WiebeTech SilverSATA V

WiebeTech’s SilverSATA V is a compact and stylish five-bay RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). It delivers some impressive data transfer rates and shows the promise of port multiplication in the SATA II specification.

WiebeTech offers the SilverSATA V in four configurations: with no drives installed (build your own RAID), 1.25TB, 2.5TB, and an absolutely massive 3.75TB—including five 750GB SATA drives. We tested the 2.5TB unit (with five 500GB drives) using WiebeTech’s $140 PCI-11 port multiplication-enabled PCI-X SATA card.

In the original SATA I specification, each hard drive needed its own dedicated data cable. The SATA II protocol added a port multiplication feature that lets multiple drives connect via a single SATA cable—a clever use of resources since it takes about five drives to saturate the 300 MBps throughput that is available with SATA II. And it does so with minimal cable headache.

You will need a port multiplication-capable card to mount the SilverSATA V, however. On the PCI-X side, you can use WiebeTech’s TeraCard PCI-11 card with a single external eSATA port or a third-party card with multiple external ports, like the $300 four-port Sonnet Tempo X4P (PCI-X). If you have a PCIe Mac (all Mac Pro systems, as well as the last generation of Power Mac G5s), you can use WiebeTech’s two-port TCESO-2e ($100) or Sonnet’s Tempo E4P ($300) with four external ports.

The SilverSATA V doesn’t have an onboard RAID chip, so you will need to format the RAID via Apple’s Disk Utility. Unfortunately, Disk Utility offers only RAID 0 and RAID 1. RAID 0 (striping) splits the incoming data and writes half the information to one drive and the rest to the other. This is fast, but offers no redundancy, or backup. RAID 1 (mirroring) offers full redundancy and full data protection should one drive fail, but it is slower. Users can’t create more advanced RAID 3 or RAID 5 levels, which offer speed without sacrificing redundancy.

Set up as a striped RAID 0 for maximum speed, the SilverSATA V proved to be a zippy unit, with an average read speed of 173 MBps and an average write speed of 206 MBps when empty, using our customized 50MB QuickBench test. Our AJA Video Kona system test, which tests a drive for high-definition editing capabilities, rated the SilverSATA V at 196 MBps average read speed and 220 MBps average write speed using a 1GB uncompressed 1,920-by-1,080 setting, making the SilverSATA V technically fast enough to edit 10-bit, uncompressed, high-definition (HD) video. That said, users will probably encounter dropped frames when working with uncompressed HD video once the RAID fills to about 80 to 90 percent capacity; the SilverSATA V scored only 111 MBps read and 99 MBps write speeds at 90 percent capacity via ZoneBench testing software. So, while uncompressed high-definition editing is possible with the unit, it is better suited to compressed HD video, and for editing uncompressed standard-definition video.

The SilverSATA V has an aluminum enclosure and four fans to keep the five drives cool. In normal use, the noise of the fans can be heard over the fans of a G5 tower, but thankfully, the noise is not grating.

This compact unit is quite portable, despite weighing in at roughly 20 pounds when fully populated with drives, because it has a sturdy flip-up metal handle. The individual drives are hot-swappable, which adds additional convenience, particularly in the field. It also has a very small footprint, so the SilverSATA V doesn’t take up too much desk space.

timed trials

Average Read Speed 173 MBps
Average Write Speed 206 MBps
Copy 1GB to Drive 0:31
Duplicate 1GB on Drive 0:30
Low Memory Photoshop CS Suite 1:08

How We Tested—All scores are in minutes:seconds, except for the average read and write scores, which are in MBps (megabytes per second). All tests used RAID 0 connected via PCI-X cards installed in a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 with Mac OS X 10.3.9 and 512MB of RAM. We copied a folder containing 1GB of data from our Mac’s hard drive to the external hard drive to test the drive’s write speed. We then duplicated that file on the external drive to test both read and write speeds. We also used the drive as a scratch disk when running our low-memory Adobe Photoshop CS Suite test. This test is a set of four tasks performed on a 150MB file, with Photoshop’s memory set to 50 percent. For the average read and write scores, we used a 50MB custom test based on QuickBench (disk drive performance evaluation software) and ZoneBench (a benchmarking application designed to measure the read and write speeds over an entire local storage device) tests.—Macworld lab testing by James Galbraith, Jerry Jung, and Anton Linecker.

specifications

Price per gigabyte $1.07
Connectors Single eSATA port
Rotational Speed 7,200 RPM
Other capacities 0TB ($1,000), 1.25TB ($1,665), 3.75TB ($4,325)

Macworld’s buying advice

WiebeTech’s SilverSATA V is a solid, five-bay SATA RAID that delivers handily on speed and, at the same time, takes up very little desk (or under the desk) space. It’s ideal for video editors, especially those working with standard-definition and compressed high-definition video, who need fast throughput and plenty of storage space.

[ Anton Linecker is a writer and video technical adviser living in Los Angeles. ]

WiebeTech SilverSATA V

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