Akitio Thunder3 Quad hooks up four drives with Thunderbolt 3

Akitio may not be a familiar name to some of our readers. The company was founded in 2011 and focuses on high-performance external storage using the Thunderbolt interface. With that kind of history, it's not really a surprise that Akitio is first to market with a four-bay Thunderbolt 3 external disk enclosure, in the form of the aptly-named Thunder3 Quad.

The device is basically an aluminum box with four removable drive sleds that accept 2.5" or 3.5" SATA drives. Once you've installed the disks and connected the enclosure to AC power, you just plug a USB Type-C cable into a Thunderbolt 3-enabled port on your computer, and then plug the other end into the back of the Thunder3. Voilà, you've connected four more disks. Akitio says the enclosure can transfer data at up to 1375MB/s with a four-drive SSD array. This kind of speed should ensure near-native performance for hard drives. The company sells extra trays, too, in case you need spares for quick drive swaps. 

The Thunder3 Quad is good for more than just connecting some extra disks, though. There are an extra Thunderbolt 3 port and a DisplayPort 1.1 connector on the back of the enclosure. Perhaps designed with devices like the Skull Canyon NUC in mind, the Thunder3 Quad allows users to connect a monitor and other Thunderbolt devices. One of Akitio's example scenarios shows the box working as a sort of docking station, connecting multiple peripherals to a laptop with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable.

The Thunder3 Quad is already available for purchase at Amazon for $429.99 for the bare enclosure. Akitio will also offer variants with either four 1-TB SSDs or four 8-TB HDDs preinstalled.

Comments closed
    • albundy
    • 3 years ago

    whats the max size that is supported and will be able to provide firmware updates for larger capacities/tech in the future? if not, they i wouldnt buy. been burned one to many times by these storage solutions not supporting larger drive capacities.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    Okay so it’s a $34 dollar [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA85V3DG9048<]SATA RAID card[/url<] in a box with a thunderbolt port on it. It's pretty neat and looks well made but I don't see why every external box with the word "Thunderbolt" on it has to cost $300 more than anyone reasonably expects the parts to total.

      • danazar
      • 3 years ago

      A Sans Digital 4-drive eSATA JBOD enclosure on NewEgg is $100. It’s just a dumb box that passes SATA signals to the PC, though. It requires a SATA card in your PC with an available port-multiplying eSATA port, which as you point out, is at least another $30. Oh, and using a 4x port multiplier is going to max out your per-drive speed at 1.5Gb/s.

      To see what it costs to integrate the controller hardware into an enclosure at the same size, look at the Sans Digital USB 3.0 / eSATA JBOD enclosure. It has an integrated USB 3.0 controller, so you can connect it to any PC without a separate SATA controller. It’s $180 on NewEgg. But it doesn’t have any sort of USB pass-through or anything like that, and it uses a Micron SATA-to-USB controller that’s limited to SATA-II, or 3Gb/s. There are more expensive models, maybe one of them comes with a higher-performing controller, but of course, that means acknowledging that faster controllers are worth more money.

      TB3 is a high-performance standard, and as such it costs more, not just for the chips but for proper validation and testing. And this thing isn’t JUST a box with a SATA controller in it. It can connect additional TB3 or USB3.1 devices through the additional USB-C port. It can break out the TB DisplayPort signal and allow you to hook up a monitor, which means additional DP-related hardware and testing. You could plug in a monitor and a USB hub for all your peripherals, and have a single-cable solution for connecting your laptop and turning it into an A/V workstation. No dumb HDD box is going to do that.

      And all this stuff fits in the same size as that dumb HDD box. And enables RAID speeds far higher than you’ll get from any affordable dumb-box/USB 3.0 box solution. You could stuff four fast SDDs in one of those cheaper boxes, or even four of the fastest HDDs on the market today, and see yourself limited in performance by your enclosure.

