Thunderbolt enclosures...made an error; available options?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by analog guy, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. analog guy macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2009
    Hey all!
    I'm transitioning from an MP3,1 and have an iMac (27" i7) arriving on Thursday. I'm trying to see if the iMac meets my needs; otherwise it is a nMP.

    Anyway, either option has made me rethink my storage plans to go from internal storage (4-HDD RAID10 + multiple SSDs) to external storage (multiple SSDs to replace the HDD RAID). I've been playing with a few options including the (internal PCIe) Sonnet Tempo Pro cards on my MP, each with 1-2 SSDs.

    Here's where I made the error: I thought I could pop 1 or 2 of them into a Sonnet Echo Express II SE Thunderbolt enclosure @ $450 for either the iMac or nMP and be off and running. Not cheap, but it seemed to be the price for moving forward. Turns out the Echo Express II only does half-length cards.

    I could step up to the Express III, but it is 2x the price (possibly larger & louder, too).

    Or I could get Sonnet Tempo cards (instead of the Tempo Pro), but then I'm limited to 1 drive per card and slightly slower speeds.

    I had hoped to possibly run 2 of the SSDs in a RAID0 configuration.

    Sonnet enclosures are upgradable to Thunderbolt 2 (appealing, but maybe not something to worry about).

    I already own the SSDs I'd like to use.

    Are there any other options? Another wrinkle is that I'd like to get one of these fast to evaluate the iMac.

    Promise J4 diskless? Can't say I love the looks. Also, 750MB/s peak with SSDs)
    Promise R4 diskless? Looks bigger/bulkier than the Sonnect devices. Cost is between the Echo Express II SE and the III....and I don't need the Tempo/Pro cards....but unavailable for weeks?

    Anything else?

    Thank you for the thoughts.
  2. xraydoc macrumors demi-god


    Oct 9, 2005
    Do you need to run PCIe cards?

    LaCie makes a Thunderbolt to eSATA bridge for about $179 (OWC's price).

    It's a small powered box with 2 eSATA ports for using external eSATA drive enclosures. I don't have any speed statistics on it, but it's far less expensive than buying an external thunderbolt to PCIe card adapter.

    And unless it's horribly designed, it should be as fast or faster than any other option (USB 3.0, Thunderbolt to FireWire 800) short of whole new enclosures like the Promise R4.

    Presuming you already have your drives in some kind of eSATA external enclosure, it's about 1/3 the price of a disk less R4 box.

    I have one on order which should arrive by the end of the week, though for now I'll have to test it on a MacBook Air (my nMP is slated for February).

    EDIT: I re-read your original post and it looks like you want to use PCIe cards with mounted SSDs. If you're using standard 2.5" SSDs, you probably have no other choice but to use the expensive PCIe adapters you mentioned. If you're going to use blade-style SSDs, then you might be able to get away with 1/2 length cards. The other alternative is to do what I suggested above. May not be as fast as directly attached to a PCIe card, but probably not that far off - and unless you're doing multiple 4K video stream editing, it probably won't make much real-world difference.
  3. analog guy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2009
    thanks for the post!

    to add some more detail, i've been using the current MP3,1 with a 4-HDD RAID10, an SSD boot/apps drive, and another drive for windows.

    i got some new SSD drives and the PCIe cards in preparation for the iMac or nMP. my idea here was to use the internal storage on the iMac/nMP to replace the boot drive, then use the SSDs to REPLACE the 4-HHD RAID10.

    i thought i might use an SSD RAID0 or just standalone SSDs.

    i'd rather avoid USB3 enclosures (limited by bandwidth, right?). i could go eSATA but would need a TB>eSATA connector.

    i didn't like the blade-style sad because they are not cheap and offer less flexibility.

    as an example: 960GB OWC Accelsior = $1200; a Sonnet Tempo Pro + 2x 840 Evo 500GB in RAID0 = $900, and it is both faster and can be upgraded in the future.

    right now, ALL drives in my MP (4-drive RAID, windows, SSD boot, other SSDs (2-3) that i'm experimenting with) are internal, so i have no enclosures.

    thank you!

    i guess i could return the sonnet tempo pro that i have. if TB is the right long-term solution, i'd rather go directly there, but maybe i should do esata?

