Buffalo DriveStation Quattro TurboUSB review

£271.31
Price when reviewed

Many users with storage-hungry desktop applications are finding that NAS appliances simply don’t satisfy their need for speed. DAS (direct attached storage) is the only choice where performance is a key requirement and the provocatively named DriveStation Quattro TurboUSB claims impressive throughput rates as high as 100MB/sec.

The DriveStation’s port permutations make it better suited to Windows users since it only comes with USB 2 and eSATA options. The Iomega 2TB Power Pro has FireWire and USB 2, while the PlanetAudio editBOX has one of everything.

The price for the 1TB unit on review looks good, but bear in mind that unlike the Power Pro or editBOX the drives aren’t hot-swappable. In fact, the internal design could prove to be a real nuisance in the event of a drive failure. The combined power and SATA cables are routed across the drives from the right-hand side, so if the fourth drive fails you need to disconnect the other three to be able to remove it from the chassis.

Buffalo provides plenty of assistance with installation and also bundles a utility for configuring and monitoring arrays. You can choose from the usual suspects of mirrors, stripes, RAID5 or JBODs, but note the utility only supports connections over USB. For a DAS connection you can’t have both USB and eSATA cables plugged in at the same time, so if you want the higher performance of eSATA you’ll have to do without the utility.

Even so, the utility’s monitoring capabilities are minimal, as it provides a colour-coded main display showing the condition of each drive, the drive letter assigned for USB connections and the rebuild percentage after a drive replacement. The only other reason you might want a USB connection is that the power supply can be set to an Auto mode where it will power the appliance down if the host PC is turned off.

For testing, we connected the DriveStation to a Boston Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 system running Windows Server 2008 and equipped with a Silicon Image eSATA RAID controller. Note that you’ll need to source an eSATA card, as unlike the older DriveStation Quattro the new TurboUSB model doesn’t come with one included.

Although performance over an eSATA link didn’t come up to Buffalo’s claims, it was still comparatively good. For real-world tests, we copied a 4.5GB disk image file between the appliance and the host system and saw read and write speeds of 74MB/sec and 67MB/sec.

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As expected, performance over USB took a tumble, with the appliance delivering speeds of 34MB/sec and 30MB/sec with the same file. Buffalo provides a utility for switching the appliance’s TurboUSB mode on and off, but we found there was no appreciable speed difference between the two modes.

Buffalo provides a good software parcel, with the single-user copy of Memeo AutoBackup software providing backup encryption and the ability to secure file changes or new files using a background agent. The Power Save utility will switch the appliance off and on to a daily schedule, while SecureLockWare provides AES 256-bit encryption for files and drives.

For a 1TB DAS appliance, the Quattro TurboUSB is offering a good deal and it delivers good performance over eSATA. If you don’t need hot-swap capabilities or FireWire ports then this is well worth checking out.

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