by Charles Jefferies

Patriot Convoy 425XL 4-Drive Backplane Review

The Patriot Convoy 425XL provides desktop users with the ability to add up to four 2.5” hard drives to their desktop using just one 5.25” device bay. The hook though is RAID, the Convoy supports RAID 0/1/3/5/10 Clone, Large, and JBOD via onboard JMicron controller. 

Product Overview
 
The Patriot Convoy 425XL features four 2.5” drive bays and fits in a single 5.25” device bay in a desktop case. It retails for $120-130 online. The device supports RAID 0/1/3/5/10 Clone, Large, and JBOD. It features two 40mm fans in the back for cooling.
 
A full list of features is as follows:
 
  • 4-in-1 design, Holds up to 4x 2.5¡¨ HDD or SSD in a single 5.25" Bay
  • Heavy duty all-aluminum construction
  • Built in 2 x 40mm cooling fan
  • EZ RAID dip switch settings support RAID 0, 1, 3, 5, 10 , Clone, Large, JBOD
  • Individual hot swappable drive tray with built in drive status LED
  • LED: Drive status, Failure, activity
  • High performance transfer rates up to 3Gbps
  • Supports SAS, SATA I & SATA II
  • Supports 2.5" drives up to 1TB capacity. (Drive height limitation of 12.5mm)
  • Power: 1 x 4 pin molex
  • SATA: 1 x SATA II connector
  • Form Factor: 1x 5.25" Bay
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Fans: 2 x 40mm fans
  • Cables Included: 1 x SATA Cable
In Use
 
The 425XL has an all-aluminum enclosure which feels rock solid; it weighs in at a hefty one pound, 12.4 oz. on my digital scale. The corners of the device are a bit on the sharp side though, so be careful when handling.
 
 
The installation into a 5.25” device bay is simple; it is no different than installing a standard optical disc drive. Mounting screws are included however the installation is designed to be tool-less. Beware the side-mounted Molex power connector; it is awfully close to the side of the device and depending on the desktop case, could make installation more difficult than it should be. It was not a problem however in my full ATX tower Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570 case.
 
Installing a hard disk drive into the 425XL is very easy. Pull the yellow lever in the front to the left to disengage a drive bay from the device and then grab the handle and pull it out.
 
 
Hard drives slide into the trays from the side. In order to install 12.5/14.5mm height drives, a screw at the back of the drive cage needs to be unscrewed and the top cover removed, otherwise the drive will be too tall to fit. When sliding the tray back into the device, make sure the handle is all the way out. The trays slide in and out smoothly, which is an indication of good fit and finish.
 
 
The two 40mm cooling fans are nearly silent though do increase the ambient noise level of a desktop computer by a small amount. They provide cooling by drawing air through the front of the device, over the drives, and out the back. The Western Digital Scorpio Black drives I tested the 425XL with remained lukewarm to the touch throughout the testing process.
 
RAID Setup
 
 
There are a series of dip switches at the back of the 425XL, which control which RAID mode the device is in. Once the dip switches are set to the desired mode, push the “Change-mode” button to the right of it to apply the settings.
 
 
The 425XL has an internal J-Micron JMB393 RAID controller. The included software is straightforward to install. There are two modes: basic and advanced. Basic mode is essentially information-only, providing access to disk information and the event log.
 
 
Advanced mode adds additional functionality such as email notifications, advanced RAID settings, plus the ability to do firmware updates. Unlike Basic mode, when selecting RAID modes users can specify the disks to use; in Basic mode, disks are automatically selected. RAID arrays can also be deleted.
 
If no RAID is selected and you wish to use the drives as simply separate drives, note that whatever controller the 425XL is plugged into must support port multiplication, otherwise only the first drive will show up. The other problem with the single SATA port is it limits the overall performance of the drives. Loading the Convoy 425XL with SSDs would obviously net sad results - this is really a hard drive only product. 
 
Conclusion
 
The Patriot Convoy 425XL is an excellent four-drive 5.25” bay enclosure. It is easy to set up RAID. It uses just a single SATA cable and Molex power connector. The aluminum build quality is excellent; just watch out for those sharp corners.
 
Setting up RAID is a relatively simple process. No software is needed to set up RAID if the dip switches at the back of the device are used; the included JMicron RAID controller software is intuitive and simple to use and is equally as effective at setting up RAID. It even supports even 14.5mm height drives, meaning it will support the latest 1TB 2.5” drives.
 
It's important to recognize though, that this isn't designed to be a performance product; we put this somewhere between a full-blown RAID card and software RAID. You get a nice enclosure that's easy to configure, and generally good reliability (we never saw the RAID fail or a disk fall out in our testing); although it's really a hard drive product, the single SATA port limits upside speeds. 
 
Pros
  • Good build quality
  • Easy drive installation
  • Simple RAID configuration settings
  • Single SATA connector
Cons
  • Single SATA port limits performance 
  • Sharp corners
Bottom Line
 
For $120 the unit is very well build and solves a unique problem. We see a lot of 4-bay backplanes, but this is the first we've had in for testing that includes on-board RAID. If you have a need for a reliable and cost effective RAID solution for either matched drives or JBOD, the Patriot Convoy 425XL is a reasonable option. 
 
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