  4. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    What are you trying to accomplish? What is the purpose? How much Throughput do you actually need? Are you doing this because you can/bragging rights? Or do you have an actual need for 1GB/s+ Transfer rates?

    I mean even REDCODE RAW maxes out at 42MB/s.

    Are you sure that 750MB/s isn't fast enough for what you are doing? Are you sure you really want to risk your data in RAID 0? Or are you planning RAID 10?
  5. analog guy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2009
    all fair questions. not doing any hardcore video editing, so you are right in that sense that i do not need to transfer large amounts of raw footage.

    still photography, a bit of music production, multiple VMs going and a general interest in having an extremely responsive machine. i have come to realize that, for me, having applications load immediately and doing things like browsing large photo galleries with full previews, instant edits, etc., have high value.

    i thought maybe the photos on a 2-SSD RAID0 (with separate back-up, of course) could be valuable. otherwise, single SSDs would be fine.

    my hope with thunderbolt and SSDs was this:
    * reduce space (replace the 4-drive RAID with 2 SSDs)
    * quieter (SSDs should require less/no cooling) -- i do value this
    * faster; my MP3,1 is only SATAII on the backplane, and i do not get the most out of those drives. a PCIe SSD on my x16 2.0 slot is at least 2x as fast; 2-drive RAID0 is even faster, but perhaps overkill. unfortunately i have only one such slot available. i'd like for any solution i use to be faster than SATAII of the MP3,1.
    * because i can, but not for any bragging rights--i like new technology, i was able to afford the SSDs i need w/o resorting to eating ramen….though $1k for a TB/TB2 sonnet full-length enclosure is even more than i thought and makes me question everything.

    the large sonnet enclosure is on the bigger side (i am trying to minimize)--and the r4 seems monolithic, too.

    my 4x HDD RAID has experience 3 drive failures in about 5 years, so i am familiar with that issue and with the benefits of mirroring AND other backups.

    thank you for the questions.

    are you thinking the j4? don't particularly love the looks and it's not TB2, but maybe that doesn't matter.


    i also value something i could get my hands on by the end of this week. i'd accept something that might not be a long-term solution on a trial basis, if i had a return option.
  6. analog guy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2009
    the firmtek usb3 option could be the easiest for the moment.

    bootable, fastest usb3 (that i could find at least….>500MB/s R&Ws, claimed; >425 actual), can be arranged as part of a RAID (multiple enclosures) if one is so inclined, available now.

    may try out 2 to see how it goes if there is no other immediate solution.

    edit: TRIM not available via USB3…..minor issue?
  7. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Yes I was thinking more the J4. TB2 really shouldn't matter to you since your iMac does not have TB2. Only the nMP and the 2013 rMBP have TB2. iMac's, Mini's, and MBA's all have just TB1.

    The alternative is just a USB 3.0 enclosure if you just want to try one out. USB 3.0 maxes out at 5Gb/s which is approximately 600MB/s (there is a bit of minor latency involved). Not ideal, but since you can get a basic USB 3.0 enclosure for all of $99 it is by far the cheapest route....

    Just some food for thought.


    I have 3 of these (I had one bad one that I did have to return due to it constantly disconntecting, but 3 out of 4 isn't bad):

    You could give something like that a try and see if it is acceptable. You might find it is more than adequate especially since you aren't doing high end video.

    I love Thunderbolt, but for straight storage (unless doing 4K RAW video) there is little need for most of us to use it and the minimal latency that USB 3.0 adds is almost impossible to notice.
  8. analog guy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2009

    i'm about to pull the trigger on 2 miniswap/u3's, but the lack of TRIM has me hesitating. guess the media sonic you linked would lack TRIM as well.

    for a 1TB SSD over time it seems that would be a problem.


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