Desktop Backplane? Three 2.5" HDD Solutions Reviewed

Optimized for 2.5” Drives: Backplanes Reviewed

It's generally pretty easy to get information on the latest hardware solutions from vendor Web sites, reviews, data sheets, and so on. But it can be substantially more difficult to find information on how to use individual pieces of hardware together. This is particularly applicable to storage applications for enthusiasts or small businesses, where handling individual hard drives doesn’t cut it without proper accessories. We’ve kept a lookout for solutions to assist in sharing, accessing, securing, handling, or simply managing data in general, and hard drives, in particular. This time, we decided to look at internal and external backplane solutions for 2.5” disks, as these units squeeze efficient and redundant storage into very compact form factors.

In the past, we've looked at various storage accessories that cater to enthusiasts and IT administrators:

Storage Accessories for Geeks and Pros

Storage Accessories: Move, Cool, Multiply

Comparing External RAID Housings

2.5” vs. 3.5”

2.5” drives aren't the perfect solution for high-capacity requirements, as 3.5” disks offer up to triple the capacity. But 2.5” drive are a real option if you care about mobility, data density, and increased data safety. RAID solutions based on 2.5” drives require roughly the same space as single-drive 3.5” products, and two or more 2.5” drives easily outperform one or two 3.5” drives in RAID setups when it comes to I/O performance (and even in throughput as long as at least one more 2.5” drive is used in comparable arrays). Backplanes are also important to make sure that drives can be hot-swapped, as not all storage controllers support this (especially pre-AHCI models).

The products we’re looking at today are aimed at fast or secure storage utilizing 2.5” hard drives, either externally or within a system environment. One of the offerings allows users to operate two 2.5” SATA hard drives in a compact external solution, combining RAID 0 and RAID 1 within a single product. The other backplanes allow administrators to install four 2.5” drives utilizing only the space of a single 5.25” drive bay.