Sonnet Fusion F2 review
In the face of serious data throughput demands - like the ones video pros regularly have - the disks in Mac laptops just aren't fast enough.
With average throughput speeds of about 20-25MB/sec you'd be lucky to get a few HD video streams playing without suffering the odd dropped frame.
For those that find this a problem, Sonnet has the answer: the Sonnet Fusion F2, a portable Raid Sata hard drive designed specifically for MacBook Pro owners.
This provides the speed of a two-disk Raid 0 setup, with a direct Sata II interface and two high-speed (3Gbits/sec) eSata connections, in a surprisingly slim, portable case. This is made possible by placing the two internal 2.5in hard drives side by side.
Even more importantly this increases the natural cooling surface area, hence the absence of a fan.
In turn, this means that the whole thing can be powered from the MacBook Pro's FireWire 400 port. Yes, you really can use this Raid storage device while in the field away from available power sources. Well, for as long as your laptop battery lasts anyway, which will obviously be a little less than normal given that the drive is taking power as well.
The drive's data connection is made through twin eSata ports, so you'll need Sonnet's Tempo Sata ExpressCard/34 to link to your MacBook Pro. Logical it might be but make sure you include it just the same.
The power is provided by a third lead with a FireWire 400 plug at one end. You'll have three separate leads connecting the Fusion F2 to your MacBook Pro - not that you're likely to use them while walking about.
Sonnet has a lot of facts and figures about the Fusion F2 on its website, but we always confirm speed claims with our own tests. When we ran our custom data throughput tools, reading and writing data as fast as the drive can manage - and in extended multi-hundred-megabyte portions rather than misleading burst rates - we have to say that we were astounded.
The Fusion F2 managed to sustain an average throughput of about 125MB/sec - that's at least five times faster than the MacBook Pro's internal hard disk and easily twice what would be possible with a FireWire Raid setup. In short: ample for capturing and juggling multiple DVCPROHD and even ProRes HQ HD video streams.
The Fusion F2 contains two 320GB 2.5in hard drives. In a move that turns conventional wisdom on its head these are 5400rpm rather than 7200rpm models. Sonnet says that the combination of the greater density of data per disk platter on these high-capacity units and the 3Gbits/sec Sata II interface is what does the trick. And the test results bear this claim out.
However, if you're looking for some general-purpose extra storage for your MacBook Pro, this is not it. It is far from cheap - and the performance and portability is achieved with three cables rather than one.
On the other hand if you really do want premium performance and can justify the cost, the Sonnet Fusion F2 is clearly the best - in fact, the only feasible game - in town.