OWC ThunderBay 4
From its massive powder-coated black outer chassis to the fearsome roar from its fans when you switch it on, the OWC ThunderBay 4 exudes a sense of power. It’s a four-bay, 3.5-inch drive RAID enclosure with dual Thunderbolt 2 interfaces. Unlike most drives on test it has the power supply built-in. Also read: Out of disk space? Storage options for your media
It’s an extremely solid unit, and while it does emit an audible whir when it’s running, it isn’t uncomfortably noisy. Drives need to be fitted within a tough metal caddy, which then slides into place inside the enclosure. The caddies are then screwed into place, before the enclosure itself is locked with a key behind the steel-mesh front-panel. Combine all that with the Kensington lock slot on the rear, and the OWC has a strong sense of security surrounding it.
In the US, OWC’s parent company, MacSales, offers the ThunderBay 4 in a variety of ready-made configurations. Our review sample came with four Toshiba 7,200rpm 2TB drives in a RAID5 configuration; in the UK the drive is normally sold diskless. To buy the four drives separately would normally set you back an additional £240, although at less than £750 for the whole shebang, that’s still excellent value.
Unlike its OWC stablemate, the Mercury Elite Pro Dual, The ThunderBay 4 doesn’t have a hardware RAID controller. It uses SoftRAID5 to create and manage RAID configurations in OS X. This is easy to use, and has a simple, wizard-based approach, so it isn’t difficult to create a RAID0 or new RAID5 array if you need to. On Windows you can use the standard utilities, although we had to rename two Apple system files on our Bootcamp partition to prevent the Mac Pro crashing after startup.
When it comes to performance, the ThunderBay 4 is an absolute beast. It produced extremely fast read speeds in our tests, hitting peaks of 510MB/sec and 518MB/sec while copy across a selection of RAW photo files and 4K video files, with sequential read speeds in excess of 760MB/sec in CrystalDiskMark on Windows.
Write speeds aren’t quite so awesome, although the ThunderBay is still quicker in our tests than most drives we’ve seen. With such stellar sequential read and write speeds, the ThunderBay 4 would be a valuable asset in any 4K video-editing workflow.
It’s size and noise mean the ThunderBay 4 won’t be a natural fit for every studio, but it’s a great option if those aren’t concerns, and fitting you own drives makes it flexible and cost-effective.
The balanced performance, simple plug-and-play operation and lower profile of the CalDigit T3 make it our RAID system of choice, but if you want to save a little cash and pick out your own drives, then the ThunderBay 4 is a brilliant alternative.
OWC ThunderBay 4 specifications
|RAID support||Software RAID, JBODs|
|Cost per gigabyte||6.5p|
|Interface||2 x Thunderbolt 2|
|Power supply||External (12V DC)|
|Size||135 x 245 x 177mm (WDH)|