Review: CalDigit AV Pro USB 3.0 External Hard Drive

When it comes to storage, you may think you have it covered. Hard drives have never been cheaper or larger, and network attached storage is quickly becoming a core staple of the connected home and small office. Those solutions offer plenty of capacity, but if you’re into your photography or video editing, then you’ll know that working on files stored remotely on the network can be slow – and for Mac users, often not an option. So, you’re going to need high-speed, high-capacity storage – direct attached storage, to boot. The CalDigit AV Pro USB 3.0 External Hard Drive is one such solution to check out.

Available in sizes from 1TB right up to a mighty 4TB, the AV Pro packs a number of useful features for the budding (or blooming) photo and video enthusiast. Firstly, it’s a drive enclosure, so you can insert or swap our standard hard drives as you wish. Next up, as you’d expect, the AV Pro can handle 3.5″ hard drives with ease – but wait! You want to drop in a 2.5″ Solid State Drive for super high-speed file transfers? Well, that’s no problem – the device can be converted for use with SSDs, courtesy of a separate drive module (but you’ll need to purchase it separately. You want to daisy chain multiple drives together to create a larger mass of storage. Yes, that’s available. Super-speed file transfers? Well, according to the manufacturer, drop in an SSD and you’ll be experiencing data transfer speeds up to 430 MB/sec. That’s all the speed you need today and for a good time to come. Standard drives get manufacturer speed ratings of up to 200 MB/sec – still plenty fast. Let’s take a look.

Okay, it’s a (predominately) Mac hard drive (you can use it with Windows too) – that means the ubiquitous aluminium chassis, with grooves etched into the top and bottom to help dissipate the heat. A rear fan is also fitted to keep your drive cool and handily, it can be switched off if you’re using an SSD. Open up the box and you’ll find:

• the CalDigit AV Pro hard drive
• a Drive Module
• aUSB 3.0 Cable
• Power Adapter
• Drive Keys
• Drive Stand

The AV Pro is also hot swappable – that means you can remove the installed drive and slot in a new drive whenever you wish – you simply need to use the accompanying pin keys to “unlock”, then pull out the drive tray and off you go. For the Mac-loving storage geek who wants to keep a careful check on their device, a drive monitoring application for OS X is bundled with the AV Pro, offering diagnostic information and email alerts. Overkill for all but the hardcore, but it’s there. drivelistFor mobile users, iOS and Android apps also allow you to keep a check on drive performance from the smaller screen with health indicators for drive temperature, SMART information, disk alerts and performance benchmarking. Plug in and power on the drive, and you’ll find the AV Pro’s software is handily stored on the drive itself – no need for a CD or any such periphery. The first task is to format the drive using the on board software – this can take a little while, even with a speedy drive.

We tested the drive on Windows 8 and found that the CalDigit Drive Assistant app actually hung repeated when trying to format the drive – not a great experience. That said, you can easily use your operating system’s native partitioning and formatting utility to prepare the drive – not the most straightforward of starts, but at least you’ll only have to do it once. No such problems for Mac users, fortunately.

Otherwise, performance is fine – very fine in fact. We clocked our 240GB SSD model – almost the top end device – at an average 240.1 MB/sec read speed and  228.2 MB/sec write speed. For the uninitiated, that’s very fast indeed. Expect non-SSD (standard hard drive) performance to be slower, but you’ll still benefit from that speedy USB 3.0 connection. If you’re on a Mac FireWire 800 connection then you can expect performance to be sub-100 MB/sec.

As you may expect from a professional/prosumer device, pricing is set at the premium end of the market, with 1TB devices starting at £155 for the USB 3.0/FireWire 800 model up to £515 for the 480GB SSD model. At that price, you’d expect a flexible device with great performance, good looks and let’s not forget ease of use. Fortunately, that what the AV Pro delivers – it may be a little premium for everyone’s tastes and Windows users will need to put in a little work up front, but for photo and video pros and enthusiasts, it’ll do a great job.

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2 comments

  1. I am having trouble installing this hard drive on my Windows 8. It appears in my Disk Management however I’m unable to map it to any one path or access it any way.

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