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August 2014
Issue: November 1, 2008

REVIEW: SONNET'S FUSION 800 RAID

By: David Basulto
PRODUCT: Sonnet’s Fusion 800 RAID

WEBSITE: www.sonnettech.com

PRICE: 4TB $3,995; 6TB $4,495; 8TB $5,495

- Speed Racer-fast
- no hitches working in all editing apps
- it’s quiet

Anyone working with HD footage knows the pains associated with it: storage space. Capturing a 60-minute tape can end up being 30-plus GB of media. As you can see, space will get eaten up rather quickly.

While external hard-drive prices are dropping like crazy, many ill-informed editors may be lured in that direction. Almost immediately you will find yourself locking up when trying to edit HD via FireWire, or worse, USB 2. Although a FireWire 800 may suffice, once you have tried a drive connected via SATA, you won’t ever go back.

GREAT ALTERNATIVE

Fade in on a solution to your woes: Sonnet Technologies’ Fusion D800. The Fusion D800 I tested came with a massive 8TB of storage space, a PCI Express card for SATA connections and a mid-size tower that had lock-enabled doors to protect the drives.

Connecting the RAID to my MacPro was simple. The PCI Express RAID controller was a quick install and I was working in minutes. Sonnet really makes the process simple and allows the artist to get to work fast.

SPEED

The Fusion D800 is Speed Racer-fast. With 500MB-plus on the read times and over 600 on writing, I am a bit surprised exhaust smoke didn’t fill my room. I stored 1080p footage on the drive and was able to work in realtime without a glitch on my MacPro. I got the RAID at the same time I was working on a new reality pitch and decided to place all my precious footage on the RAID. I never blinked once. This was in RAID-0 configuration. The Fusion D800 also has RAID-5 capabilities with equally fast speeds.
 
PERFORMANCE

I tested the Fusion D800 on a variety of nonlinear editors, including Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 and Avid Media Composer. The footage used was captured via a Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro card. Editing in all the apps went without a hitch. Playback was realtime and only once did I get an error, but that was the editing program’s fault.

As I brought some of the greenscreen footage into Apple Motion to key and composite, the continuous playback was blazing once Motion cached. I have done this with FireWire drives and have gotten nowhere near the same performance.

AHH, THE SILENCE

Ok, maybe it’s not silent but the Fusion D800 is extremely quiet. Designed with an ultra quiet and swappable fan module, this baby is 80 percent quieter than a standard case fan. Pretty impressive since a lot of data is moving around in there. When the RAID is turned on there is a brief warm-up noise, although not much, then the silence begins.

In a normal shop, with a lot going on, the noise isn’t a problem. But for the independent content provider working out of the home, this can be an issue. I wish other companies would follow Sonnet’s lead and make their machines quieter as well.

PROS

I loved using the Fusion D800. The ability to swap out the modules and purchase more from Sonnet makes this highly expandable. It is easy to set up and get up and running quickly.

CONS

The price of this magnificent machine is not for the faint of heart. Coming in at just under $5,500 makes the D800 something that would leave a lot of independent folks out. There are other more affordable solutions out there. Some, although not many, may have PCI Express slots available.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you can afford it and do a lot of HD editing, then this will definitely pay itself off. The D800 is a keeper for years to come. It is highly expandable and will not become obsolete in the short run.

David Basulto is a Producer/Director/Editor with Clarity Pictures in South Pasadena, CA. He can be reached at: dave@claritypictures.net.