Perhaps the most noticeable features that solid state storage has brought to the table in recent years are massive performance advance and higher capacities in a smaller footprint. Looking at where we have come with SSDs, ultrabooks today can be found containing 1TB SSDs only 2mm thick, yet capable of speeds up to 1.4GB/s. Similarly, external storage devices have increased in capacity while at the same time progressing from USB 2.0 (480Mbps) to ThunderBolt 2 (20 Gbps) with respect too their physical connector; 35MB/s data transfer has increased 40X to today’s speeds of 1.4GB/s.
Today, we are in a space where media professionals require faster systems with more storage capacity, but for many who enjoy more compact systems, this just isn’t possible. The OWC ThunderBay 4 mini seems to tackle just that. At 7.6″ long (pencil length) 4.6″ high and 3.6″ wide, the ThunderBay 4 mini weighs only 2.4 lbs, yet is capable of storage up to 8TB (4TB SSD) and speeds just under 1.4GB/s when utilizing flash media. The ThunderBay 4 mini provides a smaller footprint for working on media such as 4K files than has ever been seen before, and Thunderbolt 2 makes sure that work is capable of being completed in a quick and efficient manner.
For our testing today, OWC has provided us with a Thunderbay 4 mini, pre-configured with 4 x 480GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs, for a total of 2TB storage. The ThunderBay 4 mini can be purchased with storage included, however, when purchased with hard drives or SSDs, the system is pre-tested and subject to a multi-hour ‘burn-in’. It is a JBOD (Just a Bunch of Drives) device which means all four storage drives can be configured separately, or configured for higher performance in RAID 0/1 and even RAID 5 for higher security when the system is purchased with the RAID 5 option. Storage speed is limited to the ThunderBolt 2 connection at 20Gbps (1.4GB/s), however the presence of a second connector opens up such things as 4K video display attachment or daisy chaining up to 6 ThunderBay 4 mini’s for a potential total of 48TB of storage.
THUNDERBAY 4 MINI BUILD
The ThunderBay 4 mini is constructed of black semi-smooth aluminum shell which houses up to four SSDs or hard drives. The drives have been isolated within the unit, in such a way, that there is virtually no noise whatsoever from the storage medium. This is a given for solid state storage as it is already completely silent, however, we were surprised how quiet the unit was with hard drives installed and the fan running.
When looking at it from the front, venting and a lock are visible along with a power and activity LEDs for all storage media.
The back displays the unit fan, two ThunderBolt 2 ports and the DC 12V port.
Installation of storage media can be accomplished by opening the front of the unit with one of the supplied lock keys; the front panel removes completely. From there, four brackets slide out and the SSDs (in our case) were secured to the brackets by four screws, two on each side of the SSD.
The OWC ThunderBay 4 mini can be purchased alone, or with 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB SSD configurations, or 2, 4 and 8TB hard drive configurations. Warranty for the unit alone is 1 year, although when combined with storage, jumps to 3 years.
Packaging includes the ThunderBay 4 mini, power cabling and a ThunderBolt cable, which was very refreshing to see. Even today, people are still paying unbelievable prices for ThunderBolt cables. Check out OWC’s product page for pricing on all ThunderBay 4 mini configurations.