Buffalo Drivestation DDR External Hard Drive 2.3x faster than USB 3.0

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by cocacolakid, May 31, 2013.

  1. cocacolakid macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
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    Chicago
    #1
    http://www.buffalotech.com/products/desktop-hard-drives/drivestation/drivestation-ddr

    I received my Buffalo Drivestation DDR a few days ago after someone on here recommended it in another thread. I thought this drive is so fast that it should have it's own thread so people know about it. It's a different type of technology. It uses a regular 3.5" mechanical hard drive but has DDR memory as a buffer between the Mac and the hard drive. The end result is that it is 2.3x faster than a regular USB 3.0 drive. Think of it as close to SSD speeds and with the storage (and low cost) of a traditional hard drive, sort of a simplified Fusion Drive.

    Here is a CNET review, with video:

    http://reviews.cnet.com/hard-drives/buffalo-drivestation-ddr-2tb/4505-3186_7-35757049.html

    I love this as an external drive, I'm thinking of buying another and using it as my boot drive instead of my 256GB Samsung SSD. A 3TB SSD-type speed for a boot drive would be awesome.

    The best part is that these are inexpensive when compared to other external USB 3.0 drives. The 2TB version is $133 and the 3TB version is $172 at Provantage (the 3TB cost me $179 shipped, a few dollars less than Amazon, even with Prime).

    You do need to install Buffalo's cache app (available in Mac and Windows versions) to take advantage of the built in DDR, otherwise it runs at normal USB 3.0 speeds.
     
  2. meistervu macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    #2
    I might have been the person who posted the review that I saw a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping for someone else here to try it first :;)

    Kidding aside, I did mentioned it and am planning to get one. It's interesting that you mentioned one has to install the software to take advantage of the DDR speed boost. I wonder why this is necessary.

    Anyway, thanks for the write up. I am getting mine soon.
     
  3. cocacolakid, May 31, 2013
    Last edited: May 31, 2013

    cocacolakid thread starter macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
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    Chicago
    #3
    You were the one who convinced me to buy it, thank you. It's a great buy.

    The DDR serves as a cache that buffers data as it is transferred to the hard drive. The software is needed to enable the cache feature. Without the software it runs at normal speeds and the DDR doesn't do anything. Not sure how they came about this method, but I think it's just a slightly tweaked hybrid drive, like the ones that have tiny 4 GB SSD's in a mechanical drive that have been out a few years, but those didn't give speeds like this - although I never saw one hooked up to a USB 3.0 interface and tested to know how it would perform.

    As I said in the other post (for those who didn't read it), I do have a Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter and have used that to swap 2.5 and 3.5" drives in and out and it's very nice, but it's not practical (to me at least) to leave a 3.5" drive in there for permanent use, mechanical drives in that adapter are very noisy, at least my 3.5" 3GB drive is. My 2.5" mechanical drives do not make any noise. And with the Thunderbolt adapter, using a mechanical drive it's still slower than the Buffalo DDR because it doesn't have the DDR, so it's not fast enough to keep up with the speeds of Thunderbolt. Using a SSD is fantastic, it's almost instant transferring, but they're not affordable in gigantic storage amounts. By the time you buy the Seagate Thunderbolt adapter $100-150, plus buy any hard drive, you're spending more than the Buffalo costs on it's own ($140-180 shipped) So the Buffalo is a nice price and excellent product.

    I would think that in the near future we'll see this version of drives as the stock boot drives in some PC's. Why not, it's much faster and barely more expensive.

    Here's another review with more info and speed tests, it's faster than some SSD's in real use performance:

    http://www.laptopmag.com/storage-buffalo-drivestation-ddr.aspx

    I have the Buffalo app set to enable cache on both read and write. I don't know if the write speeds increase if you set it to just that. You can set it to just use the DDR cache to read, to write, or both. I'm getting write times in the 160-230 Mb/s range and read times in the 230-260+ Mb/s range. Not as fast as my Samsung 830 or 840 SSD's, but not far off. I still can't believe how nice this is. I'm planning on buying more when I get some extra cash.
     
  4. zulu.walker macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Location:
    SEAsia
    #4
    I've been keeping my eye on these since Buffalo Japan's announcement 1Q2013, and it seems like this will fulfill my needs for SSD-like speeds without breaking the bank.

    I've read somewhere though that Buffalo uses different drives for these, with some even sporting the slower 5400RPM drives. Would you know if yours are 7200RPM variant? I'm also really interested if the slower RPM units are much slower compared to the drives equipped with 7200RPM disks - there still isn't enough info regarding this.

    Found the article mentioning Buffalo's use of 5400/7200RPM drives:
    I was also considering using Seagate's Thunderbolt Adapter (like you have) but found out that the performance with mechanical drives is just marginally better than most comparable drives with a USB 3.0 interface. It does perform really well with SSDs though which I guess is its real intended use.

    As soon as I find a decent reseller locally I'm buying two of these babies. I still have to choose between the 2 or 3TB variant, and hopefully I'll get 7200RPM drives with those. This product really is ingenious.
     
