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September 2016

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REVIEW 46 POST SEPTEMBER 2016 alDigit is a supplier of storage solu- tions for movie and video produc- ers. The T4 RAID is the company's hybrid Thunderbolt 2 RAID-capable storage solution. T4s have tightly-fitting aluminum die-cast enclosures aimed at silent opera- tion and good thermal management. They have four lockable, removable drives that carry a three-year warranty. The unit itself carries a five-year warranty. The T4 is an SSD- or HDD-based hybrid RAID solution, factory config- ured for Mac OS. Support for SSDs isn't all that common with RAID systems. It allows CalDigit to ship a T4/4TB that has throughput speeds of up to 1,370MBs/ sec. in RAID 0. Contrary to some oth- er vendors selling RAID storage for the desktop video editing market, CalDigit's T4 is made of die-cast aluminum, not of plastic or a wrapped metal sheet. Die-cast aluminum has superior heat dissipation characteristics. A CLOSER LOOK To configure RAID modes, you use a menu applet. The applet has a tab with system information, including per-disk operating temperature, serial number, smart status, etc. Another tab allows users to set the unit to RAID 0, 1, 5 or JBOD. What's unique about the T4 is that you can set up two different RAID 0 or RAID 1 configurations — each using two drives. You can also set up a RAID 5 with all four. Finally, you can set up one RAID 0 or 1 configuration and have the two other disks function as independent drives. Other applet features include notification preferences and a benchmarking tool that seems to be based on the AJA speed test utility. The enclosure of the T4 dissipates heat efficiently. It has cooling ribs on the sides and a ventilator in the back. The drives in my unit never ran warmer than 37 degrees Celsius with an ambient room tempera- ture of 25 degrees. That's in stark contrast with the 52 degrees Celsius my iMac's internal disk regularly reaches. I was wary of the ventilator's sound levels, though. The CalDigit T4 is ex- tremely compact and has what seems to be a plain fan, so I was anticipating it to generate a lot of noise. However, while it's not completely silent, the fan noise is low enough even after an hour of editing not to interfere with normal audio levels too much. To give you an idea: Before turning the unit on, the sound level in my room reached 36dBa. After turning it on, it rose to 38-39dBa. PERFORMANCE The quality of build of the T4 is undis- puted, but its speed is downright exem- plary. Before copying files to the T4, I test- ed its performance with both Blackmagic Design's and AJA's speed utilities. CalDigit claims a T4 with hard disk drives can achieve a maximum throughput of 750MB/sec. in RAID 0 and 550MB/sec. in its default RAID 5 configuration. It's useful to know that performance claims usually list the highest figure, which is always the device's read speed. Furthermore, CalDigit will undoubtedly have tested with a Thunderbolt 2-capable Mac. My own iMac is equipped with first-generation Thunderbolt only, so I expected lower throughput figures overall. I was in for a nice surprise. The file read figures that I achieved were almost identi- cal (-10 percent) to CalDigit's claim. More significant, however, is that the equally important write speeds are pretty impres- sive as well — even on my Mac. The best news is that RAID 5 writing speeds are close to RAID 0's. In practice, you only lose about 100MB/sec. read performance, but nothing in write mode. That's not all. I ran the speed test with Blackmagic Design's utility again after I had copied 1.5TBs worth of files to the T4 in RAID 5. With other RAID drives, I have always seen a drop-in performance once there are files on the system. Not so with the T4. IN A PRACTICAL ENVIRONMENT Speed tests tell you how fast a system is, but they don't tell you how fast it feels. So, I launched Final Cut Pro X and took to color grading a timeline with Color Finale, add- ing a tracked text with TrackX and further slowing down things by adding a Yanobox Nodes 2 compos- iting element. Rendering was snappy, tracking was quite fast and the Yanobox Nodes 2 animations didn't drive me crazy by taking forever. The sound levels were definitely not high enough to be frustrating, but when the audio became somewhat quieter, I did grab for my headphones and stopped listening to the monitors. I can't set the volume on them high enough anyway in order not to disturb the neighbors. One thing that wasn't snappy was the iMac's startup speed after it went to sleep. The T4 takes a bit of time to start up and that trickled down to the Mac itself. It took twice as long to wake up as it normally does. CONCLUSION You can't do much better than CalDigit's T4 RAID. Although you need to install software to make it work and benefit from the hybrid RAID features, I've yet to encounter software conflicts. I would recommend this product without hesitation. CALDIGIT'S T4 RAID A HYBRID, THUNDERBOLT 2, RAID-CAPABLE STORAGE SOLUTION BY ERIK VLIETINCK ERIK@IT-ENQUIRER.COM SKYPE: ERIKVLIE UK.LINKEDIN.COM/IN/ ITENQUIRER C VITAL STATS MANUFACTURER: CalDigit PRODUCT: CalDigit T4 RAID PRICE: Starting at $899 (4TB) WEBSITE: • Tightly fitting, aluminum die-cast enclosure • Four lockable, removable drives • Silent operation/good thermal management drop-in performance on the system. Not how they fast it Final to timeline add- with slowing adding a compos- snappy, fast and the without hesitation.

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