Depending upon the number of images or videos you have, you might need to rely upon external hard drives for much of your daily photography work. The biggest issue, though, is that this can result in a significant slowdown compared to editing photos via an internal drive, especially SSD or flash storage. What are your options? One possibility is to use an external hard drive enclosure capable of RAID configurations, letting you speed up your storage or mirror the information on your drives automatically for peace of mind. The TerraMaster D2-310 Hard Drive Enclosure is one such entry-level RAID enclosure, retailing for $160 (not including the two hard drives it can accept). In the review below, we will dive into the D2-310 and explain whether or not it is a good piece of equipment for people seeking a more advanced external hard drive solution.
Below are some of the important specifications of the D2-310:
- Total hard drives accepted: Up to 2
- Supported drive types: SATA and SSD, 2.5 and 3.5 inch
- Connection: USB Type C
- Transport protocol: USB 3.1, Gen 2, 10 GB/s
- Maximum supported capacity: 24 TB (12 TB per drive)
- Maximum read speed: 410 MB/s (depends upon drives you use)
- Maximum write speed: 400 MB/s (depends upon drives you use)
- Included in box: D2-310 enclosure, power cord, USB-C cord, user manual, screwdrivers (2), needle tool (for reset), screws (for assembly)
The TerraMaster D2-310 – a Direct-Attached Storage (DAS) Solution
You may have heard the acronym “DAS” thrown out before to describe storage, along with its counterpart, “NAS.” The simple difference is that DAS (Direct-Attached Storage) drives are storage options that attach to your computer directly, including everything from an SD card to a thumb drive, as well as external hard drive enclosures like the D2-310. NAS (Network-Attached Storage), on the other hand, is connected to a network and hence must be accessed from it. While DAS storage can only be connected to a single machine, NAS can be shared between multiple computers, as explained in our Storage Considerations for Photography article. Despite all the advantages of NAS, DAS arrays are typically cheaper and they are easier to set up, since they act just like external hard drives.
In the case of the D2-310, it is a DAS array that must be directly connected to a computer, which can be a downside for photographers sharing workspace with other team members or working remotely. However, it does have one distinct advantage over typical, basic NAS arrays that work over regular 1 Gbit networks: its potential performance. With the USB 3.1 interface, the D2-310 is capable of very fast transfer rates over 400 MB/s, which is not possible to achieve with NAS devices over a 1 Gbit network.
RAID 1 and RAID 0
The D2-310 itself does not come with any hard drives, which is normal for this type of product. Instead, it is set up in a way which allows you to add up to two SATA or SSD hard drives of your own – the same type that normally goes into a computer. The benefit of this setup is that it allows you to use any low-cost, fast storage you can find, including existing hard drives for a PC build that you might have laying around in your house. On top of that, the D2-310 also allows you to configure the two drives in a number of different configurations, including RAID 0 and RAID 1.
- RAID 0: Made for speed. If you configure the D2-310 in RAID 0, you’re giving a significant speed boost to your external storage. Essentially, the storage array is capable of reading from and writing to two drives at the same time, significantly increasing performance. The downside is that if one hard drive fails, you lose all of your data in the whole array.
- RAID 1: Drives are mirrored for safety. In this configuration, every file copied onto the storage gets copied to both drives simultaneously. In fact, it functionally acts like a single hard drive, except that all your data is stored on it twice (it even appears as a single drive within the operating system). If one of your two drives fails, the data remains intact – put in a replacement, and the data will replicate automatically. The downsides? Less speed, and half the storage space (because each drive mirrors the other).
Because the D2-310 only allows for two hard drives, these are the only two RAID configurations you can set up. However, larger storage enclosures with four and more drive enclosures allow for other types of RAID, such as RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10.
The D2-310 is built very solidly, with an all-aluminum exterior. The included toolkit has everything you need in order to set up the hard drives yourself, including two screwdrivers and a needle tool to access the D2-310’s “reset” button.
Heat dissipation on the D2-310 is impressive, and I have yet to experience any issues with the aluminum feeling hot to the touch, or even particularly warm.
