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OWC Thunderblade 16TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD: Double the Fun
Related: Other World Computing, OWC Envoy Pro, OWC Envoy Pro EX, OWC Thunderblade, RAID, RAID-0, SoftRAID, SSD, storage, Thunderbolt
MPG tested the 16TB OWC Thunderblade Thunderbolt 3 SSD.
OWC doubled the capacity of the OWC Thunderblade from 8TB to 16TB in late spring of 2020.
Silent high performance convenience
The new capacity option is incredible in historical terms: while hardly inexpensive, multi-gigabyte per second performance across 16TB of capacity opens up new possibilities for photo and video professional, or for anyone who just wants to dispense with noisy 'spinners (hard drives) for main storage.
To put this enormous capacity into perspective, I am primarily a photographer, and all the images shot in my entire life will fit within the 16TB Thunderblade—and I shoot a lot and have more images than 99% of my readers.
Putting it into numbers: the 100-megapixel Fujifilm GFX100 produces 16-bit raw files that average 124MB each. Rounding the 15.36TB capacity to 15TB, the 16TB Thunderblade can hold 121 thousand raw files at 124MB each. For Sony A7R IV files, that figure rises to 242 thousand raw files at 61.9MB each. Very few photographers will push beyond that capacity but those that do can always buy a second Thunderblade, or tier their storage to high-capacity hard drives for older files.
Formatting the OWC Thunderblade
OWC ships the Thunderblade with SoftRAID XT, with the four 'blades' configured as a RAID-0 stripe. This configuration is ideal for most uses, but the blades can be used separately or with RAID-5/RAID-4 or any other applicable form of RAID.
Since the blades are independent of each other, one need not use SoftRAID; Disk Utility and Apple RAID Assistant to create a RAID-0 stripe equally well. However Disk Utility does not monitor the blades for failure like SoftRAID does.
Performance as tested: speed vs transfer size
disktester run-sequential-suite --iterations 5 --test-size 8G
During this test, the Thunderblade barely got warm; it is very power efficient.
MPG tested the 16TB Thunderblade with a RAID-0 stripe formatted both with SoftRAID and Apple Disk Utilit, 128K stripe size. Similar performance seen falling within normal test variation—no real difference. Shown for comparison are the 8TB OWC Thunderblade and the 4TB OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3.
The OWC Envoy Pro EX outperforms for small reads, but by 256KB transfers the Thunderblade has caught up. This is presumably the overhead of RAID with a 128K stripe size—reads of that size or smaller get no RAID benefit. The Envoy Pro X is much slower for writes than the Thunderblades.
Results are real-world as-tested throughput through file system APIs.
Solid lines are Thunderblade, thick lines for 16TB, thin lines for 8TB.
Dotted lines are the 4TB Envoy Pro EX.