Hardware Review: CalDigit 500GB S2VR Duo SATA RAID

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the January, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


I am not a testing organization, but, recently, Jon Schilling over at CalDigit (www.caldigit.com) sent me a 500 GB SATA RAID to examine (Model #S2VR Duo).

As you read in my earlier article, I’ve been a fan of SATA for a while, and was looking forward to seeing how well this matched up with my expectations.

NOTE: By the way, if terms like RAID 0 or RAID 1 confuse you, read this short explanation of how RAIDS are defined.

However, since I also recently upgraded from my trusty PowerBook G4 to a new MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo there were no SATA cards that worked with my new toy. Sigh… things needed to wait. Then, about a month ago, CalDigit had both the RAID and a brand-new ExpressCard that supported my MacBook Pro, so they shipped me both.

This two-drive RAID arrived and was quickly unpacked. It weighed in at 7.5 pounds, stands about 5 inches high and has a nice brushed aluminum case. It only held 500 GB, but that was by my choice, I didn’t need anything bigger for my review. (The maximum storage for this unit is 1.5 TB. Pricing starts around $450.)

I set it on my desk long enough to reformat to Mac OS Extended (I turned Journaling Off) and get all the drivers installed. However, my plane was leaving in about four hours and this hard disk was needed for the trip, so I did what any normal editor would do, I wrapped it in a bath towel, stuffed it in my suitcase, and headed for Orlando. (My feeling was that any hard disk can sit on a desk — I wanted to see how well this would work on the road. And, in short, it worked great.)

That hard disk, and its bath towel, traveled with me as checked luggage to Orlando (four flight segments), Nashville (four more flight segments), and Honolulu (two flight segments). It worked perfectly every time. Here are the data transfer specs, as measured on my MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo:

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I discovered that using the ExpressCard did not allow the drive to perform as fast as if it were connected to a Mac Pro. According to Jon this is a limitation of the ExpressCard drivers:

“90 – 105 MB/second is about right with the MacBook Pro. For fastest performance [up to 150 MB/sec] you will always be faster with your MacPro tower.”

Near the end of December new drivers were released for this card, but I haven’t played with them, so I don’t know if the speed has changed.


Three things impressed me about this unit:

  1. It’s speed — SATA really is fast
  2. It’s ruggedness — this got manhandled in several cities and held up great
  3. It’s simplicity — two cables, one installation disk and you’re ready to run.

There is only one thing I don’t like about this unit — it’s fan noise. I do a lot of audio recording for demos and podcasts. I can’t leave this unit running during the recording — it’s way too noisy. It isn’t bad when you are editing, but I find it distracting.

Update: Upon reading this review, Jon Schilling at CalDigit, did some digging and wrote:

“Unfortunately after checking the serial number of the unit we sent you we realized that you got a unit with one of the older fans that we used initially. We have since remedied the ‘loud fan issue’. Sorry that you got one of the older units.”

Jon tells me that all products now ship with a quieter fan, using an in-line resistor. So, from my point of view, if you want speed in a rugged enclosure at a reasonable cost, this SATA RAID from CalDigit is definitely worth considering.

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