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CRU-DataPort's ToughTech Duo QR: RAID for the road

I recently reviewed the WiebeTech RTX220-QR RAID array, which I found to be a fast and rock-solid array that would be great for office use. After returning the drive to WiebeTech, I was contacted by the company about a new array that could provide the same speedy RAID features in a much more portable format. That array, from WiebeTech's parent company CRU-DataPort, is called the ToughTech Duo QR, and it uses two 2.5" notebook hard drives in a solid aluminum shell in either a RAID 0 (striped) or RAID 1 (mirrored) configuration.

Like its big brother the RTX220-QR, the ToughTech Duo QR is built to take a beating. The array isn't exactly lightweight at 1 lb., 12 oz., but it is tiny enough to fit in a briefcase or backpack for travel. How tiny? The array is 3.5" deep by 6.26" wide by 1.34" high. Inside the box are two 2.5" notebook drives (in this case, two 750 GB 7200 RPM drives) that are in easily removable trays. There's a small metal plastic stand included for holding the array vertically next to a computer.

No tools are required to remove the drives, and the company provides succinct instructions on the packaging about how to use this feature to create an offsite backup disk using RAID 1. You just power down the drive, pop open the drive tray, take one drive out and replace it with another identical drive, then close the tray, power back up, and rebuild the RAID array. Stash the removed drive in a safe place, and you still have a mirrored 750 GB drive that you can carry with you.

Hardware

The RTX-220QR has a two line LCD on the front of the box to provide RAID mode and status information at a glance, and the same display has made it to the diminutive ToughTech Duo. Like its big brother, the ToughTech Duo QR can be be changed between RAID 0 and RAID 1 using a four-button rocker pad on the front of the unit.

The ToughTech Duo QR has quite a few ports available, including two FireWire 400/800 ports and a combo eSATA / USB 2.0 port. The array is bus-powered through FireWire, and a FireWire port can be used to power the device while using the faster eSATA port for data transfer. Should it be required, there's a DC in port and power plugs are supplied for U.S., European, UK and Australian sockets. That is handy for travel, as is the Kensington lock port for making sure the array doesn't just "walk away." I liked the subtle touch of putting two bumps, one on either side of the power switch, so you don't accidentally turn the array off while it is in use.

There's no fan in the ToughTech Duo QR, so it's almost completely silent. The drives are held in the removable drive trays very securely, but CRU-DataPort provides screws if you want to make absolutely sure that they don't move during transport. It took me four seconds to unlock and remove a drive tray, then pop out the drive. That's convenient, especially since no tools are required to remove or replace a drive.

What kind of capacity can you expect? As noted, the array shipped with two 750 GB drives. In a RAID 1 array, of course, that means that you have 750 GB of storage that is being mirrored onto two drives for backup purposes. In a striped RAID 0 array, you'll have 1.5 GB available for storage, but don't have the protection of the constant backup. Western Digital currently has a 1 TB 2.5" 7200 RPM drive available that would give 2.0 GB of striped storage or 1 TB of mirrored storage. You can also outfit the empty ToughTech Duo QR with SSDs if you want.

The ToughTech Duo QR array is quite cost-effective, too. The bare housing is available for $499 SRP, while the street price on one filled with 750 GB drives was only $694 through a popular online Apple vendor.

Performance

The ToughTech Duo QR array performed on a par with its big brother the RTX-220QR, not surprising since the two drives probably share some internal electronics. Using my informal benchmark described in the previous post, I saw the following 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)
CRU-DataPort ToughTech Duo QR (RAID 1, FW 800): 25.5 seconds
CRU-DataPort ToughTech Duo QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 26.1 seconds

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)
CRU-DataPort ToughTech Duo QR (RAID 1, FW 800): 22.5 seconds
CRU-DataPort ToughTech Duo QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 22.2 seconds

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)
CRU-DataPort ToughTech Duo QR (RAID 1, FW 800): 44.9 seconds
CRU-DataPort ToughTech Duo QR (RAID 0, FW 800): 58.1 seconds

Most of the benchmarks were similar to those found on other arrays, with the exception of duplicating a file on the array in a RAID 0 configuration, which was considerably slower.

Conclusions

As with the WiebeTech RTX220-QR array, I was impressed with both the speed and solid construction of the ToughTech Duo QR. Who is it for? I could see this as a welcome addition to the computer bag for anyone with an eSATA-equipped MacBook Pro (using an ExpressCard/34 card). Since the new MacBook Pros are moving to Thunderbolt I/O, I'm hoping that CRU-DataPort and other vendors begin adding Thunderbolt to their storage products as well.

If you're doing video editing or just need the security of mirrored drives while you're on the road, the ToughTech Duo QR is an excellent choice for portability, speed, and solidity.



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Accessories Mac

I recently reviewed the WiebeTech RTX220-QR RAID array, which I found to be a fast and rock-solid array that would be great for office...