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Review: AKiTio Thunder2 Duo Pro RAID Storage

I found the Thunder2 Duo Pro unit solid and fast. It looks like it will take a beating if you work in a tough environment. If you add in a few Solid State Drives (SSDs), it will be very rugged and lightning-fast. Set it up in a RAID 0 and you'll enjoy fast data throughput for your more demanding edits.

I recently discovered a brand of external hard drive enclosures from a company called AKiTio. The AkiTio website shows an impressive collection of hard drive enclosures. They looked solid, so I decided to give one a try. I ended up with the Thunder2 Duo Pro (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. The AKiTio Thunder2 Duo Pro. Click on the image to see it at full size.

Storage Specs

On paper it’s a pretty well-equipped setup, with space for two hard drives or SSDs providing up to 12TB of storage (with 6TB drives) and both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connectivity.

Upon Inspection…

Once it arrived and I pulled it out of the box (don’t worry I didn’t do an unboxing video) my first thought was, “Wow, this looks G-RAID quality.” G-RAID has long been known as a higher-end solid RAID setup. This one looked that impressive to me.

Upon inspection, it proved well-built inside and out. It’s easy to snap open with thumbscrews on the back in case you want to upgrade or replace drives. For fun, I wanted to see what was inside, so I took the cover off. My evaluation unit shipped with Western Digital green-label drives, which are fine for testing, but WD red-label drives are best for NAS and RAID units as they hold up better and are more reliable for massive amounts of read-write calls. That said, with the way the unit is assembled, it would be very easy to access the drives and replace them if needed.

The front of the unit has a blue light that indicates that the unit is powered up. There are two small LEDS next to the power light that blink with activity. This is pretty normal for any enclosure. The unit’s numerous connectivity options are on the back, as shown in Figure 2 (below).

Figure 2. Ports on the back of the Thunder2 Duo Pro. Click the image to see it at full size.

There are two Thunderbolt ports (for daisychaining) and a USB 3.0 port. There is also an HDMI play-out port. According to the manual, the HDMI port is functional only if you’re using the Thunderbolt connection to your computer.

The other special feature I noticed is above the USB 3.0 connector. It’s a small selector to choose how to set up the drive. You can select RAID 0, RAID 1, SPAN, or Non-RAID. I selected RAID 0 since I wanted to try out the speed. There is also a small switch for turning the cooling fan on or off. I turned it on and I couldn’t even hear it turning. I don’t hear the drives turning either. It is one quiet unit.

Documentation

One thing that appeared as a real weak spot was the user manual. As you can see in Figure 3 (below), it’s a tiny piece of folded paper with instructions in multiple languages. Each step was only about a sentence long. The manual could have been a little more in depth and inclusive. It did come with a nice velcro cable tie which can always be put to good use.

Figure 3. A dearth of documentation

Most drives are just plug-and-play and off-you-go, but some explanation of a few features would have been nice.

One thing I had trouble with on startup was initializing the drive partitions and assigning a drive letter. My system could see the drive but not do anything with it. I had Windows 8.1 on my computer and I had trouble finding the Administration tools where I could partition the drive. As a former IT guy before I got into professional video production, in the past I’ve always found it easy to locate those functions.

Since updating to Windows 8, I have hardly needed any of those functions. I had to do an internet search to find the functionality. It may be more of an issue with Windows than with the Thunder2 Duo Pro, drive but some step-by-step instructions for different operating systems in the manual would make for a nice addition. Once I found the Admin tools in Windows 8.1, it was a quick process to partition the drive and assign a letter.

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