  5. cocacolakid thread starter macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    Chicago
    #5
    Buffalo's website says they are 5400 RPM drives.

    http://www.buffalotech.com/products/desktop-hard-drives

    I'd definitely recommend this over the Thunderbolt adapter unless you're planning on swapping out a lot of drives, then the Thunderbolt adapter is great (and Seagate does make a smaller 2.5" only version of that adapter that costs $50 less).

    The Thunderbolt adapter without an SSD really is overkill and not worth the price, IMO, because of the speed limits of the mechanical drives.
     
  6. wiregen macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    #6
    I bought this drive to pop open, they're 5400 DX series seagate drives. I put a 4TB seagate in there.

    It is very fast, getting 250mb/s reads and writes. Very pleased with the speed on video editing also.
     
  7. g4cube macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #7
    How does the drive behave when connected to computer without the special driver?

    I understand how the cache will be useful for running benchmark program like Blackmagic or Aja. How well does the drive perform in speeding up backups or moving files?
     
  8. splitpea macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Location:
    Among the starlings
    #8
    That's brilliant. A couple questions...

    - does this still accelerate transfers to a significant degree when you're transferring far more data than the RAM buffer can hold (e.g. 8-10GB at a time, as for a backup)?

    - are there any portable drives out there that do the same thing?
     
  9. g4cube macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #9
    There is no way for the DRAM cache to accelerate transfers beyond the size of the DRAM cache. It has no ability to prefetch, or to cache the entire track.

    Cache on the HDD controller on the actual drive mechanism itself however, as the ability to prefetch adjacent sectors when a particular sector is requested, and even an entire track, as the controller always reads the entire track before selecting and delivering the requested sector. Because of location, there is no way for the separate DRAM cache to access this info since it is located on the wrong side of the SATA connector, and does not have direct access to the onboard cache.

    I believe that it would be easy to create a test that measure performance beyond the size of this DRAM cache; i.e. write 2x the data, and then read back the first half of what was written. The second half should deliver faster reads than the first half.

    Will be interesting to try once my drive is delivered.
     
  10. coocooforcocoap macrumors regular

    coocooforcocoap

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    Sep 22, 2007
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    kathmandu, nepal
    #10
  11. squintypanda macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    #11
    just wondering what kind of speed you guys are getting with this drive? so far I'm quite disappointed with the performance compared to the advertised speeds. While transfering music and movies, I've gotten a spike of 200+MB/s only once and it only lasted maybe 2-3 seconds, the average speed I'm getting is closer to 150MB/s...

    According to the advertisement on the box I should/could be getting around 170MB/s w/o DDR3 RAM cache, and up to 297.5MB/s w/ DDR3 RAM cache... The blue light on my drive is on so the DDR3 RAM cache should be on correct?

    BTW I'm running on a 2013 rMBP 2.7GHz, w/ the HD connected directly to the USB 3.0 port....
     
  12. cocacolakid, Jun 22, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2013

    cocacolakid thread starter macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    Chicago
    #12
    Yes, any external drive can be used as a boot drive. In Lion or Mountain Lion you have to create a Recovery partition first so it is bootable. You can do that easily in Carbon Copy Cloner (free trial). You can also clone your current drive to the new external drive.

    If you buy an SSD and put it in an external case like a USB 3.0 case, or in one of the Seagate Thunderbolt adapters, you can boot at very fast speeds, faster than even this Buffalo drive, and not have to open up your Mac. But this drive does have very nice performance along with a ton of storage, so the cost compared to SSD's is very nice, although it's not quite as fast.

    ---
    Sorry, skipped your last part about start up and shut down speed. It's not any faster than a regular mechanical hard drive because the DDR cache works as software, so the OS has to be running to get the faster speeds. The cache software obviously can't be running at start up and shut down.
     
  13. cocacolakid thread starter macrumors 65816

    cocacolakid

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    Chicago
    #13

    I posted earlier:

    ---
    I have the Buffalo app set to enable cache on both read and write. I don't know if the write speeds increase if you set it to just that. You can set it to just use the DDR cache to read, to write, or both. I'm getting write times in the 160-230 Mb/s range and read times in the 230-260+ Mb/s range.

    ---

    A month later with the 3TB drive half full I'm still getting the same speeds. I haven't tried it with the cache set to only read or only write. I want it fast both ways.
     
  14. Giuly macrumors 68040

    Giuly

    #14
    Near-instant on and off is called putting your Mac to sleep with an SSD in it, as your Mac will at some point write the RAM to the SSD and shut off most of the system. That used to be a new feature of the redesigned 2011 MBA with SSD, which has 30 days of standby without a recharge so it draws next to no power while sleeping but turns on instantly when you open the lid. The same goes for any other Mac with SSD.

    Also, all modern SSDs have 512-1024MB of DDR on-board cache but are significantly faster for cache misses, so I wouldn't particularly use one of external hard drives as the boot drive. But as an external hard drive sure, why not.
     

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