by Kevin OBrien

Newer Technology Guardian MAXimus Mini Review

We all know the benefits of RAID when it comes to data redundancy, but there are times when mobile users may not have access to a home or office NAS and most notebooks don't have multi-bay RAID options. In that case, a portable RAID would be ideal and thanks to Newer Tech, there's an option. The Guardian MAXimus Mini is a dual-bay portable RAID system, designed to be used with 2.5" hard drives or SSDs. Smaller than a brick, the aluminum enclosure offers quad-interface and RAID1 or RAID0 configurations. 

The Guardian MAXimus Mini offers several interface options, including USB 2.0, eSATA and FireWire 800/400. All are bus powered, meaning there's no need to tote around anything other than the storage enclosure and a cable in most cases. The eSATA interface does require power over the FireWire port, but Newer Tech also includes a power adapter for those users who want more options. 

The Mini ships by default in RAID1, where the two drives are mirrored for redundancy. Most will probably stay in RAID1, but with a few button presses on the front of the unit, it's easy to transition to RAID0, if performance is more of a concern than redundancy. Newer Tech offers the Guardian MAXimus Mini in nearly a dozen pre-configured options including high-speed SSDs and standard hard drives. The unit is also available without drives, a nice touch for those who have drives already or have specific thoughts about which drives they'd like to use. The bare model retails for $115, while the hard drive models range from $225 (320GBx2) to $400 (1TBx2) and the SSD models run from $450 (120GBx2) to $1730 (480GBx2). All of the storage units come with a three year warranty. 

Newer Technology Guardian MAXimus Mini Specs

  • Available bare or with preconfigured HDD/SSD options
  • Bridge Chipset - Custom Oxford 936DS chipset
  • Quad Interface - FireWire 800/400, USB 2.0, and eSATA
  • Bus powered (eSATA requires FW connection or external AC power)
  • Default RAID1, RAID0 optional via front panel
  • Data transfer speeds up to 300MB/s
  • All cables and power adaptor included
  • 5.2"(D) x 3.5"(W) x 2.1"(H)
  • Brushed aluminum - impact resistant
  • Fanless enclosure
  • Software Included - Intech Hard Disk SpeedTools Utilities OEM (For Mac OS 8.6 - OS X only), NovaStor NovaBACKUP Solution (Windows 2000 and later), ProSoft Engineering Data Backup 3 (Mac OS 10.2.8 or later), Carbon Copy Cloner
  • Warranty - 3 Year Repair/Replacement Warranty

Design and Build

The MAXimus Mini's enclosure is all brushed aluminum and not only looks great, but is sturdy as well. In fact, besides the display or rubber feet, all external components are metal. There's no flex or squeaking when the enclosure is squeezed, torqued or otherwise mistreated.

The front of the unit features a LCD display that illuminates when powered on to reveal RAID status, drive information and the like. Through a menu button and select button that flank the LCD, users may scroll through everything from alarm management to RAID configuration and backlight setup. Below the display are two drive indicators, with a third that illuminates when the RAID is rebuilding. Changing RAID modes takes seconds to complete making the entire setup process is painless for the end user.

The back of the enclosure includes an access panel for the drives that's removed with two Philips screws, and the interface array. Removing the two screws on opposite sides of the interface ports, you can easily slide out the interface card from the case. On the inside all that is left is a riser board connected through a PCI-Express-like interface with two SATA connections and the front display electronics on it.

Looking at the main board, the MAXimus is powered by an Oxford Semiconductor OXUFS936DS FireWire400/800/USB2.0/eSATA to Dual SATA Controller that handles the all of the primary functions of the mini RAID array.

Performance

With the performance aspect of RAID0 and the data integrity angle of RAID1, we decided to split the benchmarking section for this array into two parts. The first covers the performance side of things with an included set of Hitachi 7K500 2.5-inch 7200RPM notebook drives in RAID0 followed up by a matching pair of Intel SSD 710s in RAID0. The last group of tests will look at both arrays in RAID1 for users interested in the performance when redundancy is a higher priority.

We tested the Newer Technology Guardian MAXimus Mini over eSATA to prevent the interface from slowing down our tests. Although FireWire 800 offers a substantial speed boost over USB, it still maxes out below 100MB/s.

In RAID0 we measured sequential speeds with the Hitachi 7K500 array of 213MB/s read and 213MB/s write. Smaller 4K random reads and writes at a queue depth of 32 maxed at 0.503MB/s and 1.061MB/s respectively. With the faster flash-based storage array using two 200GB Intel 710 SSDs in RAID0 we measured sequential speeds of 240MB/s read and 223MB/s write. 4K random reads and writes at a queue depth of 32 maxed at 24.93MB/s and 58.05MB/s respectively.

Switching to RAID1, which effectively halves the performance of RAID0, we expected some slower speeds but we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw. In RAID1 we measured sequential speeds with the Hitachi 7K500 array of 109MB/s read and 107MB/s write. Smaller 4K random reads and writes at a queue depth of 32 maxed at 0.563MB/s and 0.86MB/s respectively. With the faster flash-based storage array using two 200GB Intel 710 SSDs in RAID1 we measured sequential speeds of 225MB/s read and 182MB/s write. 4K random reads and writes at a queue depth of 32 maxed at 20.38MB/s and 57.81MB/s respectively.

Conclusion

When it comes to mobile external storage, there aren't too many options for high performance and data integrity. Newer Technology helped fill a gap in the segment aimed toward enthusiasts and professionals who need fast working space outside of their notebook or increased protection for important files while on the go, with the Guardian MAXimus Mini. They manage to do all of this without even needing external power if you happen to use FireWire or USB 2.0 and still had time to give it a great case with an LCD and controls for configuring the unit on the fly.

Performance from Guardian MAXimus Mini was stellar; reaching speeds in excess of 240MB/s over eSATA when used in RAID0 with SSDs or 213MB/s with the supplied Hitachi 7K500 notebook drives. RAID1 speeds didn't disappoint either, offering an impressive 109MB/s read with the hard drive solution and 225MB/s using SSDs. 

Pros

  • Very well built to withstand a mobile lifestyle
  • Read and write speeds topping 213MB/s with hard drives
  • Compact enough to go just about anywhere

Cons

  • Doesn't come with a SATA 6Gb/s interface for faster SSDs

Bottom Line

When it comes down to it few mobile storage solutions can offer the same amount of flexibility and performance as the Guardian MAXimus Mini. It's a clear winner in many scenarios and may just be our new favorite mobile storage product. 

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