      Oh, and it’s also made entirely out of aluminum, with features like thumbscrews for toolless HDD replacement. That’s the kind of thing that gets premium prices for premium ITX or ATX cases, so I’m not surprised it adds to the cost of a cheap dumb HDD box.

      I mean, did I really have to explain all that to show how stupid your comment was? Probably not. I could’ve just pointed out that by your logic, paying twice as much for a Cadillac is stupid when a Chevy Cobalt has four wheels and an engine. If you don’t want more, don’t pay for more, but you do get what you pay for here.

        • Chrispy_
        • 3 years ago

        The thing stopping Thunderbolt adoption is perceived mark-up and exorbitant costs.

        Releasing premium material products at a high price points when there’s almost zero traction for that niche in the market at all is pretty dumb. When people are looking for TB3 storage they probably don’t want to foot the bill for all the extras.

        This is as expensive as a fully-featured NAS but all it is is a SATA softRAID card (value sub-$50) on the end of a TB interface. I don’t care how pretty or well made it is, it’s still a dumb box that doesn’t work at all without a connected PC, so it should be sold at “dumb box” pricing.

          • End User
          • 3 years ago

          This product offers 1375MB/s. That is awesome performance. No NAS in this price range can come close to offering that kind of performance. I’d shudder at the expense required to get a NAS anywhere close to 1375MB/s (10 GbE network required)

          Ignorance is the greatest threat to Thunderbolt 3. Some people just can’t accept Thunderbolt because of its history. Perhaps Intel should have rebranded the technology with another name: Enhanced USB -> eUSB (a play on PCIe)

            • Chrispy_
            • 3 years ago

            Makes sense for a four-SSD RAID, since that has some hope of reaching the claimed speeds. NAS discussions are irrelevant since they’re bottlenecked by a Gigabit ethernet regardless.

            For everyone using this with mechanicals, (as per Akitio’s own product shot) USB3 is just fine at 640MB/s and (okay, real-world speeds are more like 475MB/s) and costs next to nothing compared to TB3 at the moment.

            I haven’t seen the implementation cost of a TB3-enabled chip on any peripherals yet, but motherboards with Alpine Ridge TB3 controllers only sell for a small premium (5-10%) over models without them. Why do the peripheral makers need to make a product 400% more expensive than an equivalent without TB3?

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            Keep in mind this box has a DP 1.1 port for a display and another TB 3 port to chain more devices. It is also very well built using aluminum.

            If StarTech were to make a similar product I’m guessing it would be at a lower price point (sans aluminum/extra TB 3 port/sans DP 1.1 port) and hopefully without the first adopter tax.

            • Chrispy_
            • 3 years ago

            Yeah, that’s the thing. The market needs the StarTech version!

            99/100 people looking for TB3 storage are going to look at this for $429 without any drives and go “meh, too expensive” and either wait or look elsewhere. Few, if any of them, will care for the DP 1.1 port.

            I thought I’d be stating the obvious, but maybe it needs saying: If you are looking to upgrade your laptop with desktop storage, desktop display and additional desktop peripherals, you’ve already covered most of the financial commitment of a full desktop already. Just thunderbolt network your laptop to a desktop and save yourself $429 of aluminuim box whilst gaining all the benefits of having a second system to use as a server or whatever.

      • End User
      • 3 years ago

      First on the market. Low volume. High performance. It makes sense for it to have a high price tag.

      If TB3 is widely adopted then the market will drive prices down.

    • Tumbleweed
    • 3 years ago

    I’m waiting for the day when we have these devices made for M.2/U.2 devices, and with hardware-accelerated RAID built-in. Even sized down to 2.5″ drives would be nice.

      • Thresher
      • 3 years ago

      Drobo has this already, although I think they’re limited to Thunderbolt 1.

        • Tumbleweed
        • 3 years ago

        With the speeds of SSDs nowadays, TB1 is kind of a joke.

          • Deanjo
          • 3 years ago

          Still is fast enough for all but the fastest PCI-e SSDs. Not bad for being 5 years old.

