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FirmTek ThunderTek/PX Q6G Thunderbolt to 4-Port eSATA

Last updated 2014-01-03 - Send Feedback
Related: eSATA, hard drive, Mac Pro, MacBook, noise, RAID, RAID-0, SSD, storage, Thunderbolt

Get FirmTek products at OWC.

Your author has five FirmTek multi-bay eSATA enclosures to contend with in the transition to the 2013 Mac Pro. These are high quality enclosures with hot swap trays and thus a big investment to preserve.

The FirmTek ThunderTek/PX Q6G is the ThunderTek/PX PCIe 2.0 Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis bundled with the SeriTek Q6G 4-port eSATA card, which also has Port Multiplier support.

The ThunderTek with 6G eSATA card is about $329 at OWC

FirmTek ThunderTek PX-Q6G

In use

I put the ThunderTek to use connected to a FirmTek SeriTek 2eEN4 enclosure, which has four eSATA cables running to four drive bays (a high performance solution). Installed were three Hitachi 7K4000 hard drives in a RAID-1 mirror configuration (a backup set), and one Hitachi 2TB hard drive.

Initial testing showing the following:

  • High performance, apparently to the limits of drive speed*.
  • Tested over ~3TB of activity: zero glitches, zero errors, IntegrityChecker found zero bit errors.
  • The ThunderTek enclosure never even got warm to the touch. It is nicely vented and stays right at ambient temperature. Clearly it uses very little power.
  • No audible noise (might have a tiny internal fan, hard to tell).
  • Unit powers down when machine sleeps.
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Performance

The acid test is whether the adapter can deliver the same performance as native eSATA on the Mac Pro, especially in a 4-drive RAID-0 stripe setup. It ought to be the same, unless the Thunderbolt link somehow compromises performance.

Indeed, the ThunderTek Q6G delivers identical performance to the native eSATA performance on the Mac Pro.

Mac Pro eSATA vs MacBook Pro Thunderbolt FirmTek ThunderTek PX-Q6G to eSATA

An additional test comparing RAID-5 and RAID-0:

ThunderTek/PX Q6G: RAID-0 striping vs RAID-5

More

Fan speed

The ThunderTek enclosure has a fan, but it is all but silent on the default setting. The fan speed can be adjusted via a dip switch; see the ThunderTek manual. Nicely done.

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PCIe speed

Always remember that real-world is not the same as specifications. Actual performance has to be proven.

The ThunderTek/PX chassis is a solid device, but with two limitations:

  • Has a single Thunderbolt connector so it has to be plugged in directly, or last device on a Thunderbolt daisy-chain.
  • Supports one PCIe 2.0 card at 2X, which is 1000MB/sec real world speed. Which is more than Thunderbolt v1.0 can deliver (real world). Ample for four fast hard drives or even a hyper fast PCIe SSD.

The design choices here are appropriate for many uses, and the noise-free operation is highly desirable.

* Test pending to see if this actually matters; it might not.

Alternatives

The OWC Mercury Helios chassis is more advanced: it offers a 4X PCIe slot for 2000MB/sec in theory, but Thunderbolt v1.0 throttles that down to about 1000MB/sec. The Helios has dual Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining, but it also has significant fan noise. In a quiet office, silent operation counts for a lot, so which is better all depends on the intended usage.

The OWC Helios 2 is high performance Thunderbolt 2 solution that accommodates two PCIe cards. That is where the dual 960GB Accelsior PCIe SSDs will reside.

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Description

ThunderTek/PX + Q6G = ThunderTek/PX-Q6G

The ThunderTek/PX-Q6G adds four high performance eSATA ports to any Thunderbolt equipped computer by installing a SeriTek/Q6G card inside the ThunderTek/PX chassis.

This high performance combination supports legacy eSATA enclosures via a Thunderbolt port. High performance, versatility and compatibility with most eSATA storage devices, makes the ThunderTek/PX-Q6G a perfect tool for moving your existing eSATA enclosures to a new Thunderbolt equipped computer.

Imagine being able to move your eSATA enclosure from the Mac Pro to a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac or the Mac mini. This is amazingly simple to do. The ThunderTek/PX-Q6G provides up to four eSATA ports that can be used to support eSATA enclosures like the miniSwap/ES, SeriTek/2EN2, SeriTek/2eEN4, SeriTek/5PM and more. Why purchase new Thunderbolt enclosures when all you really need is a ThunderTek/PX-Q6G adapter?

No need to turn off the computer when you want to connect a different eSATA device. The ThunderTek/PX-Q6G supports hot swap so customers can easily attach or remove eSATA enclosures based on the current needed data set. With ThunderTek/PX-Q6G installed, the customer is in control. Easy data access improves productivity and creativity for professional customers with large data libraries.

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