Thunderbolt 3 provides the fattest data pipe for direct-attached storage devices of current standards out today, though you wouldn’t know it given how rare the format is. The 40Gb/s connection is just as economical as it is fast, but adoption in commodity PCs has been slow. That might change in 2018 as prices drop and the format becomes more mainstream as consumers demand higher bandwidth and speed for their storage devices. Today, we look at the Areca ARC-8050T3 series, which is the fastest Thunderbolt 3 storage device to date.
Areca’s products are enterprise and professional-focused, but unlike others in this market, the company also has some love for enthusiasts who crave enterprise level hardware. For the last decade, the company has been known as the go-to source for high-speed storage technology that sets the benchmarks for performance data storage. Areca’s customizable RAID controller programming and the devices ability to have onboard RAM seem to be what gives them the edge. You can test an older LSI hardware RAID card against the same LSI ROC (RAID-On-Chip) found on the Areca equivalent, and the latter will give you more throughput and lower latency every time. In other words, the third-party company has outperformed the in-house brand repeatedly, but at a lower price point. That’s what this company is about, and today we’ll see it play out again.
Areca also offers two six-bay models with nearly identical specifications. The ARC-8050T3-6M has a handle, which makes it slightly more portable. This is the only system we were not able to find for sale in the US though. The non-M version has a slightly different case design. The six-bay models also have expansion capabilities via an SFF-8644 two-lane connection on the back. These devices use the same 1.2GHz dual-core processor that comes in all models but the four-bay unit. Electrically, the ROC supports up to 12Gbps SAS, but it is also backward compatible to work with SATA. Areca provides the system with 2GB of DDR3-1866 memory.
The ARC-8050T3-8 is essentially a fancier version of the 6 model with a couple extra drive slots. The system is a little taller, but the two lanes used for external expansion on the -6 model instead route inside the unit to the eight-drive backplane. This system also adds a second HDD cooling fan running at a lazy 2,700-RPM, which though it does not provide a ton of airflow, is enough to keep constantly running drives at a respectable temperature.