4 has faster read speeds. On write speeds it trades punches with the OWC, losing out on sequential writes but doing better when it comes to random writes.

If the Thunderbay has a slight edge on performance in some scenarios, the CalDigit has more than enough speed to handle demanding virtualisation or 4K video editing applications. It’s smaller than the ThunderBay 4, but still very powerful.

CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 review

The T3 is an expensive RAID device, but when you factor in the drives and the capacity provided, it’s actually good value. 12TB should be enough space for the most demanding professional applications, and we found the T3 easier to use and work with than the other units, particularly under Windows. Given this, a generous five-year RTB warranty, that storming performance and excellent design, we’re happy to recommend the T3 with Thunderbolt 2.

CalDigit T3 with Thunderbolt 2 specifications

Capacity12TB
Maximum capacityHDD, 12TB; SSD, 2.88TB
RAID supportRAID0, 1, JBODs
Hot swappable?Yes
Cost per gigabyte6.5p
Interface2 x Thunderbolt 2
Power supplyExternal (12V DC)
Spindle speed7,200rpm
Size135 x 242 x 116mm (WDH)
Buying information
Warranty5yr RTB
Supplierwww.amazon.co.uk

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