Raidon GR5630-WSB3 4-Bay Desktop Storage System Review

Nemo - 2011-07-28 21:27:59 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: Nemo   
Reviewed on: November 3, 2011
Price: $300

Introduction:

Adding storage can be accomplished in many different ways. Here at OverclockersClub, we have examined most of them: solid state drives, new internal hard drives, external hard drive enclosures, network attached storage servers, and even USB flash drives. Each of these solutions has its own benefits as well as drawbacks. One other option is to use direct-attached storage (DAS), which connects directly to the host computer. While external hard drives are technically DAS, there are more sophisticated units that more closely resemble NAS units in size and features and include high-speed connections such as eSATA.

Direct-attached storage offers the ability to add additional high-speed storage without the complexities of a NAS unit, but also lacks many of the features we've seen in the NAS units we've reviewed. One of the main reasons cited for using NAS in addition to the easier setup, is the units generally offer higher speed connections than those that connect over the network. This is a useful characteristic for tasks involving the movement of large files, such as those found in video rendering and CAD operations.

Today we will be examining a four-bay DAS unit from Raidon Technology, Inc. — the GR5630-WSB3 — that offers RAID 5 redundancy along with three different high-speed interfaces for connecting to the host. Raidon has been around since 2000 and specializes in offering different small-scale RAID solutions for small and medium sized businesses, as well as home users under the Raidon and Stardom brand names.

Closer Look:

The GR5630-WSB3 arrived in a sturdy cardboard shipping box to protect it in transit. The actual product carton contains images of the different models in the 5630 series of storage units with the GR5630-WSB3 pictured on the right. The first side of the carton shows the rear of the units with a designator denoting which particular model is in the box. Looking at the rear, we see a list of specifications in eight different languages along with additional product shots. The other side depicts the theoretical transfer speeds of the different interfaces and touts the benefits of the RAID 5 functionality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the carton, the GR5630-WSB3 is surrounded by a pair of foam inserts that isolate the unit from shocks and damage. A plastic bag further protects the surface from scratches and blemishes. There's also a box of accessories containing eSata, FireWire and USB cables along with a quick installation guide, installation CD, hard drive mounting screws, and a power cord.

 

 

 

With the unit out of the box, you get another look at the protective plastic wrapping. With all the packaging and wrapping removed, we get our first good look at the GR5630-WSB3. The unit is more slender than a head-on shot would suggest, with the four hot-swap drive trays located on the upper part above the LCM display. Above the LCM display and off to the right are the alarm and power LEDs. Directly below the LEDs, we find power control buttons for the fan, mute, and two select functions. Looking at the side view, you can see the matte-black finish on the side of the aluminum body of the enclosure. Moving around to the rear panel, the first thing you notice is the 80mm cooling fan located behind the drive trays. To the right of the fan are the three different types of interface connectors with the USB 3.0 connection at the top, followed by the eSATA and FireWire connectors. On the bottom, you have the power switch on the left, the cooling fan for the internal 200W power supply, and the connector for the power cord. There is also a Kensington lock port for securing the unit on the right. When we flip the GR5630-WSB3 over to examine the bottom of the case, we get a good look at the four rubber non-skid feet, as well as additional ventilation holes.

 

 

 

With the unit now out of the box, it's time to set it up and get it ready to go.

Installation:

The GR5630-WSB3 does not come with any hard drives, which means you'll have to purchase and install your own. All this entails is a screwdriver to install the drive in the removable hot swap drive trays.

The tray removal process is simple, as all you need to do is press the release button for the hard drive clamp and move the arm to the left to unlock the tray. Then you simply remove the tray by pulling it off the drive bay. Once the tray is removed, you'll notice that, unlike most of the NAS units we've reviewed, these drive trays do not have a bottom. Instead, there is a plastic spacer that gives the assembly enough rigidity to install it in the drive bay when there is no drive present. You will need to remove the four mounting screws from the tray (be sure to save the screws for later) and remove the plastic spacer as shown in the screen shot below. You install the drive with the printed circuit board side down and the power/data connectors facing the rear. You will need to line up the side mounting holes with those on the drive and install the mounting screws. You can use the four screws you removed earlier and additional screws are included in the accessory pack. The completed hard drive assembly should look like the final screen shot below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With all the trays removed, you can get a good look at the interior of the drive bay with the four power/data connectors located on the backplane at the rear of the bay. The completed tray/hard drives slide along the mounting rails until they make contact with the backplane. A firm push will get them seated securely, at which point you can close the locking arm.

