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Sonnet Fusion F2 portable 2-drive RAID

Last updated 2009-05-14 - Send Feedback
Related: eSATA, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro, noise, RAID, storage

I love this Fusion F2— about as large as an outstretched hand, 1/2" thick, a durable and attractive metal case and no performance compromises: dual straight-through eSATA connectors. This is a premium product, robustly built, and it’s priced accordingly.

Sonnet provided an evaluation unit with dual 500GB drives, each shock-isolated to eliminate vibration (according to Sonnet). You can also get it with dual 320GB drives, with slightly lower performance. You can buy the Fusion F2 at OWC; it comes in a 1TB model and a 640GB model. There is no build-your-own option, but the Fusion F2 looks like a very interesting platform for inserting two fast solid state drives!

This is the unit you can conveniently carry around with your MacBook Pro, and it can be powered off a Firewire 400 or Firewire 800 port. But it can only be used on the MacBook Pro (or Mac Pro) with an eSATA card—no Firewire or USB option.

You’ll need an eSATA card for your MBP, like the Sonnet Tempo SATA Pro ExpressCard/34. To carry and use it, you’ll take the Fusion F2, two eSATA cables, and Firewire cable (for power).

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Small size, low power, minimal noise, high performance

It won’t fit in your pocket, but it’s darn close. It’s about twice as wide as single 2.5" hard drive, and about as thin as it could possibly be, perhaps 1/2".

The only noise you’ll hear are the drives themselves, two 2.5" notebooks drives.

Power usage is a few watts.

Sonnet Fusion F2

Power considerations

You can power the unit with a Firewire 800 or Firewire 400 port.

The alternative world travel adapter would not power up the unit; the snap-on/snap-off US power plug apparently did not make contact with the prongs of the wall wart.

Setting it up

I used SoftRAID to create a RAID 0 stripe. Although Sonnet markets it as a RAID solution, the two internal drives can be seen as separate drives (each has its own eSATA connector), and it’s possible to set it up as two independent volumes, a RAID 1 mirror, or a RAID 1 stripe.

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Performance

You can achieve higher performance with a pair of external desktop eSATA hard drives, but they’ll be much bulkier and require their own power bricks. You can also user much slower Firewire 800, like this, on any Mac with a Firewire 800 port, such as an iMac, which can’t use eSATA.

When 500GB 7200 rpm notebook drives appear (May 2009), we should see a nice bump up in speed by about 25%. With the screwdriver, you should be able to open up the Fusion F2 and swap drives — including the next crop of solid state drives. This is on your author’s “to do/to try” list.

RAID 0 stripe on Mac Pro Nehalem

DiskTester results on Mac Pro with Sonnet Tempo E4P (MacBook Pro results to follow, but should be very similar).

--- Averages for "f2" (1GB/4MB, 3 iterations) ---
Area (928.8GB)    Write MB/sec    Read MB/sec
0%             152.4          150.3   
10%             149.2          150.0   
20%             141.5          142.8   
30%             133.8          136.1   
40%             129.0          131.0   
50%             123.3          124.9   
60%             118.1          116.2   
70%             108.8          108.4   
80%              99.9          100.0   
90%              91.0           91.0   
100%              78.2           78.5   
Average write speed across the volume: 120MB/sec
Average read speed across the volume: 121MB/sec

Conclusions

The Sonnet Fusion F2 is a premium device, robustly built. Similar or even superior performance can be had with bulkier and clunkier solutions, but the Fusion F2 is slick, and if you need the performance and are on the go regularly, the Fusion F2 looks to be a reliable and low-hassle solution.

Almost noiseless, ultra low power, and top performance—you can’t lose with the Fusion F2.


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