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CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt RAID Enclosure Review - Three Drive Thunderbolt Storage for your Mac or PC

CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt RAID Enclosure Review - Three Drive Thunderbolt Storage for your Mac or PC

High capacity, high performance external storage from CalDigit for your Mac or PC. We take the T3 Thunderbolt RAID for a spin in the lab.

@TylerBernath
Published Wed, Feb 26 2014 9:11 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: CalDigit

Introduction & Pricing and Availability

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In the last decade there have been few technologies that have excited me like Thunderbolt. The ability to potentially have higher storage performance with external devices can be puzzling, yet at the same time, amazing. With Thunderbolt in its basic format being an extension of the PCIe interface, the possibilities for this interface are endless.

Since the introduction of Thunderbolt, Macintosh devices have largely been the sole systems supported by the interface. While Thunderbolt II may change this, Microsoft doesn't support the hot plugging of Thunderbolt without a driver.

CalDigit has specialized in creating storage solutions for creative professionals for over ten years, and was the first to provide external PCIe storage, and also the first to bring USB 3.0 devices to the Mac with the AV Drive.

Today, we have the latest from CalDigit in-house in the form of the T3 Thunderbolt RAID. With the Thunderbolt interface, the T3 has at its disposal 10 Gb/s bandwidth, delivering up to 550 MB/s with hard drives or 850 MB/s using solid state drives.

RAID features include support for RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD. Compatibility of the T3 Thunderbolt extends to OS X 10.6.8+ and Windows 7+.

Pricing and Availability

The CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt comes in many variations, including 3TB, 6TB, 9TB, and 12TB hard drive based models, with MSRPs coming in at $449.99, $749.99, $899.99 and $1199.99 respectively. Solid State based models are available in 2.88TB capacity, with a MSRP of $2799.99.

All CalDigit T3 RAID models come with a one-year warranty.

PRICING: You can find the CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt (9TB) retails for $899.00 at Amazon, and the CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt (12TB) retails for $1,199.00 at Amazon.

CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt RAID

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Packaging for the T3 has a nice image of the enclosure front and center; around the box, we notice the bright color choices attracting our eyes. Features of the T3 are listed out along the left side.

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Scope of delivery includes the power adapter, tray keys, and the enclosure. Something of noteworthiness is a Thunderbolt cable is not included with the T3; you can purchase it from CalDigit for $29.99.

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The front of the CalDigit T3 carries the same drive tray design as the AV Pro we reviewed awhile back. Each tray is numbered to the right, with corresponding LEDs at the bottom. The entirety of the main frame of the enclosure is a single piece aluminum enclosure, with both the front and back being separate pieces of aluminum.

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The backside of the enclosure houses a lock slot, dual Thunderbolt ports, and the power connection. Above the connections is a 80mm fan for cooling the internal components and drives.

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The drives included in our sample of the CalDigit T3 came in three modules, each being 2TB models manufactured by Toshiba.

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The Thunderbolt controller used in the T3 is the DSL3510L, a four channel PCIe 2.0 x4 design.

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To bridge the SATA interface to PCIe, CalDigit chose to use three of the ASMedia ASM1061 6Gb/s capable controllers.

Test System Setup

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In testing the performance of Thunderbolt storage solutions, we utilize the Apple MacBook Pro Retina (the late 2013 model), which, as of writing this article, is running OS X 10.9.1. Full system specifications are available above.

To create RAID volumes in OS X, I use SoftRAID 4.5.3 with 64K stripe size for RAID 0 volumes. All results pertaining to SSD performance are run with three Seagate 600 Pro 200GB Enterprise SSDs, and may not reflect the actual performance you can achieve using CalDigit SSD Drive Modules.

Black Magic Design Disk Speed Test

[img]99[/img]

Disk Speed Test is an easy to use tool to quickly measure and certify your disk performance for working with high quality video! Simply click the start button and Disk Speed Test will write test your disk using large blocks of data, and then display the result. Disk Speed Test will continue to test writes and reads from your disk, so you can evaluate both performance and readability over time.

