Fstoppers Reviews the Xcellon HDD RAID Docking Station

Fstoppers Reviews the Xcellon HDD RAID Docking Station

Storage is cheap, or so we've heard. But, for many professional photographers, storing and backing up large volumes of images while also keeping up the transfer and read speeds we are accustomed to can wind up being very expensive. RAID docks are a great alternative to purchasing dedicated RAID drives, and the new Xcellon dock provides a cost-effective alternative. However, does it stack up in the long run?

My initial experience as I unboxed the Docking Station is that it is very well packaged. As I opened the box, I was impressed with the presentation of the dock and also surprised at the size. Holding it, I was even more taken off guard by the weight. The docking station itself is small, compact, and lightweight. But, it does not come across as flimsy. The only portion I would like to see appear or feel a bit more rugged would be the flaps where the actual drives are inserted, but that is something I've always felt with docking stations — the spring loaded flaps could break off at anytime. I will say that the Xcellon feels as rugged (if not more) as ones I've used in the past.

The interface and buttons were very easy to figure out. With most of my other RAID drives, I've had to read through the manual in order to figure out exactly how to set up what type of RAID I wanted to use, but with the Xcellon HDD Docking Station, it was very easy. The RAID setup is brightly labeled in red with clear and visual instructions directly on the drive. What I don't like, however, is the type of buttons or method of setting up the RAID. The flimsy switches are similar to the type found in many low and mid-end flash triggers. I would be afraid they could easily get changed or even break off; in all reality, this would probably not be a problem. I just want to feel secure in all aspects of my backup system and wish these buttons were a bit different.

All in all, I was impressed with the first looks at the docking station. Getting started with the drive is quick and easy as well. I quickly switched to RAID 1 and plugged in my drives, and it was up and running in seconds.

Cost vs. Performance

With design and durability seeming to be an almost nonissue, the main factor for whether or not I would personally use or recommend this or any other docking station would be the overall cost vs. performance factor. \When comparing a RAID dock system that requires you to also purchase separate hard drives to a RAID drive that comes ready with storage, it's key to compare the total cost. The Xcellon dock itself is only $100, and it can support up to 8 TB drives and transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps. That is of course all dependent on the actual hard drive that is used with the dock. So, let's attempt to compare.

Xcellon Dock

Seagate 2 TB, 2.5 inch Spinpoint Drive, SATA III 6Gbps Interface: $100 each. Total cost for 4 TB RAID (6Gbps): $300.

Toshiba 4 TB, 3.5 inch Drive, SATA III 6 Gbps Interface: $114 each. Total cost for 8 TB RAID (6Gbps): $328.

Seagate 8 TB, 3.5 inch Enterprise Drive, SATA III 12 Gbps Interface: $400 each. Total cost for 16TB RAID (10Gbps (max of the dock)): $900.

RAID Systems

G-Technology 4 TB RAID System (300 MB/s): $450.

LaCie 8 TB 2big Thunderbolt (360 MB/s): $680.

OWC 16 TB Mercury Elite (300 MB/s): $877.

There are certainly going to be a lot of combinations and options from product to product and brand to brand. For instance, with the 8 TB RAID option, you can pay $680 for the LaCie, but there is also the WD My Book for $318, although the reviews on the WD are very mixed. For the 16 TB dock setup, the Seagate was one of the more expensive, but I wanted at least one option that utilized the max speed of the dock; there are far less expensive options. Many of the options easily exceed the $1000 mark.

What I Liked

I liked the way it was packaged and how compact the dock is. I also liked how easy it was to figure out how to set the RAID mode. The new USB-C is a nice touch, and it takes almost no time from unpacking to getting it in use. 

What I Didn't Like

What I didn't like were the actual buttons and switches used to set the RAID mode and the somewhat flimsy feel of the "set" button.

Conclusion

If you are simply using your RAID setup as a USB interface to backup your work, the dock will wind up being the cheaper and possibly higher performing option. On the other hand, if you're more mobile, you might prefer a closed solution. Overall, the Xcellon RAID Dock is a well-built and seemingly reliable and cost-effective option for backing up your work.

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11 Comments

Andrew Barros's picture

Great review, but the link to the OWC Mercury raid system brings you to the LaCie system, just FYI.

Justin Haugen's picture

So can I hot swap pairs of drives run in RAID 1 configuration?

I want to configure a RAID 1 array and be able to turn it off, remove the drives, put in two more drives and configure another RAID 1 array.

Lance Nicoll's picture

Hi Justin, yes you should be to run RAID 1 - swap them out for two other drives and run RAID 1 on the new drives, much like with the enclosure systems, you can still switch out the drives

Justin Haugen's picture

and then go back to the original pair? I just want to know if i can go back and forth between pairs of drives, should the need arise. Thanks for answering my question!

Can you share the transfer speeds you got? Thanks!

I had Xcellon DRD-101 and it fried both drives possibly due to improper cooling. Check out the reviews on other Xcellon products on sites like bh. Thankfully this was just one of several backups I keep. I also have Newertech raid and while that has some USB 3 issues on earlier models the newer one has worked well. While any sort of hardware can fail the best option is to minimize the percentages. I was going to buy a similar setup as this one but I think the issue was the drive slots were stacked too close together causing heat buildup.

Carson F.'s picture

Most of my experiences with these types of docks are unfavorable. Like you said, cheap buttons and more importantly, a lot of times they don't want to spin down which makes them entirely too hot like user: Yin Zhee mentioned.

+1
I havent use the dock in the article but this type of dock has no cooling and will damage your drives with extended use. They are good for short duration uses like transferring data and doing backups but I wouldnt trust it with catalog storage or anything that you want to stay online.

This is a nice idea , it will be useful for photographers, large amount of photos, it is really helpful about saying this new version , thanks for sharing.

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There are two important things you do not skimp on: tires for your car and backup hardware. Not worth the savings. I hope others don't learn the hard way. I keep three sets of backups and luckily this did not affect me. I do like the concept of being able to pull out drives without attaching them to hard drive sleds. That's the appeal of the Xcellon DRD-101.

I have three sets of 4tb drives that I fill up for each calendar year. Once the year ends I replace the drives with a new set. Chronosync makes backing up everything very easy. I replaced the black x usb 2 docks with the Anker usb 3 dock but never liked the way the drives were exposed when i needed to access archival files.
I wanted a device i could slide a drive into. If anyone has a decently priced and reliable drive similar to Xcellon DRD-101 please let me know.

This is a nice idea , it will be useful for photographers, large amount of photos, it is really helpful about saying this new version , thanks for sharing.
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