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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

REVIEW: Areca ARC-8050
8-bay Thunderbolt RAID storage

Originally posted Friday, March 1st, 2013, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Areca is known for host bus adapters but now they will also be known for Thunderbolt enclosures. The new 8-bay ARC-8050 Thunderbolt RAID enclosure has some compeling features:

  • "RAID in the box" with support for RAID 0, 1, 1E, 3, 5, 6, 10, 30, 50, 60, or JBOD.
  • RAID management using the front LCD panel or with browser based RAID manager
  • Dual Thunderbolt ports which allows for daisy chaining with other Thunderbolt devices
  • Intelligent cooling fan speed controller
  • 800MHz dual-core ROC with 1GB of on-board DDR3 SDRAM with ECC protection
  • Accepts both SATA and SAS 3.5" drives (2.5" require an adapter - we used the Sonnet Transposer)
  • (See the full feature list on the ARC-8050 product page.)

What transfer speeds are possible with the ARECA ARC-8050?
We loaded it up with eight 6Gbps SSDs and connected it to one of the 2012 iMac's Thunderbolt ports. After testing RAID 0 and RAID 5 modes, we loaded it up with eight HDDs and repeated the tests.

8 SSDs R0 = Eight 6Gbps SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration
4 SSDs R0 = Four 6Gbps SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration
8 HDDs R0 = Eight 6Gbps HDDs in a RAID 0 configuration
8 SSDs R5 = Eight 6Gbps SSDs in a RAID 5 configuration
8 HDDs R5 = Eight 6Gbps HDDs in a RAID 5 configuration
All configurations, of course, were mounted in the Areca ARC-8050 Thunderbolt enclosure and connected to the 2012 iMac Core i7 (3.4GHz). The SSDs were a mixture of SandForce based synchronous models from two manufacturers (OWC and TransIntl). The HDDs were a mixture of Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 (1TB) and Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 (2TB) drives.

Using AJA System Test with 16GB test size and 4K frame size, we put it to the stress -- I mean test.

Insight #1: The ARC-8050 posted the fastest transfer speeds of any Thunderbolt multi-drive enclosure we've tested to date.

Insight #2: Like all Thunderbolt devices, the transfer speed of 10 gigabit per second translates to something less than 1000MB/s -- even if you load it up with eight 6Gbps SSDs capable of a combined speed of 4000MB/s. And, as you can see, even with eight 6Gbps HDDs capable of a combined speed exceeding 1200MB/s, they don't come close.

What about small random transfers?

Insight #3: SSDs generally handle small random transactions much faster than HDDs. However, in the case of the ARC-8050, the aggregate random transfers per second is so close, one questions the need for solid state drives.

The Areca ARC-8050 8 bay Thunderbolt RAID storage is a welcome addition to the Thunderbolt
"family." It provides speed and versatility.

The price ($1499 empty) seems steep. But then you get a dual-core processor and ECC memory to manage the RAID sets without putting any load on your Mac's CPU. It's also in line with other Thunderbolt multi-bay enclosures like the Promise Pegasus series.

One reality check: Before you get carried away and connect two or more Thunderbolt storage devices to your Mac, be advised that the bandwidth is shared by all devices on the "daisy" chain. Even if you have a Mac with two Thunderbolt ports, the maximum real world throughput with both in use is 1350MB/s. We know. We tried it.

Feedback or comments? Contact me , mad scientist.
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copyright 2013 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"