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September 2014
Issue: February 1, 2010

REVIEW: CALDIGIT'S HDONE EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE ARRAY

By: Tor Rolf Johansen
PRODUCT: CalDigit’s HDOne external hard drive array

WEBSITE: www.caldigit.com

PRICE: 8TB RAID for $3,664.95 (B&H)

- RAID-0, -1, -5 and -6 support
- 8 swappable drive modules
- 10-bit uncompressed 1080i/60 supported
- Sustained speed over 400MB/s in RAID-5

From KBs to MBs to GBs to TBs, you ‘d be blind to not notice the trend.  Today’s storage needs are increasing at exponential rates. And this trend has led me to a five-plus year search for the ideal storage solution. I’ve bought a few off-the-shelf, rolled a few of my own and demo’d more than my share. All that experience has brought me to this point, and this review:  and I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for — CalDigit’s HDOne.

THE NEED FOR SPEED

The HDOne meets and surpasses all of my storage needs. Whether it be a need for pure speed, redundancy, massive scale or flexibility — the HDOne made it to the top of my list. What’s not to love? With the eight swappable drive modules, now shipping with 2TB disks, you can have up to 16TB at your fingertips. All priced well within reach of the independent filmmaker or boutique post house at roughly .46 cents per GB — and that’s including the PCI Express host card and all the hardware. The Blackmagic disk speed tests I did consistently outperformed anything else I have ever used. Read and write rates at RAID-5 were always above 400MB/s, which leaves plenty of room for solid playback of two streams of 10-bit uncompressed HD at 1080i; or eight streams of ProRes 422 (HQ) at 1080i. Don’t even get me started with standard def rates!

Out of the box, the HDOne has been configured for RAID-5, which means you can still be working, without loss of information, even if one drive fails. For someone who’s been living by the seat of his pants with a series of wildly irresponsible JBOD software RAIDs for far too long, a hardware RAID-5 turnkey solution is a welcomed change for the better! I guess we all need to grow up sometime. Perhaps when I retire, I’ll even give RAID-6 a try.

CONTROLLING THE CONTROLLER

I may be technically savvy and sufficiently computer literate, but I am certainly not an IT engineer by any stretch of the imagination. That is why I have learned to appreciate CalDigit’s software RAID Shield Client GUI. You no longer need to go cross-eyed by commands and window layouts that are hard to understand. Managing your drives, running regular performance checks and monitoring your system has never been so easy. The HDOne uses an environment monitor processor to run all aspects of the system. The RAID Shield utility allows you to check your hard drive, add or remove the controller, monitor the controller cache, maintain enclosure conditions, fan, temperature and power supply. I found it effortless to configure and manage the RAID arrays and fix problems with a simple click of the mouse. In the event of any errors, alerts or changes to the RAID array, an e-mail notification is sent to you immediately. Which, by the way, can get pretty annoying if over done. No one should get more e-mails from their RAID than Facebook notifications!  Luckily this feature can be controlled, minimized or disengaged entirely.

Another benefit on the software side of things is that CalDigit is now bundling Carbon Copy Cloner with all of its drive arrays, simplifying your ability to back-up and even clone, bootable OS X volumes. I found Carbon Copy Cloner to be a perfect companion to the HDOne, and an easy way to backup, move and archive my precious data.

DESIGN

You simply cannot evaluate any of CalDigit’s product line without noticing the heightened attention to detail and design they exude. The small footprint on the HDOne itself is impressive. And in my case, it literally is about the size of my foot in depth (13 inches). That’s impressive considering all the goods they got stuffed in there — not to mention the eight 3.5-inch drive bays! The case design, the LED lights, the mirrored logo all contribute to a sense of innate technological beauty. Beyond the form, there is exquisite function too. The drive bay trays are secure, but with a gentle poke of the “pin” key, they pop out effortlessly. The brushed aluminum metal case makes a nice partner to any Mac Pro/G5 you might be looking to mate.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Seriously, these guys make storage fun! An obvious advantage the CalDigit HDOne has going for it is its flexibility. For one, they have  you covered whether you are based in Mac OS X, Windows or Linux. Two, you can connect to your workstation via PCI-X or PCI Express. And they even have a solution for your laptop — with the CalDigit ExpressCard. This makes all that storage space and speed available on the go! Three, you can configure your RAID as you see fit, anywhere from “Just a Bunch of Disks” to RAID-0, -1, -5 and -6 support. This gives you the power to choose where you fall on the spectrum between raw blistering speed and security. And four, all of the hardware components are upgradeable or replaceable by CalDigit. From the power supply to the cooling fans to the drives themselves. If only my ex-wife had that level of flexibility.

Tor Rolf Johansen is an LA-based Director/Producer/Editor. He can be reached at:
tor@torphoto.com.