SimpleTech’s Duo Pro Drive
With two terabytes of storage, the SimpleTech Duo Pro Drive by Fabrik fills a key need of multimedia professionals, and video pros in particular. If you’ve spent any amount of time dealing with multimedia, you know you’re talking about big files. Even assembling a simple five-minute YouTube clip can result in several gigabytes of data, from outtakes to audio files, to the actual finished segment itself. And that data needs to be archived once the actual project is finished. Who knows when you’ll want to dip into those files for another project, whether it’s stealing B-Roll footage, or your company’s opening logo, or simply reusing the background score? Fabrik’s online backup solution also adds a safety net to your critical data should anything happen to your drive.
While most PCs designed for multimedia have multiple large-capacity hard drives, their capacity is not infinite. I can remember buying PCs in the early 1990s with a three or four gigabyte hard drive thinking “Wow, I’ll never fill that up!” These days though, even a three or four hundred gig drive will be crammed to the rafters eventually. It’s merely a matter of time.
The Duo Pro Drive we recently tested is one model in a product line of storage devices marketed under Fabrik’s SimpleTech line. Compatible with both Windows and Mac OS-powered computers, these include their Simple Drive, with capacities of 500 gigabytes or less; the Pro Drive, of one terabyte or less; and the Duo Pro Drive, which is available in one terabyte, 1.5 terabytes, and in the format we tested, a whopping two terabytes of storage.
Second Time’s The Charm
I did have one initial glitch using my review unit. Upon removing the unit from the box, it was obvious that there was a loose mounting screw of some sort rolling around the case of the unit.This was not a good sign. Plugging the unit into my Sweetwater Creation Station dual-core multimedia Windows XP Pro PC, SimpleTech’s Duo Pro Drive was recognized by my USB port, but not as another drive within XPs’ My Computer window.
Fortunately, SimpleTech quickly dispatched a replacement drive, and it booted like a champ. A few seconds later, it was recognized by both the USB icon in my Windows XP Pro taskbar and within My Computer.
Go Inside The Duo Drive
Inside our test unit are two 7200 RPM RAID drives, each with a terabyte of storage. RAID stands for Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks, and a switch on the back of the Duo Pro Drive’s case configures the unit to either RAID 0 or RAID 1. RAID 0, which is the unit’s default position, provides higher bandwidth and greater throughput. Flipping the switch on the back of the DUO Pro engages RAID 1, which automatically mirrors the data to the second drive. On the downside, this cuts the Duo Pro’s storage capacity in half. On the plus side, should one of the drives fail, the unit will still function, allowing the data to be ported elsewhere while the faulty drive is replaced.
The documentation and optional ancillary programs for the Duo Pro Drive are only available on the drive itself, not on a separate CD-ROM. These include the option of “Fabrik Local Backup”, which backs up data on a regular basis, at times of your choosing. There is also “Fabrik Ultimate Backup”, which provides two free gigs of online storage, or for a monthly fee of $4.95 per computer, unlimited online storage. Of course, the speed of these online backups is limited to the speed of your broadband connection, not the throughput of the Duo Pro Drive itself. The Fabrik Ultimate Backup service works in the background to keep your files safe should there be any incidents (either failure or damage to your drive). Drives do fail eventually, so the online backup service can provide an extra layer of protection for when the day comes. All you need to do is replace the drive and reconnect to Fabrik Ultimate Backup to restore your digital content. Don’t expect, however, a 2TB capacity hard drive to restore anytime quickly over your Internet connection.
The rear of the Duo Pro Drive features both USB 2.0 and eSATA II (short for External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) connections. With throughput of up to three gigabytes per second, far faster than USB 2.0’s (almost) half a gig per second maximum throughput, the eSATA II output is a nice benefit, particularly with more and more multimedia PCs using the newer SATA cables to connect their internal drive, rather than their parallel predecessors. Note that you may need to retrofit an eSATA card into your PC to use this method, unless its motherboard has a built-in eSATA output. But that should just require a screwdriver to pop open your PC’s case, and a spare PCI slot inside. An eSATA card typically streets for $50 or less.
But a FireWire connection on the back of the Duo Pro Drive would have also been nice. And I would have liked to have seen an Ethernet input. Gigabit Ethernets are rapidly growing in popularity, and in theory, would provide storage transfer at about twice the speed of USB. While not as fast as eSATA II, It would also have allowed the unit to be placed on a network for multiple computers to access, rather than being physically connected to one PC at a time. But adding network capability might have dramatically pushed the price and complexity of the drive up.
Two Terabytes, No Waiting
In spite of my “wish list”, the Simpletech Duo Pro Drive is an extremely useful and well thought-out storage drive. Its onboard software is intuitive and easy to use and the throughput speed is excellent. So if you have a need to offload large files from a single PC (and chance are, if you’re a regular reader of Video-
maker, you do!) and don’t mind the unit’s street price of just under $1000, than this could be a great product for your needs. And with two terabytes of room, you won’t fill it up too quickly. Or, heck, depending upon your output, maybe you will!
Platform: Windows 2000/XP/Vista, or Mac OS 10.3 or higher
Other: USB 1.1 port (2.0 recommended), or eSATA connection for fastest throughput
- Boatloads of storage.
- Fast throughput on eSATA-equipped PCs.
- Backup of data available via optional RAID 1 mirroring and online storage.
- No FireWire or network connections
Could be an ideal solution for those seeking maximum file storage in a small handsome package.
Ed Driscoll is a freelance journalist who’s covered home theater and the media for the past decade.
SimpleTech, a Fabrik Inc. company
1830 E. Warner Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705