ARCHGON RAID Storage Center is a great external enclosure with some high-end features.
Today I’m reviewing a very cool and very useful piece of tech, the Archgon USB 3.0 Dual Bay RAID Storage Center. This device allows you to install one or two laptops (2.5”) hard disk drives and configure them to be accessed from your PC or Mac. Many devices do this, but the Archgon allows you to configure RAID modes. You can select your disks to be viewed as a big single disk (JBOD, Just a Big ‘Ol Disk), RAID 0 (no redundancy, but better performance), RAID 1 (duplicated data on each disk for reliability and piece of mind), or allow them to be accessed individually as two separate drives. The best news is it does this all in hardware, and there are no special drivers or configurations to make in your operating system to use it!
I was delighted by the design of this device. You will find it to be only a 1.5” wide, 2.5” tall, and about 4” long. It fits nicely in the palm of your hand. The outer case is made of aluminum and is screwed together for a really tight and sturdy feel. Some other USB enclosures I’ve used have tried to be “easy” and have no screws inside or out, and I think that can lead to problems with loose fitting case components or even connections later on, so I was glad to see this one using screw together construction.
On the back, you will find a standard USB 3 full-size type B connection, a power switch, and a small fan. This fan is small and quiet. Included in the box is a power supply, USB 3.0 super speed cable and manual which was decently written and helpful, which is a rarity for this kind of gadgets.
Features and Performance
I found this device to be very capable and had no issues working on Windows or Ubuntu Linux despite that it does not mention explicit compatibility with Linux. The device claimed support for UASP which allows SCSI commands to be sent directly to the drives over the USB connection. This allows for faster performance and special commands for solid state drives that the classic USB Mass Storage scheme does not. I confirmed that this is indeed supported and works in all modes.
Configuring the device is easy, but you must read the manual to understand the process. Inside there are two switches that need to be configured to enable the supported mode you desire. After switching modes, you must press a button inside as well with the unit powered on. Note that switching modes will essentially delete the data stored on the disks (except in a few circumstances, but assume it will and have a backup) and the drive must be reformatted before use. The manual offers guidance for this for Windows. However no steps are given for MacOS, but it is a simple process that Google is ready to help with.
You can use different manufacturer’s drives and differing size drives, which makes for a great experience. In the RAID modes, you will forgo the extra space available on the larger disk, however, but there’s no way around that.
For the tests conducted below, I’m using my Windows 10 PC with USB 3 UASP support, an HGST 1TB 7200RPM disk, a 500GB Toshiba drive for the 2 disk tests, and CrystalDiskMark to benchmark. As a reference, I use the 1TB disk in another USB 3 enclosure. Sequential read performance on the reference device was 130MB/s, and write was 128MB/s. I will refer to them below as Read/Write, so 130/128 for the reference device.
The Mini-RAID features the ability to use one of 4 modes with your drives:
- Individual – This is the simple mode and the one set by default. You can install one or two drives and they will show up independently in your operating system. You don’t need to do anything but slide in the disks and screw them in. In this mode, performance for sequential reads and writes was 130/123, so very close (probably indistinguishably close) to my reference device.
- JBOD – In this mode both disks are combined into a single drive that appears to Windows (or MacOS, or Linux). You get the full capacity of the disks, but no redundancy of your data. Performance was 131/124, so pretty much identical to single disk mode. I did not try benchmarking with enough data to span over to the second disk, however.
- RAID 0 – This mode allows the data to be written in stripes (chunks) alternating between the disks. This theoretically allows for higher read and write performance, however, the failure of either disk means all your data is lost. You get the full capacity of both disks. Performance was 223/214 so a marked improvement. I will note that when multiple programs were writing at the same time (more threads and queued up actions on the disk) performance fell to 52/41. This is the 32 queue depth test for CrystalDiskMark for those interested. I would verify that this solution gets you the performance you need. In many use cases, this detriment will probably not show up on your average home computer.
- RAID 1 – This is the really exciting mode for me. It duplicates your data between the disks. You only get the capacity of the smaller disk in the device, but everything written is written to two separate disks. If one fails, you can still recover ALL of your data stored. Performance was 130/112, so a slight penalty for this great piece of mind. You can also replace the failed disk with a fresh one and the device will rebuild the duplication for you even if your computer is not connected to the device. While it gives you easy to understand indications that it is rebuilding, I didn’t see how it would show you which disk is bad, so it might require some manual work to determine this. That said I tried removing a disk and blanking it and reinserting it, and it happily rebuilt the mirroring in a few hours.
I had almost no issues of note using the device and it is a real pleasure to use, but I will mention a few minor difficulties I had.
- The LED lights use plastic light pipes to get their light to the front of the case, and the result is a little dim, and the colors of the lights get somewhat mixed so indications can be slightly difficult to discern. This is very minor, though, but I would have preferred LEDs on the front of the case. The benefit of this light pipe arrangement is that there are no wires or electronics to bump or break while sliding the cover on the unit.
- The rebuilding of a RAID could be a little clearer, the flash pattern it uses is pretty similar to normal hard drive activity flashing, and as mentioned before I wasn’t able to see a way for it to show you which drive has failed in that unfortunate case.
- The second drive is slightly more difficult to align and install, so be patient and careful you don’t bend any pins or break any connectors.
The ARCHGON USB 3.0 Dual Bay RAID Storage Center is a great external enclosure with some really high-end feeling features. The RAID modes work without special software which I can’t emphasize enough how much of a great thing that is. You don’t have to worry that in 2 years your device won’t be supported because some custom driver didn’t get updated.
For more information, visit archgon.com.
Find ARCHGON on Facebook and Twitter.