The Onnto DataTale 2-Bay RAID System is a smart chassis to hold two hard disks, with four different connection options and choice of RAID configurations
There may be a large selection of external storage solutions available nowadays, but once you start to look for specific features, you might find that the list becomes quite short. The Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System, sold by Storage Depot, is one product however that might be right up there at the top of that list.
The Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System is designed to house two 3.5in hard disks and is attractive enough to sit handsomely on the desk. It connects by one of four standard desktop protocols. In order of speed these are: USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800 and eSATA.
As a two-drive system, we’re presented with a few options how to configure those disks. You can set to RAID 0, which combines the capacity of two drives and increases performance by striping data between the disks; RAID 1, which mirrors data between two disk for increased protection in case one disk fails; or JBOD (just a bunch of disks) which combines the drives with no additional speed or security failsafes, and lets you access the disks as two separate volumes.
The Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System is sold without internal hard disks but comes packed in a comprehensively packed box containing the necessary cables, drive brackets and screws you will need to set it up.
Power cord and adaptor, USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800 as well as eSATA cables are all included and are finished in white to nicely match the unit. Quick start instructions make it even simpler to get the unit up and running.
The Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System is a very sleek looking and solidly built unit, constructed from aluminium and white plastic, with a discreet logo on its bottom front. The top front has five tiny LED lights that indicate the power status, disc drive power and usage of the drives.
A white plastic lid slides off, revealing two extra drive-bay grommet screws attached to its underside, in case you lose any of the four used per drive. There’s also a sticker there with a quick guide to each of the RAID settings.
The Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System stands on four non-slip plastic legs giving a 5mm gap to allow air flow from below. A fan is located underneath and drives air up though the middle of the unit between the two hard drives and out through nine small vents at the back of the case. The back of the DataTale has a power on/off switch, a DC power connection and a pair of small DIP switches for the different RAID configurations.
The Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System also has a total of one USB 2.0, one eSATA, one FireWire 400 and two FireWire 800 connections, the latter FireWire ports allowing daisy chaining to other FireWire devices.
Opening the Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System is very simple, just gently push the white lid back with your thumbs and the lid comes off. We found it difficult to get our fingers in to change the jumpers on the back, but a small flat-head screwdriver does the job just fine. We attached the brackets to two Seagate Barracuda 2TB hard drives we use for benchmarking purposes in our test lab.
With the brackets secured to the discs, there’s about 10mm movement each way so that you can use them as handles to easily slip each drive in and out of the bays — and then push the handles flat afterwards.
The jumper switch on the back of the Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System has three different configurations that represent the three types of raid settings you can use with this device, RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD.
When turning the Onnto DataTale 2 Bay Raid System for the first time, the unit needs around a minute to prepare the disc drives.
You will need to format the discs, typically as NTFS format for a Windows PC and Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for a Macintosh.
The Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System unit is almost silent in operation; however final noise levels are of course dependent on your choice of disk. We found with the Seagate disks on board, the unit was commendably quiet, almost good enough for use in a living room.
We tested performance of the Onnto DataTale 2-bay RAID System in Mac OS X and Windows 7. Internal disks were Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5in SATA disks.
Set up as a RAID 0 array with a FireWire 800 connection to a Mac, Xbench reported a maximum sequential write speed of 36MB/s and a read speed of 78MB/s.
To test eSATA speeds, we used HD Tach in Windows 7 on a Chillblast PC. In RAID 1 mode, read and write average speeds were close, at 97 and 94MB/s respectively. Plotted on a graph, we saw the classic tailing off of performance as the benchmark tool measured speed across the disk, showing that the raw performance of the hard drive was the main limiting factor. Random access was 14.3ms.
Switching to RAID 0 in the same setup, we saw read speeds rise to an impressive 174MB/s and write speeds averaged 135MB/s. Also significant was that these high speeds were consistent across the full span of the disk, so performance will not drop as the disks become full. Random access time also dropped a little, to 12.6ms.
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