The storage markets are growing rapidly at the moment and this is certainly clear from the large number of home and small office users that are jumping onto the NAS bandwagon to increase their storage capacity to satisfy their needs. For some people though the prospect of setting up network devices is still either a daunting process or even more simply, too much hassle. Having a solution that is virtually plug and play is still the main choice of many users and as a result there is a market flooded by USB enclosures for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives.
Teratrend is a name that some may look at and turn away as its not recognised, but the sooner its realised that their a sub-brand of SilverStone – the same people of manufacture many great looking chassis and power supplies as well as coolers, the attention is soon brought back with the prospect of a high quality, well build unit.
As storage is not the main focus of SilverStone, the Teratrend brand was brought in to distinguish the new line of products a few years ago and since then we have seen a number of two and four bay options that take the effort out of storage expansion with say to use and simple devices that look good at the same time on any desk.
Like many other drive enclosures on the market, the contents are rather simple and alongside the enclosure itself we find a kettle lead, eSATA and USB3.0 data cables and a simple manual that outlines the RAID selection and drive installation process.
A Closer Look
Like a large number is Silverstone designs, the TS231U is very simple and to the point. Built out of aluminium and SECC the unit measures ~21cm deep by 13cm wide and 11.5cm high – as compact as it can be to pack in two 3.5″ drives and a PSU underneath.
The front door, made out of aluminium is held shut by a small magnet seen on the outer edge of the door. Behind the door are the two drive bays along with the power button and RAID selection switch.
TS231-U with its two drives supports RAID 0, 1 JBOD and ‘normal’ operation to make the two disks appear separate within Windows. After selection of the RAID mode, pressing the mode button saves the change – note this removes any partitions that are present before hand.
Looking inside the unit we can first of all see the exposed PSU at the bottom and to the right is the PCB. At the back of the unit is a sprint which the drives push onto these push the drives back out when released.
With a drive installed, we can see how the lever to the right holds the drive firmly in place. When pulled to the right, the drive is pushed out just enough to get hold of it for removal. the TS231-U has support for drives up to 4TB in capacity, giving a total supported capacity of 8TB.
On the top above the drive bays is a small LED display to indicate power and drive status. The two offset LEDs to the right indicate which bay is which, in this case the top bay housing drive 1 and the lower drive 2. They light up blue for connectivity and purple for activity.
Spinning the enclosure around to have a look at the back, a 70mm fan keeps the drives cool when in operation as well as the PSU that lies underneath. At the bottom there is a auto switching 110-240V power plug, USB3.0 and eSATA. There is an important note to me made about the eSATA port – on order to use this interface, your board MUST have an eSATA port with a port multiplier in order for the unit to be recognised. Most motherboards don’t support this function however a number of add-in eSATA cards do.
- Asus Maximus V Formula
- Intel Core i7 3770k
- Corsair Vengeance 1866MHz 16GB
- XFX Radeon HD 7970
- Corsair H100i
- Corsair HX1050W
- Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD
- Asus V247
- 2x Western Digital Se 4TB
Many different software applications are also used to gain the broadest spectrum of results, which allows for the fairest testing possible.
- Intel NASPT
- Anvil’s Storage Utilities RC6
When testing a device of this sort, the system that we use to test with is not a major factor in its performance. The performance of the medium comes down to the network its running on and its own internal hardware. With a device of this sort having so many different applications, Intel’s NASPT software covers all the bases and also gives us a set of results that we will be able to utilise and therefore give a benchmark against other similar systems in the future.
Intel NASPT (Network Attached Storage Performance Toolkit) performs its test by transferring varying sizes and quantities of data to and from the device based on twelve different scenarios.
The system that we use to run the Intel NASPT software does require us to drop the memory right down to 2GB as any more than this leads to data caching and therefore skews the results from the storage medium.
Even though this unit is not network attached, it still helps us to get a broader view on how the enclosure performs in a variety of test scenarios.
As mentioned above, whilst this is not really a NAS (after all its not Network connected), NASPT still gives us a good picture of how the unit performs in a number of test areas – RAID0 giving close to 200MB/s at its peak, whilst RAID1 and JBOD have close performance ratings.
The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host adapters, hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.
The underlying performance of the TS231U shows us that the unit is able to give close t double the read performance in RAID0 whilst write speeds see a gain of around 75%.
CrystalDiskMark is a small HDD benchmark utility for your hard drive that enables you to rapidly measure sequential and random read/write speeds.
Here are some key features of “CrystalDiskMark”:
- Sequential reads/writes
- Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
- Text copy
- Change dialog design
- internationalization (i18n)
CrystalDiskMark again gives some very strong and more importantly consistent performance figures showing the unit can give a great set of speeds when connected via USB3.0
Anvil’s Storage Utilities
Anvil’s Storage Utilities is a new benchmarking utility that we have started using here at eTeknix, it’s completely free to download and has the ability to test mainly hard drives and solid state drives, but also any other form of storage medium that you can throw at it. As well as testing the drive in a variety of benchmarking tests, it also has a drive endurance test that consistently reads and writes data to the selected medium to give days, months and potentially even years of use in a shorter period of time to see how the drive copes in the longer term.
I will note that the drives response times are a little higher than normal all round, but this will mostly be down to the RAID and USB controllers that have been added into the chain of events for data to pass through.
External drive enclosures are very simple units in that they have one function to offer and very little else. As we know the market is make up mostly of single drive enclosures and with the capacity of drives now hitting 4TB, this for most people is enough. There are those that do need that bit more, or if the data has value to it, need the redundancy that the likes of RAID1 offers.
Small, compact systems are ever more popular and naturally these units have reduced space inside to take hold of extra drives, so this is where a unit like this comes into play – it easily allows for the storage to be expanded and at the same time, it can easily be unplugged and moved to another system if needed with minimal fuss.
Being a sub-brand of SilverStone, we know already that the build quality and feel of the TS231U is going to be great – as well as the other products in the Teratrend line. the brushed aluminium front door finishes the unit off with a little bit of style and the simple Teratrend branding to the bottom right rounds this off.
On the performance side of things, to get the best out of this unit you are going to realistically need the USB3.0 connection as many boards do not natively support SATA multiplier on eSATA without a 3rd party option. This though is not a fault of Teratrend and every computer these days comes with USB of some sort so compatibility is not going to be an option. The support for 4TB drives also keeps the unit right up to date with a maximum capacity of 8TB possible in JBOD and RAID0. In RAID0 i would have liked to have seen a bit more performance from the unit, as the Se enterprise class drives that I’ve used each themselves can give up to around 170MB/s, so there does seem to be a slight bottleneck either within the RAID controller or the USB controller within the system. Up to 200MB/s for most users though is still going to be a welcomed speed, but with a couple of other devices giving a little bit more this is the only area where I feel some tweaks could be made.
I would like to award this product, but the speed is a critical factor for me, is this area can be improved – either with a firmware update or a revision to the controllers then there is the scope for an Editors choice award – for around £80 you still can go wrong with 8TB of storage sitting on your desk.
Bottom Line: The TS231U is a great looking, well built unit that does exactly as it says on the tin. For many home users this is an ideal product for boosting your expansion needs with ease.