 

 

With the installation process completed and the trays back in the enclosure and locked down, we're ready to connect the unit to the PC. With three different interface connections available, you'll need to choose between eSATA, FireWire 800, and USB 3.0. Once you've decided, you can use the appropriate cable from the accessory box to get things hooked up. The final act is to connect the power cable to the GR5630-WSB3 and power the system on.

Configuration:

Looking at the configuration of the GR5603-WSB3, our first move is to check out the installation CD to look at the user manual as well as install any utility associated with the unit. Unfortunately, there was no manual on the CD associated with our model number, nor was there a utility listed for the GR5603-WSB3. Contacting Raidon didn’t shed any light on the situation, as we didn’t get a response from either the marketing contact or the technical support group. So, how do we set this unit up? Fortunately, the quick installation guide (QIG) card was of some use here, as was the LCM display. According to the QIG, once the unit has powered up and finished the initialization process, it is ready to go and the display will show 'Active'. Unlike the NAS units we’ve reviewed, where the display was a nice feature to have with a management GUI to serve as the primary interface, on the GR5603-WSB3 the display will be our only means of interacting with the device.

With the unit up and initialized, the only remaining configuration step is to go into the operating system and create a partition and then format the volume using the file system of your choice. That’s it, which is a real change of pace from the pages and pages of options provided by a NAS server. Our next move is to examine the features before we move on to testing.

Specifications

 

 Model Number  GR5630-WSB3
 External Interface  USB 3.0 + eSATA + Firewire 800 X 2
 Additional Ports  N/A
 HDD Size  4 x 3.5" SATA 3.0 Gb/s Drives (not included)
 Drive Capacity  Up to 2.0TB drive
 USB 3.0 to SATA Controller  ASMedia ASM1051
 Universal Storage
 Controller
 Oxford 936QSE
 HDD Configuration  RAID 5
 Power Supply  Internal 200W
 Cooling  80mm fan
 Dimensions  168 x 125 x 212 mm (H x W x D)
 Weight  3.4 kg gross weight without HDD
 OS Requirement  Microsoft Windows, Linux, MAC
 Regulatory Certification  CE, FCC
 Warranty  1 Years Parts and Labor

 

Features:

All information courtesy of Raidon @ http://www.raidon.com.tw/content.php?sno=0000463&p_id=134

Testing:

To test the GR5630-WSB3, I will use SiSoft Sandra 2011 using the File System benchmark. I will also use the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (ver. 1.7) to gauge performance under several realistic usage scenarios. The tests will be conducted on a RAID 5 volume, the only configuration supported on the GR5630-WSB3, using eSATA, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0 connections.

Comparison Units:

Benchmarks:

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

File Systems

 

Higher is Better

 

Lower is Better

* GR5630-WSB3 results compiled using SiSoft Sandra 2011; comparison unit results are from SiSoft Sandra 2009

 

With the GR5630-WSB3 only supporting a RAID 5 volume, analyzing the results shouldn't be too complicated. The results for the Raidon unit were obtained using SiSoft Sandra 2011 and show that eSATA and USB 3.0 offer higher throughput than the USB 2.0. Well, no surprises there. And, as you might expect, the Raidon GR5630-WSB3 offers faster throughput using the high-speed direct connections than do the comparison NAS units using a Gigabit LAN connection. At 114 MB/s, eSATA is faster than the other connection types, even the relatively new USB 3.0, which comes in at 86 MB/s. Allowing for the fact that the results were obtained using different versions of SiSoft Sandra, the results still provide a valid comparison on the benefits that a direct connection like eSATA can provide versus those connected over a GbE connection. All three types of direct connections display correspondingly lower access times compared to the NAS devices.

