OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID5 Edition Review – Speed, Capacity and Data Security

Capacity, performance and value are three things always being examined by the media professional to increase efficiency and productivity.  Similarly, a large chunk of media production and editing still favors the Mac.  Our report today examines the newest release of the OWC ThunderBolt 4 external storage device, a device that connects to the newest Mac Pro via single or dual ThunderBolt 2 cables and allows storage transfer to reach the next level.  Our report today will examine the ThunderBay 4 in various configurations utilizing 12TB of Toshiba’s finest hard drives, along with four of OWC’s own Mercury Electra 6G SSDs.

OWC ThunderBay 4 SSD and AdapterAs an added bonus, we will also be testing the ThunderBay 4 in OWC’s newest release of SoftRAID RAID 5, an application exclusive to OWC and the ThunderBay 4.  RAID 5 uses the capacity of three of the four Toshiba SSDs, while at the same time providing data redundancy for increased security should one of the drives fail.  Much like RAID 0, RAID 5 is striped for increased performance, yet at the same time provides data security through redundancy within all disks, allowing a swap of one of the hard drives should it fail.  For this reason, RAID 5 is prefered in business and NAS environments; now it logically becomes a favorite of the media professional as well.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Side

The OWC ThunderBay is a storage device that connects to a Mac or PC by either or both ThunderBolt 2 connections.  It is capable of storage up to 20TB through four bays, 1342MB/s data transfer through SSD RAID connected to a newer MacBook Pro with matching dual ThunderBolt 2 compatibility, and it also enables 4K display via Display port 1.2.  This makes it the media professionals ideal work partner.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Exterior Package frontOWC ThunderBay 4 Exterior Package BackThe ThunderBay 4 is built on a solid aluminum enclosure with active cooling through a rear fan that is virtually silent.  In our testing of four 3.5″ hard drives, we also found little to no vibration with the ThunderBay right next to  us on the desk.  The ThunderBay 4 may be purchased as a single enclosure, in HDD capacities of 4-20TB, SSD capacities of 480GB-4TB and also may be purchased as the ThunderBay 4 JBOD RAID Ready Version or ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 Edition, with the included software.  Pricing starts at $499 at OWC, but can run as high as $3179 (with SSDs) and RAID5 is only available in with hard drive purchase.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Contents

Inside the box, we find the ThunderBay 4, power adapter, ThunderBolt cable, Quick Start manual along with a set of keys for drive security.  Finding the ThunderBolt cable included was a definite plus as many consumers fall for the trap of overpriced cabling as necessary cables aren’t included with the hardware, particularly with respect to ThunderBolt cables.  The ThunderBay 4 also comes with a 3 year warranty, in addition to one year of complementary Level 1 Data Recovery.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Front

The front of the ThunderBay 4 consists of a one piece mesh door that must be unlocked to allow access to the storage media.  There are also five activity lights for power, along with the four storage drives.  The mesh allows optimum air flow through to the rear of the unit.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Back

On the back, we get a great view of the fan, Kensington Lock port, dual ThunderBolt 2 ports, power switch and power input.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Front Open

Taking a look inside the unit, we see the four SATA connectors, along with the ASMedia 1061 SATA host controller module below each. As we are familiar with this controller, we will hazard to guess that we might see bottlenecked SSD performance as this controller reaches a maximum of 375MB/s throughput.   We should also remember that this solution is intended for large capacity HDD storage first and foremost, that of which will display top performance with the ASMedia 1061.


  1. blank

    nice, isnt there still a little risk of loosing all data of the discs, when the controller of the thunderbay is dying?

  2. blank

    Wow. 500 dollars for a jbod device.

    • blank

      It comes with Softraid full software worth 180$ usd. So this unit is fair priced.

    • blank

      Not sure about the older units but the one I just bought came with the limited SoftRAID for ThunderBay version which only lets you manipulate drives that are contained within the ThunderBay. It’s plenty powerful for managing those volumes and it seems like a fair deal considering how overbuilt the enclosure is but I would liked to have seen it come with the full software. Upgrading from SRFTB is $99.00.

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