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New VR Mini from CalDigit

CreativeCOW presents New VR Mini from CalDigit -- CalDigit Review


Denver Colorado USA
CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


CalDigit has started to ship an revolutionary product, which easily stands at the head of the class of dual 2.5 inch externally enclosed disk drives. What makes this unit stand outside the norm are two notable features. First, the LCD display on it's face and (likely more important) the fact that the drives are easily hot swappable. Yep! Finally a form factor weighs 1/4th as much as a similar 2-drive 3.5 inch unit, and it easily fits in anybody's laptop bag as it fits in the palm of your hand. Fast enough to edit HD video with, this unit is my current favorite amongst its peers.

The LCD keeps track of extremely valuable information about your unit. The RAID Configuration, the temperature, and the hard drive health. You can get the information from the LCD, or from the RAID tool (more about that later).

The VR Mini appears to be extremely rugged (as are all of CalDigit's products). I'd not be afraid to put this in my soft laptop bag and tote it everywhere I go. In fact, during the time I've had the test unit, I've moved it all over Colorado, and it just keeps on tickin'.

The VR Mini keeps cool with it's heat sink design, so there's no loud fan to muck the the sound around you, and the ability to not only connect eSATA, but also to run bus powered at the same time! It's smart enough to know that if you've connected the SATA port and you've also connected the FireWire port that you intend to power through the FireWire, but pass data through the SATA connection. Pretty slick indeed!  However if you intend to use the eSATA port, and use the FireWire bus on your computer for other peripherals you may want to connect the supplied power adapter to power up your VR Mini, and keep that firewire port open for use with a firewire device which doesn't like sharing busses. AJA's Io HD comes to mind here.

The VR Mini supports Raid 0, 1, and JBOD as well as "Span". (Where the unit appears to be just one disk drive, however it records data to one drive at a time and simply spans on to the second drive once the first one is full. I'm not quite sure why you would want this configuration, but it does add the ability to have a file actually span the two drives. Maybe if you're recording directly to the drive, this makes sense.

 


All of this controlled, monitored, and even email notified by CalDigit's RAID Tool. The interface for this utility is clean and very easy to understand. CalDigit has a dandy QuickTime video on an overview of the software and it's uses, and it is likely this video is all you'll need to get you going with RAID tool.



That said, you actually can reformat the unit using the two buttons found on the front of the unit, and viewing your commands on the LCD! Now that's cool!

I can certainly see a VR mini being used for tape-less media backup on sets. With it's hot swappable drives, it could be used in a RAID 1 configuration, and get a redundant backup that way. If a drive fails, it automatically rebuilds that RAID 1 too. You could even daisy chain two of these units to get quad redundancy for your shoots.

With it's speed, you can easily playback every format except uncompressed HD.   It's perfect for a road warrior's external disk array for editorial purposes. The available models are a 640GB unit for $629 MSRP, or a 1TB unti for $679.

As you fill the small drives, you can replace them with populated trays available from CalDigit and you retain full support from CalDigit when you buy them. I'd do so because CalDigit tests each drive before they are ever shipped. I think this makes it worth any small premium that may be involved. And It's a very small premium indeed: $129 for 320GB drive or $179 for a 500GB drive and tray. It's a no brainer, buy your extra drives from CalDigit. 

The CalDigit VR mini has everything you need in the box if you're intending to connect via FireWire or USB. An adapter will be needed if you want to use the eSATA connection, and CalDigit's adapters are first class. They make one for a laptop, and they make one for a tower as well. You'll gain about 25-30% more speed if you conned through eSATA, but I've found it plays back ProRes 1080 HQ all day long just connecting throught FireWire 800.

There is a "hidden" technology that is included with the unit as well. It's flashable. Since it contains chipsets that can be updated through firmware updates, you'll rest assured that if some change to your OS that might affect external drives can be addressed with a new firmware update from CalDigit. Might even get one that speeds up the already speedy unit!  Very impressive.

It's all fine and well to have an extremely well designed product available, and it's another thing to back it up with support, and from my experience with CalDigit, you needn't worry about either situation. They have responsive customer service and they have a product here that's second to no one's. First in it's class for sure, and let's face it: It's just plain chic.

