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WiebeTech RTX220-QR RAID: SSD speeds at HD prices

If you're looking for a 2-bay RAID setup for doing either mirrored (RAID 1) or striped (RAID 0) storage or backup, what do you want? Something pretty and shiny, or something that looks like it can withstand a direct attack by a squad of Marines who are having a bad day?

My guess is that you'll want the latter, and the WiebeTech RTX220-QR fits the bill perfectly. It comes in an black aluminum enclosure with a sturdy handle on top, and could easily be mistaken for a car battery charger instead of a RAID array. Inside the black box are two shock-absorbing TrayFree drive bays; these are SATA (1 and 2) bays that you simply insert a drive into and close the door. The drive clicks into place, and you're ready to roll.

I had an opportunity to try out an RTX220-QR for a few days, and what I found was a solid, fast, and incredibly configurable array. Read more to find out what I liked (or not) about this WiebeTech device.

Construction

OK, maybe I'm making a big point out of this, but the RTX220-QR is built like a tank. That's not a bad thing -- in fact, I'd feel a heck of a lot better selling a client on this bad boy than one of the glossy RAID drives sold by other vendors. The drive bays have actual cylinder locks on them, so you can lock the drives in place for shipping or keep pesky kids from popping drives out.

The drive comes with thick rubber feet, not the little bumps that are attached to most drives these days. On the back are connectors for eSATA, FireWire 800 (backward-compatible to FW 400), and USB 2.0, a hefty power switch, and a big cooling fan.

When plugged in and switched on, the RTX220-QR is pretty quiet... until the fan kicks in. When that happens, this drive is just plain noisy. I had the drive sitting on the desktop next to my iMac, and it was distractingly loud. If you were to put it under a desk out of the way, or if you work in a noisy office, it probably wouldn't bother you.

On the front of the drive is a two line LCD display that shows the current RAID setup (the review unit came set up as RAID 1, mirrored 2 TB drives) and the status of the drive. There are also four small buttons that are used to cycle through status information on the drives that is viewable on the display. There's a simple "OK" to show the status of the top and bottom drives, the temperature of the drives, the system temperature, and the rotation speed in RPM of the fan.

Under the display are three LEDs to show Power, System, and RAID status, and each drive has a blue LED to indicate power status as well as a red LED to indicate read/write status.

Software

Two CDs are included with the RTX220-QR. The first contains product information and manuals, while the second has an OEM version of Prosoft's Data Backup software. WiebeTech also provides a Configurator app that is downloadable from their website.

Given that Apple seems to be moving towards fewer SuperDrives, it might be a good idea for companies like WiebeTech to just let people download all of the software from their website rather than incurring the cost of burning a few disks that will soon be outdated.

Mirrored Drives or One Big Drive

The review unit came with two 2 TB drives installed and as I noted, it was set up as mirrored drives (RAID 1). One of the commands that is available from the button pad on the front of the device allows you to change that to a single large striped volume (RAID 0). This, of course, requires erasing the drives.

When that was done, a piece of software on my Mac (Drive Genius 3) started throwing out error messages, so I quit Drive Genius and rebooted my iMac. Since the drive had been erased and needed initialization, I used Disk Utility to initialize it to one large 4 TB striped volume. The drive mounted on my desktop, and I was able to start writing to it.

Note that there is a "Configurator" application that is downloadable from the WiebeTech site. I was hoping that it could be used instead of Disk Utility to set up the drive, but basically about all it did was let me change a few settings. For example, there was a setting for "enabling cache flushing," which the Configurator said might speed up disk reads (see test results below). I was also able to enable or disable System and RAID warning and alarm buzzers, as well as play with the temperature at which the fan would turn on and off.

Relative Speed Test Results

As with a previous test drive of the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual mini SSD, I did some relative speed tests using a 1.73 GB file with which I timed read, write and duplicate speeds. These were also compared to a Data Robotics DroboPro which is connected to my iMac via iSCSI. Here are the results:

Write file to drive
OWC Pro Dual mini SSD (RAID 0, FW 800): 26.3 seconds
DroboPro (BeyondRAID, iSCSI): 34.4 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 1, FW 800): 26.1 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 26.0 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 25.5 seconds (cache flushing enabled)

Read file from drive
OWC Pro Dual mini SSD (RAID 0, FW 800): 20.7 seconds
DroboPro (BeyondRAID, iSCSI): 21.3 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 1, FW 800): 21.3 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 22.3 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 21.1 seconds (cache flushing enabled)

Duplicate file on drive
OWC Pro Dual mini SSD (RAID 0, FW 800): 46.6 seconds
DroboPro (BeyondRAID, iSCSI): 65.2 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 1, FW 800): 50.4 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 45.2 seconds
WiebeTech RTX220-QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 45.2 seconds (cache flushing enabled)

Conclusions

I was frankly impressed with the speed of this array, particularly when compared to the OWC Pro Dual mini SSD. Considering that the array contained a pair of rather standard Hitachi 7200 RPM 3.0 Gb/s SATA drives, it's amazing that it could compare speed-wise with the solid-state drives in the OWC array. The price of the RTX220-QR with the twin 2 TB drives is $863.00, while the largest OWC SSD array (twin 400 GB SSDs for a total of 800 GB RAID 0) costs a whopping $3,200.

For photographers, videographers, or anyone who just needs solid and fast storage, the WiebeTech RTX220-QR might be just the answer. Other than the fan noise, I found the WiebeTech array to be a solid and fast quad-interface drive. Sure, it might not be portable enough for field work (although the handle does make it easy to carry) and it's certainly not bus-powered, but for speed and strength you can't go wrong.

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