    • Plazmodeus
    • 3 years ago

    This is a really compelling product to me. I’ve got a whole bunch of HDD’s that I would love to put in an enclosure that supports RAID and use for media production work and backups. I’ve been looking at NAS enclosures, but they seem more about sharing files over a SOHO network. DAS products like the Drobo 5d are pretty close to what I want, but I have heard nothing good about Drobo products from a performance or reliability perspective, and they are EXPENSIVE.

    My question about this product is whether it supports RAID Striping+mirroring and whether it supports Thunderbolt in Windows (I ask that because thunderbolt equipped Drobo products do not).

      • End User
      • 3 years ago

      Windows compatibility is all about Drobo and nothing to do with Thunderbolt.

        • Plazmodeus
        • 3 years ago

        Totally.

      • RAGEPRO
      • 3 years ago

      The Thunder3 Quad doesn’t have any particular hardware support for RAID as far as I can tell from the manufacturer’s materials. I believe you can, however, use your favorite software RAID solution, though. That 1375MB/s number above came from their materials.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      Are you talking about RAID from a redundancy or a speed perspective?

      Because for speed + redundance, you need to go RAID0+RAID1, which means you burn twice the drives for the same space. Just for redundancy, there’s RAID1 and RAID5, but the the former will still burn twice the drives, while the latter’s write speed is nothing to write home about.

      If you just want speed, though, most NAS enclosures will do RAID-0 just fine. Gigabit Ethernet tops out at ~125MB/s though, so you’re really looking at an eSATA or Thunderbolt box.

        • Plazmodeus
        • 3 years ago

        Understood. I want redundancy and speed. RAID 0+1 in a box with fast desktop connectivity.

        I only know about the Windows software RAID. Is it any good? Is it almost as fast as software RAID? Are there limitations?

          • morphine
          • 3 years ago

          Windows software RAID is software RAID. Unless you meant “hardware raid”, and yes, for most purposes, software RAID0+1 is just fine, with the added advantage that you’re not dependant on a particular controller or NAS box if that bit of hardware goes wrong and you need to get your data back.

          For most desktop/workstation scenarios, software RAID is fine. Linux mdraid implementation in particular is really good, and there’s stuff like FreeNAS which can make your life a little easier. Also, I believe there are NAS boxes with eSATA ports for connectivity, though I guess if you have the cash, wait until more Thunderbolt options come around.

    • Thresher
    • 3 years ago

    That’s actually a very reasonable price for Thunderbolt equipment.

      • End User
      • 3 years ago

      Thunderbolt 3 FINALLY brings Thunderbolt to the unwashed masses. Thank the tech gods they went with the USB-C connector.

        • Thresher
        • 3 years ago

        The only problem is that intel has made such a mishmash of how fast those ports are. Unless you look carefully, it’s easy to assume you have Thunderbolt 3 when the ports are not capable of that speed. It’s coming along, but it will be a few years until the consumer market really shakes out.

          • End User
          • 3 years ago

          [url=http://www.blogcdn.com/slideshows/images/slides/385/129/7/S3851297/slug/l/201612p1010350-copyjt-1.jpg<]Manufacturers mark a Thunderbolt 3 enabled port with the Thunderbolt logo[/url<].

        • Krogoth
        • 3 years ago

        Nah, that will be Kaby Lakes’s platform assuming Intel follows through with it.

      • Deanjo
      • 3 years ago

      About the same as what they were before. I paid $350 for my OWC 4 -bay enclosure a couple of years ago. I think regular price was only $450

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 3 years ago

    Interesting.

      • wingless
      • 3 years ago

      Look up the Gigabyte GP-TBT3. Paul’s Hardware shows it off in his “GTX 1080 Xtreme & G1 Gaming from Gigabyte ” YouTube video. It has 19 assorted ports and an M.2 SSD slot inside.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This