Comparing External RAID Housings

SansDigital Mobilestor MS2UTN+

The second candidate in our test is the SansDigital Mobilestor MS2UTN+. This unit can accommodate two 3.5“ drives with a Serial ATA interface. The external housing is supplied without drives and costs somewhere around $90.

The housing is all black and feels very sturdy. The front of the drive trays are made of cast iron, which affects the overall weight. This unit weighs in at approximately 1.7 kg, including the internal power supply. The advantage of this solution is that, when switched off, the housing does not draw any power at all—0 watts. The power consumption in idle is a moderate 18.3 watts, and even the 23 watts required during a RAID 1 rebuild is acceptable.

The Package

The device package includes a USB and eSATA cable, screws for fixing the drives into the slots, a set of installation instructions, a power cable, and two plastic “keys” to open the drive slots, which cannot be locked. (Should these keys be lost, the drive slots can easily be opened using a paper clip.) The scope of delivery also includes an eSATA slot cover that enables you to move an internal SATA connection to the outside of the housing. This allows the Mobilestor MS2UTN+ to be operated on computers that do not have an eSATA interface on the motherboard. As with the G-Force Megadisk MDE1000, the NTI Shadow Backup software is supplied on CD ROM.

Installing The Drives

The drive slots can be opened easily using the supplied keys, and despite the plastic tracks, can be removed easily. SansDigital chose not to include a shelf in the drive slots. In order for the slots to provide some degree of stability even without drives, supports have been added to them—these must be removed before drives can be installed. The housing can handle a total capacity of 2 Terabytes, so the installation of two 1 TB drives is not a problem. The LEDs on the front of the unit inform the user of the status of the system.

Selecting The Operating Mode

As with the Fantom Drives G-Force-Megadisk MDE1000, the operating mode is selected using a rotating button, which must also be set using a small screwdriver. The SansDigital version is not a good solution, however, as the button can be rotated 360 degrees and has no markings. This means that one of two operating modes may have been selected, but you only find out which one you’ve actually selected after you switch on the computer.

In addition to the drive configurations we have seen for the G-Force Megadisk, the Mobilestor MS2UTN+ also has two additional settings: Safe33 and Safe50.

The modes Safe33 and Safe50 are multi-partition RAID combinations. Depending on the setting selected, either 33% or 50% of the available capacity is mirrored over two drives. The remaining capacity is available to the user as an additional logical drive.

Marcel Binder
  • rockbyter
    did i miss the part about heat and noise?
  • Aragorn
    Did anyone else think that the thumbnails of the charts were utterly useless. Why don't we get nicely sized images in THG reports anymore?
  • Discussion about external desktop storage and no mention whatsoever of Firewire? *yawn* call me when you have a serious storage article. Firewire is the defacto standard in the pro desktop market, and also of course with all Apple systems. It's faster than USB 2.0 in every benchmark. It's more flexible and mature than eSata. And with Firewire 3.2 Gb/s coming later this year, it's about to get reeeeally fast. I have five external disks (including 2 raid arrays) and all are Firewire 800 connected.
  • hawler
    I wish firewire would just die with the upcoming release of USB 3.0 which will be fast 4GB/s and more common. It really is annoying to have both of these on a computer when you could simply have just one of them. Id rather have 10 USB slots then 8 USB and two firewire on my computer. I knwo this isn't goign to happen but there simply is no need to have both, I realize currently it is faster but it won't be soon, and when it was first made they should have tried to make it a new version of USB so that there wouldn't be 2 standards.

    Thats just my opinion on it, im sure people who use a lot of firewire products (i only use it for my ext HDDs but) might disagree but the idea of having just one I/O choice to me is better...its like display port for monitors...why oh why didn't they just leave it with DVI/HDMI
  • @ hawler: USB is NOT a replacement for firewire! There's a reason that ALL pro audio equipment uses Firewire instead of USB. There's a reason that ALL camcorders can stream video only over Firewire and not USB.

    It's called "Isochronous transfers". Critical when you're dealing with real-time audio or video. USB doesn't provide that. Also makes bulk data transfer (like backups, for instance) perform more consistently.

    USB was never designed for bulk data transfer. That's why it sucks so badly at it. Ever wondered why a 480 Mbit USB2 connection (That's 60 MB/s) can barely achieve between 35 MB/s in real world transfers? That's because the protocol sucks at bulk data transfer. USB was designed for keyboards and mice. To replace low-speed serial ports. Not for high speed bulk data transfer. The USB protocol is inherently deficient in this regard.

    Firewire, on the other hand, was designed *specifically* for bulk data transfers. It's obvious when you look at its efficiency at these kinds of tasks. Firewire 400 (that's 50 MB/s) achieves around 42 to 45 MB/s in real world performance. Far FAR more efficient than USB at moving data.

    My vote would be for ALL external data storage, audio, and video devices to be firewire only. Make everything else USB.
  • njalterio
    For those of you asking about firewire, many companies do not like to use firewire because of security issues. Firewire devices communicate through direct memory access. There is no operating system intervention. This is why many companies will have their IT staff remove firewire expansion cards or disable them.
  • @ njalterio: Companies? IT departments? What kind of company IT department directs their employees to backup the PC's individually using external disks??

    Firewire does indeed use DMA. That's another advantage it has over USB, at least in terms of performance. Everyone knows from back in the PATA disk days, that DMA transfers are way faster than non-DMA transfers.

    But for professional audio/video, there is only one option and that's Firewire. No such thing as pro a/v products that use USB. They just don't exist. So when you say that "companies disable fw interfaces" I suppose it depends on what sort of company you're talking about. Not a production studio that's for sure!!
  • xxsk8er101xx
    There is this program called Hotswap 4.0.1 i think it is. or maybe 4.1.1. I forget. But it's called Hotswap and it allows you to have that add/remove icon for harddrives. It works for cd-roms, ide drives, fixed drives ... it's an amazing program and best of all - it's free!

    Again it's hotswap! 4.'something ... it's an amazing tool and it works very well. Solves the problem listed on page 1 about no add/remove icon.
  • GreenPower
    All my applications are installed on the C drive, which is a 500GB $79 WD unit. I buy a second identical drive and hook it up to an extra 18" sata cable and power right at the edge of the pc case chassis.
    I use Acronis True Image disk utility to make and exact copy when the system half way reboots. Then I turn off the power and swap disks. A few applications like Photoshop can still detect they have been copied. But besides this its a 5 minute replacement if my HD ever gets corrupted.

    Otherwise it takes about 4 LONG days to rebuild the system from scratch.
    Five minutes vs four days. Go figure!
  • GreenPower
    Always run the long format and surface scan any new disk to check for bad sectors. Then re-scan it after its been copied and re-booted with. Only then can you state that you backup is worthy.