AJA System Test

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Check the performance of any drive on your system to ensure it is tuned for the performance you need.

Benchmarks - Black Magic Design Disk Speed Test

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In our first test, we benchmark the performance of a single disk in the T3. Read results came in at 192 MB/s with write numbers at 191 MB/s.

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Above, we have our RAID 0 results with the T3 pushing 551 MB/s read, and 541 MB/s write.

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Last, but not least, we have RAID 1. Here, results came in just under single disk at 184 MB/s read, and 169 MB/s write.

Benchmarks - AJA System Test

All testing with AJA System Test is done with a 16GB file size over 800 frames.

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In our first testing with AJA, we look at 720p read where we compare all volumes across 800 frames. Here we see our SSD RAID 0 topping the chart, with the HDD RAID 0 right behind it. RAID 1 and single disk shared similar performance, with more variability in the array.

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Here we have 720p write; again the SSD RAID runs across the top of the chart with the very quick HDD RAID 0 right behind. The single disk and RAID 1 array performances were neck and neck throughout the entire process.

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Moving over to 1080p, we see the SSD array coming around 850 MB/s, with the RAID 0 HDD array at 600 MB/s. RAID 1 and the single disk again shared similar performance, around 200 MB/s.

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Write testing for 1080p had the SSD array slightly slower at 800 MB/s, while all HDD arrays and drives performed the same as we saw in read.

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4K read was able to stretch things out quite a bit, and stress the drives a little more. Hence we see less movement in the data throughput in each mode. The SSD, as it should, runs across the top of the chart at 900 MB/s, while the HDD array runs around 600 MB/s.

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4K write had a similar effect, though throughput was similar to the read results above. The SSD array sits just below 900 MB/s, with our RAID 0 HDDs doing near 600 MB/s. The single disk and RAID 1 were back at it again, hovering around 200 MB/s.

Final Thoughts

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After a successful unboxing of the CalDigit T3, I instantly knew I was holding a top tier storage solution. I say this because whether it's the weight or the aesthetics of a product (or even both), somehow we know when something is built really well. As expected, based upon my past experience with CalDigit products, the build quality of the T3 was top notch. The pure aluminum structure of the T3 really lets you know how much time and effort went into machining this solution.

Performance of the T3 with the included 2TB Toshiba HDDs was quite good, which in all tests was able to reach marketing specifications, and even exceed them in AJA System Test by a fair amount. RAID 1 performance was just under a single disk volume, which was expected, and comes at the cost of data redundancy. However, single drive performance was quite simply astounding. I'm not even sure if I have seen a standard 3.5" spinner move data this fast in my lifetime; maybe the WD Black could do the same, but the Toshiba drives have typically been just as fast or faster, with lower power requirements.

Noise levels of the CalDigit T3 were more than acceptable; in fact, you wouldn't know it was running if it weren't for the blue LEDs on the front panel. The only negative thing I could find with the T3 was the lack of a Thunderbolt cable included in the package, surely they could afford to toss one in after you pay for the device with drives.

The CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt comes in many variations including 3TB, 6TB, 9TB, and 12TB hard drive based models, with MSRPs coming in at $449.99, $749.99, $899.99, and $1199.99 respectively. Solid State based models are available in 2.88TB capacity, with a MSRP of $2799.99. All CalDigit T3 RAID models come with a one-year warranty. As you know, pricing and availability may change with time, so please feel free to look at current pricing below.

PRICING: You can find the CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt (9TB) retails for $899.00 at Amazon, and the CalDigit T3 Thunderbolt (12TB) retails for $1,199.00 at Amazon.

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Growing up in a small farm town, tech wasn't around, unless it was in a tractor. At an early age, Tyler's parents brought home their first PC. Tyler was hooked and learned what it meant to format a HDD, spending many nights reinstalling Windows 95. Tyler's love and enthusiast nature always kept his PC nearby. Eager to get deeper into tech, he started reviewing.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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