OWC is one of the largest suppliers of Thunderbolt 3 solutions in the world. Making everything from multiple bay enclosures in their ThunderBay lineup to high-performance solutions like the ThunderBlade V4. Another part of their business lies in storage enclosures that cater to DIYers that want a little more control of the drives used in their high-performance solutions; the Express 4M2 caters to this.
The 4M2 is a rather small form factor solution that offers Thunderbolt 3 connectivity to reach out and connect with 4x NVMe m.2 SSDs. Each of the four "bays" supports 2280 form factor drives, while the internal electronics give each a 1x PCIe 3.0 lane to work with to match up with the x4 that Thunderbolt 3 operates with.
Additional features include an integrated DisplayPort connection allowing for full 4K monitor support. Compatibility includes certification for Mac and Windows platforms with SoftRAID support available for RAID 0 and 1.
The MSRP of the Express 4M2 comes in at $294.99 with a one-year warranty.
Packaging has that OWC flair blue on white colorway. We have an image of the enclosure on the front.
The side goes into more detail with dimensions of the drive along with box contents.
Unboxing, we have a power adapter and Thunderbolt 3 cable included.
The enclosure is an all-metal box, mesh front panel.
The backside offers I/O connectivity, including two Thunderbolt 3 and one DP port.
Inside, we have a large cooling fan to pull heat off the NVMe drives.
Removing the fan, we get a look at the slots available, all secured with screws for 2280 drives.
For this review, OWC has blessed us with four Aura P12 NVMe drives to test with.
SoftRAID is still in beta for Windows, but we were able to get our hands-on an evaluation copy for testing. As you can see, the interface is quite familiar coming over from MacOS with all drives listed to the left and arrays to the right.
Setting up a volume, we have the option of RAID 0 and 1 for the Express 4M2.
You can then choose additional options such as file system, stripe size, and any optimizations.
Performance starts with 2883 MB/s read and 2976 MB/s write in RAID 0.
RAID 1, we see similar performance for read operations at 2882 MB/s read, while write falls off a cliff at 725 MB/s.
Starting with performance on this solution, the Express 4M2 might just be the quickest Thunderbolt 3 enclosure I have had in the lab. I can't recall the last time I've seen over 2900 MB/s, and we nearly passed up 3000 MB/s in write testing on this unit. Switching to build quality, I will say this is about as solid as they come. An all-metal slide through design, and plenty of cooling for the drives with the attached fan.
With the addition of SoftRAID, setting up arrays on Windows has never been easier. Add to this the ability to customize your array to fit your workload, and the software is a must-have part of the hardware.
Pricing is rough for the Express 4M2. At $294.99, this four-slot enclosure will set you back a bit, but you can more than make up for it by choosing the correct drives for your build.
Tyler's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair VIII Formula X570 (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 (buy from Amazon)
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB 2x8GB DDR4 3600 (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Corsair Hydro H60 (buy from Amazon)
- Case: Corsair Carbide 275R (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Corsair MP600 1TB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair RM850x (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
The Bottom Line
For consumers that love the DIY ability, the OWC Express 4M2 is easily one of the best we have ever had the pleasure of testing.