On balance, its construction is good. However, there are a couple minor issues worth noting. First, the aluminum does not do a great job dampening the sound of spinning drives, resulting in a system that isn’t especially quiet. It isn’t loud, either, but you’ll notice a clear difference between this and something like a silent SSD (if you use the D2-310 with SSD drives, of course, the noise decreases, although you still hear the fan).
The other issue is that the dial for alternating between the various configuration options (RAID 0 and 1, as well as a couple other options) feels like it was added as an afterthought, despite its importance. Although it is perfectly functional, mine looks like it was marked with hand-drawn red pen to indicate which direction it’s actually pointing. Again, it still works fine, but it’s a bit of an oddity.
In addition to RAID 0 and RAID 1, the D2-310 also allows two other drive configurations: JBOD and Single.
- JBOD essentially combines the drives into a larger one; in this configuration, if you have two drives of different sizes, say 1 TB and 2 TB, JBOD will combine the two into a single 3 TB volume (with RAID 0, the drives would need to be the same capacity). This configuration does not have the speed benefit of RAID 0, although it might make it easier to recover data from one drive if the other fails.
- Single keeps the drives completely separate. It is the only storage configuration which results in both drives appearing independently on your computer, as if they aren’t part of the same enclosure at all. In my opinion, this negates one of the main benefits of the D2-310 in the first place, which is to allow RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations. However, some people may find “Single” useful for swapping drives individually, or keeping totally independent information on both drives at the same time.
One major reason to purchase the D2-310 is for the potential speed benefit it has to offer. But how much of a boost will you get compared to normal external (and internal) drives for things like reading, writing, and transferring files?
I ran a few tests with the drives I have available to compare. Keep in mind that the speed of the D2-310 can change depending upon the quality of the hard drives you use in it; I had two 2 TB NAS drives from HGST, which are relatively fast 7200 RPM drives, but there are larger and faster options on the market. This chart compares the speeds of the four configurations on the D2-310, as well as the internal SSD of my MacBook Pro (early 2013, 16 GB RAM, 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, with a 1 GB NVIDIA 650M graphics card), tested with Blackmagic Disk Speed Test for Mac:
|Storage Type||Read Speed (MB/s)||Write Speed (MB/s)|
|1A slight difference between the two drives in Single mode is to be expected. Even though they are the same model, speed will never be completely consistent.|
|Single (1st Drive)||138.2||137.1|
|Single (2nd Drive)1||149.3||132.7|
|MacBook Pro Internal Storage||281.8||178.5|
Not bad! In RAID 0, the D2-310 has a significantly faster write speed than even my MacBook Pro’s internal storage does, according to Blackmagic (though, granted, my computer is starting to slow down with age). TerraMaster claims that the D2-310’s maximum speed can reach up to 410 MB/s (read) or 400 MB/s (write) with certain hard drives, although it could be quite expensive to buy drives that can reach that limit. RAID 1, JBOD, and Single modes only show minor differences in performance.
So, how does the D2-310 with the HGST drives compare to cheaper options? I tested a sample external hard drive to compare (the 5 TB WD Elements Desktop hard drive, retailing for $154) against the D2-310 in RAID 1 configuration by transferring a 1 GB file to each. The resulting times: 15 seconds for the D2-310, and 41 seconds for the WD Elements hard drive. This is the benefit of using fast storage, as well as a speedy USB-C connection!
The D2-310, as a whole, is quite a good piece of equipment. In fact, the main issue is that it only allows for two external hard drives, which is something you would know from the start. As it is, there is no way to gain the benefits of both RAID 1 and RAID 0 simultaneously, meaning that you will need to make a decision between the two, taking things like data loss and speed into consideration.
The slight issues with the build quality of the D2-310 are just minor concerns, and the attractive price makes this a good value if you want to test the waters of advanced DAS storage. It certainly is faster and more feature-rich than a normal external hard drive, making it a viable solution for advanced tasks like video editing or intensive Photoshop work.