Testing:

The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit is a set of tools used to test and analyze file systems and enable direct comparison of the performance levels of different network attached storage devices. It utilizes a set of tests based on real world applications, such as HD video playback and recording, office productivity, photo album manipulation, and file and directory copying. The toolkit uses a set of traces based on these applications and mimics the file system traffic generated and records the system response. In our evaluation, the toolkit was run in batch mode, which runs the series of tests five times in succession and the median throughput value is used to report the results. The GR5630-WSB3 was rebooted before each test was run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HD Video Playback (higher is better)

 

The HD Video Playback series of tests involve streaming a 720p HD video file using Windows Media Player and 256kb reads. The tests play either 1, 2 or 4 files simultaneously using different percentages of sequential reads (99.5% for the single file, 18.1% for the 2x HD Video Playback, and 9.6% for the 4x HD Video Playback).

 

 

 

2x HD Video Playback (higher is better)

This test writes a single 720p HD video file to the storage device employing 99.9% sequential 256kb writes.

 

4x HD Video Playback (higher is better)

 

In the HD Video Playback test, with only a single stream being read from the unit, we actually get a bit of a surprise with the USB 3.0 connection on the GR5630-WSB3 edging out the eSATA connection by a small margin of 4.5MB/s. Both were faster than any of the NAS units. When the tests move to multiple streams, the GR5630-WSB3 manages throughput in the 33-34MB/s range on the eSATA and USB 3.0 connections, which is enough of a drop to come in fourth behind three of the NAS units.

HD Video Record (higher is better)

This test writes a single 720p HD video file to the storage device employing 99.9% sequential 256kb writes.

 

When we flip the switch and go the other way from the previous video test and write a single video file to the storage deice, the GR5630-WSB3 manages throughput around 30MB/s on the faster USB 3.0 and eSATA connections. While this puts it ahead of three of the NAS units, it barely beat two of them and trailed the QNAP TS-509 by a wide margin.

HD Playback and Record (higher is better)

The HD Video Playback and Record test combines the two previous tests and reads and writes a HD 720p video file simultaneously.

 

Content Creation (Higher is better)

This test simulates content creation on the storage device, such as might occur when rendering a video. There are 99 files used and is composed of 95% write operations with up to 64kb block sizes and consists of 39.1% sequential operations.

 

The GR5630-WSB3 met its Waterloo in the form of the Content Creation test, where the graph speaks for itself. One of the arguments you hear for DAS devices is the increased speed when working with large files, such as those found in rendering video. Well, you might want to reassess that, at least in terms of the GR5630-WSB3.

Office Productivity (higher is better)

The Office Productivity test is roughly evenly distributed between read and write operations, using 607 small files consisting of 1KB and 4KB reads, and mostly 1KB writes.

 

The GR5630-WSB3 gained a little redemption in the brutal Office Productivity test with eSATA and USB 3.0 throughput in the 21-23MB/s range. That was enough to keep it in the game, but not enough to take the lead from the Thecus N3200XXX or the QNAP TS-509.

File Copy to NAS (Higher is better)

The File Copy test copies a single large file to the storage unit using 100% sequential 64kb write operations.

 

Copying a single large file to the DAS unit results in throughput from 19-22MBs, or a little bit less if you only have a USB 2.0 connection available. That still leaves the GR5630-WSB3 trailing three of the four NAS units.

File Copy From NAS

This test reads the single large (1.4GB) file from the File Copy test from the storage device using 64kb read operations.

 

Copying that same large file from the DAS puts the GR5630-WSB3 clearly in the lead with the USB 3.0 connection racking up throughput of 87.6MB/s and the eSATA coming in around 63MB/s.

Dir Copy to NAS (Higher is better)

This test copies a directory structure with 126 files to the NAS device using predominantly 64kb writes, but also includes a wide distribution under 16kb.

 

Copying a directory of files to the DAS shows even performance across the three connection types, which at around 6MB/s or less, was not good enough to win against the top three NAS units.

Dir Copy From NAS (Higher is better)

This test copies the same directory structure of 126 files from the storage device using 64kb reads.

 

It seems as if reads are where the GR5630-WSB3 does best, as the DAS unit achieves up to 30MB/s via the eSATA connection. The USB 3.0 reached 26.5MB/s, which was enough to beat the comparison units. Even the USB 2.0 connection was able to beat two units and almost tie the Synology DS408.

Photo Album (Higher is better)

The Photo Album test simulates the viewing of 169 photo files of various sizes stored on the storage unit and consists of 100% read operations.

 

The Photo Album test consists of 100% read operations and the GR5630-WSB3 once again outperforms the competition.