 

Here are the specs:

Size and weight

  • Height: 2.07 inches (5.25 cm)
  • Width: 3.25 inches (8.25 cm)
  • Depth: 5.49 inches (13.95cm)
  • Weight: 1.54 lb (0.7 kg)

Host Interface

  • eSATA x 1
  • Firewire 800 X 1
  • Firewire 400 X 1
  • USB 2.0 x 1

RAID Function

Supports RAID 0, 1, Spanning, JBOD Automatically online fast disk rebuilding Automatic disk failure detection Hot swappable disks

Power Supply Adapter

Full rang AC Input: 100 ~ 240V, 50~60Hz, 0.6A DC output: 12V/1.5A Power plug: 3.5x1.35x10 (mm) S Type

1394 Bus Power

  • 1394 Bus Power 30V/1.5A (max)

 LCD Module

  • Displays RAID information and system
    Temperature



 

Note that the upper two screws you see in the picture of the rear of the VR mini will be replaced with easy to use thumbscrews to open the door that reveals the two drives for replacement.

 

I like this unit a lot and will give it the coveted 5 cows in a heartbeat!

-- Jerry Hofmann


Comments

Speed is Speed...
by Jerry Hofmann
Speed is speed... the unit is extremely fast. If you go over to CalDigit, I think the actual throughput is posted there... that's what matters, not anything else right?

Jerry
Compare Caldigit vr mini to G Tech mini 2?
by Bob Lampel
Thanks for the insight.
I've been debating between a 1 TB vr mini and a G Tech 640 Gb mini 2 @ 7200 RPM (have one on order.) Want to edit 4 multicam streams from my 2.4GHz MacBook Pro. I'm about to install FCS 3 to use either ProRes LT or Proxy (not sure yet)
The CalDigit looks great but runs at 5400 RPM.
Thoughts?
Yeah, I do like CalDigit's stuff alright...
by Jerry Hofmann
Denver rocks man... King Soopers is still there I'm sure.

The skiing here this year was outta sight good most all of the season.

I can say if you buy barebone drives at the lowest prices, they are in no way tested by a third party... that's what makes companies like CalDigit, Weibetech, most all of the big array manufacturers different from just buying drives from online parts folks.

I was touring Huge Systems a while ago before they joined Ciprico... and watched a tech reject about 15% of the drives sent to them in bulk from Hitachi... That was about 4 years ago, and the tech said this was pretty much standard through the years from all of the drive manufacturers. They liked Hitachi because the customer service was so great, and the drives are first class. You can buy "enterprise" class drives from them too, and they come with a 5 year warranty.

The folks at Hitachi have told me that drives fail either in the first month, or usually shortly after their warranty period...

That said, Solid State drives will likely be more reliable, but at a HUGE premium price per gig for a while longer I'd think... They are faster for sure though, a LOT faster.

I'll wager that the FW port on a camera would be plenty fast enough to record to with most formats...

I'm also a fan of AJA;'s new Ki Pro... there's a dandy solution to all these freaking formats we're presented with, and it records to FW drives. Would improve the video from any camera save an SR setup or RED camera. HDV would REALLY be better using this instead of tape. But I sort of regress...

Jerry
Ps. how's denver these days. I
by Jiggy Gaton
Ps. how's denver these days. I graduated from CU Denver about a half century ago. I used to live next to Queen Soopers...is that still there?
Ha! are u a fanboy of CalDigit or what?
by Jiggy Gaton
Just teasing you Jerry, but I am still not buying it. All Barebones in SA are tested by the tech in the shop before purchase, and even given a little warranty sticker that's dated. The drives all fail soon enough anyway. I think the solution may be solid state flash drives, but maybe not. Dunno. The only think about that case I think is going for it is it's size. And u always pay more for smaller, unless buying porn. If they would put eSataII interfaces on cameras, perhaps you could strap one of those on the rails and use it for a DVR, that would be cool. Well, maybe next year. Cheers,
jigs
Well...
by Jerry Hofmann
The enclosure is worth the extra money I think. It's a hardware raid setup (unique to this ilk of enclosures), it also includes removable drives (I'm pretty sure this is the only enclosure out there like this) and it's also capable of formatting right from the buttons on the drive. this makes it very unique.

I'd suggest you buy any extra drives from CalDigit because they test them before they ship them, and if they don't come to spec, they are sent back to Hitachi. If you're buying bare bones drives from anybody they are NOT tested, however I'd suggest Hitachi drives in any case. I've had really great luck with CalDigit products and service myself.

Jerry
looks cool but...
by Jiggy Gaton
looks top of the line at that price! enclosures are such a problem in Nepal/India. We use dual drive docks a lot, they are cheap and have estata2 connectors built in ...but something about having drives exposed like that... (to Caldigit: for 600+ esataII should be at the back of the box already!)

anyway, really holding off on investing in drive enclosures till this flash thing shakes out. seems like the whole reason behind Raids is because the tech rots, and fails all the time. i am so sick of drives going out sometimes i can scream. and the solution: just buy more sets of drives!

well, thx for the nice review.


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