The perception that direct-attached storage is generally faster than network storage was upheld when we ran the file systems benchmark in SiSoft Sandra. The same seems to be supported when we look at the NAS Performance Toolkit results – but only if you limit those tests to pure read operations. In mixed read/write tests and those tests involving heavy-duty writes, the GR5630-WSB3 clearly couldn't beat the top three NAS units on a consistent basis. Nowhere was that more obvious than in the Content Creation test, where the GR5630-WSB3 turned in the lowest scores we've seen on any unit we've tested.

Testing:

Normally we look at the cooling and power consumption numbers at this point in the review. However, without any monitoring utility for the GR5630-WSB3, we do not have access to any system temperature information, nor can we look at drive temperatures via S.M.A.R.T. results as we are used to with the NAS units we've reviewed. That just leaves us with the power consumption performance, which we can measure using a power meter.

Power Consumption

The external RAID 5 enclosure does offer similar advantages to NAS servers in that it offers lower power consumption than a stand-alone PC, but it also lacks the ability to shunt the drives into a low-power mode when not in use.

I tested the power usage of the GR5630-WSB3 in an idle state with the disks spinning, but no activity, and during a full RAID 5 test with read and write activity. All measurements were taken with a P3 International P4400 Kill A Watt power meter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Watts
Power Mgt. Mode N/A
Idle 35
RAID 5 Test 38-40

 

The GR5630-WSB3 achieved power consumption levels very similar to the N3200XXX NAS server we reviewed earlier, with 35 watts measured in an idle state and 38-40 watts during heavy usage. You need to remember that the GR5630-WSB3 has four drives to the three drives in the N3200XXX. The GR5630-WSB3 loses out though, as it can't go into a low-power mode, so usage doesn't drop below 35 watts.

RAID 5 Data Protection

RAID 5 provides a level of protection against data loss in case of a single drive failure. We'll test the ability GR5630-WSB3 to support data operations after a simulated drive failure, as well as its ability to recover and rebuild the volume once the failed drive is replaced. The failed drive is simulated by removing one of the drives while the system is running. With the hot-swappable drive trays on the GR5630-WSB3, you can safely remove and replace drives while the unit is powered on.

When I removed drive four from the bay, the unit immediately displayed a red alarm LED on the front panel and sounded an alarm. The front LCM display also switched from showing 'Active' to 'Degraded'. Unlike the NAS unit we've looked at, the GR5630-WSB3 has a mute button on the control panel to silence the audible alarm. Once the 'failed' drive was replaced, the unit extinguished the alarm LED and the unit automatically began rebuilding the volume as indicated on the LCM panel, which displayed 'Rebuilding' and an approximate time to finish of 1:35 (hours:minutes). During degraded operation, the data on the volume was still present and accessible. This was also the case while the volume was being rebuilt. The GR5630-WSB3 did an excellent job of protecting the data and the auto-rebuild process worked flawlessly.

Conclusion:

The Raidon GR5630-WSB3 is a desktop RAID 5 enclosure that comes in a solid, aluminum case with attractive design and compact footprint. It offers support for four 3.5" drives via its hot-swappable trays with a maximum of 6TB of storage. Installation and setup are a breeze and configuration is limited to formatting the drives via the operating system. Multiple interfaces are supported via its eSATA, USB 3.0, and FireWire 800 connections.

Performance-wise, one would expect high throughput from a DAS unit using the high-speed connections, especially when compared to the GbE connections found on the typical NAS unit. If you look at the synthetic benchmark tests, you wouldn't be disappointed, as the unit far outstripped the comparison NAS units. However, in the more realistic NAS Performance Toolkit tests, that advantage was limited to tests involving pure reads. Mix in tests involving writing to the unit and the results faded back to rather average levels and often lost out to the NAS units.

When it comes to storage, it's not enough to offer just a bunch of space because storage is a commodity that even the most basic of systems today can offer. What you need is a compelling reason to spend your hard-earned dollars and if you're a one-trick pony like the GR5630-WSB3, then speed and price are your major selling points and the unit comes up short in this regard. From a price standpoint, the GR5630-WSB3 can be had for around $300. The Thecus N4100PRO can be found for $350, with other 4-bay units from QNAP and Synology ranging from $300 - $400. A NAS unit offers a lot more features and flexibility, which leads me to conclude that the value just isn't there in the GR5630-WSB3.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: