Sans Digital TR5UTP 5-Bay RAID Tower

Aron Schatz
October 6, 2010
Sans Digital
Product Page
Sans Digital TR5UTP 5-Bay RAID Tower
The TR5UTP offers multiple RAID levels and allows for a 5-bay solution to expand your file storage needs externally. A hot spare feature brings it all together.

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Your fileserver is nearing its limit on storage capacity and you have no more room to add additional internal hard drives. What do you do? External storage sounds like a great option. Regular USB drives just won't work since they aren't redundant. Sans Digital has the solution. They are company that only focuses on external storage solutions. Their latest 5-bay TR5UTP promises to keep your data safe from failure while giving you excellent performance with USB3 and SATA 6GB/s.

About Sans Digital


Sans Digital is a provider of high capacity, multi-functional advanced storage solutions. These storage units can be used in home offices, small and medium-sized businesses, video editing, data backup, surveillance systems and many other industries. Sans Digital's products provide great solutions for companies and individuals across the world who need effective and reliable data storage systems.

Technology and Service Differentiation
Sans Digital offers storage products for RAID and bare-bone systems. With technologically advanced products, Sans Digital ensures that the products will meet the customers' needs. By incorporating the latest technology, Sans Digital sets the standard in the storage industry.

Product and Service Innovation
Sans Digital offers products and services that are exclusively unique, which help customers improve their productivity. With over 10 years of experience offering complete storage solutions, Sans Digital's products have come to be distinct with their unmatched technology.

Business Productivity Solutions
Every customer is different and Sans Digital recognizes that one size fits all storage solutions are unlikely to meet everyone's requests. As a result, Sans Digital joined a wide variety of industry leaders to offer storage applications that are specific to various industries. This includes off-the-shelf or fully customized solutions.

Sans Digital's main customers include business and enterprise, government and education, creative professionals, as well as consumer and SOHO, which are reached through our Distributors, System Integrators, Value-Added-Resellers, and Dealers.



Sans Digital uses black packaging with some silver and blue accents for their retail box. There is a sticker on the box that lets you know that a external Serial ATA 6GB/s card is included for use with the TR5UTP.


The back of the packages shows off some supported configurations along with the contents of the box.
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  • Model TR5UT-P
  • Form Factor Compact Tower
  • HDD Trays 5 Hot-Swappable 3.5"
  • RAID Level 0, 1, 10, 3, 5, Clone (N-way Mirror) with Hot Spare and JBOD
  • Maximum Capacity 10TB
  • Auto Rebuilding Yes
  • Hot-Spare Yes
  • Host Interface & Transfer Rate USB 3.0 (backward compatible with USB 2.0) and eSATA
  • Drive Interface 5 x 3.5” SATA I / SATA II
  • Cooling Fan 4.7" Ball Bearing Fan
  • Power Supply 220W (103V-253V)
  • Status Indicators Status and Power LEDs
  • Dimension (in) 6.0"W x 8.25"H x 11.0"D
  • Weight (lb) 9.3
  • Safety Regulations CE, FCC, UL, RoHS
  • Limited Warranty 1 Year
  • Package Contents
    TR5UT-BP (1)
    Hard Drive Trays (5)
    Power Cord (1)
    eSATA Cable (1)
    USB 3.0 Cable (1)
    PCIe 2.0 x1 2-Port eSATA 6Gbps Controller Card (1)
    Screws (1 set)
    Quick Installation Manual & CD (1)
  • Newegg Link, Amazon Link

Marketing Summary


The TowerRAID TR5UT-BP is a 5-bay hardware RAID 5 storage tower that utilizes high performance USB 3.0 and eSATA interfaces to provide over 200MB/s in performance. The included USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with widely available USB 2.0 ports, which is a convenient feature when both USB 3.0 and eSATA connections are unavailable. With built-in RAID 0, 1, 10, 3, 5 with hot-spare and JBOD, the TR5UT-BP provides hardware RAID redundancy protection against hard drive failures. A brand new RAID mode, CLONE or N-Way Mirror, is also introduced to replicate the saved data throughout each installed hard drive. The RAID engine is embedded within the enclosure and performs all RAID parity calculation to reduce CPU utilization from the host PC. RAID controller cards are unnecessary.

To satisfy the need for performance demanding applications, the unit is bundled with a 2-port PCIe 2.0 x1 eSATA controller card with SATA 6.0 Gbps (6G) support (RR622 controller card). PCIe 2.0 is capable of providing twice the bandwidth of PCIe 1.0, allowing over 200MB/s in performance. The unit is also backward compatible with PCIe 1.0 slots to provide eSATA connectivity for computers that do not have built-in eSATA ports. Designed with easy installation in mind, the TR5UT-BP allows effortless installation by simply inserting the hard drive tray (with the hard drives installed) after opening the attractive ventilating door. The TR5UT-BP is the ultimate RAID storage for all storage needs.

Package Contents


Aside from the TR5UTP itself, Sans Digital packages along some literature, screws, an USB3 cable, an eSATA cable, a power cable, a RocketRAID 622 eSATA card, and a SATA to eSATA bracket. The RocketRAID 622 eSATA card has a replaceable faceplate to accommodate low profile slots.
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Sans Digital sent us the black version of the TR5UTP. You can also opt for the silver variant that has all the same features. The TR5UTP is basically a 5-bay drive enclosure with some additional electronics for RAID and external connections. The finish is very shiny and looks great when on display.


The front of the TR5UTP has a grated door that opens to access the drive bays. On the bottom of the front are the indication LEDs for drive activity and power as well as the power button.


The door swings open fairly easily. There is no locking mechanism, you'll need to have some physical security if this is out in the open. It should be located in a server room, though. Each bay is independent and a push to the right flips the level to pull the bay out.


After tugging on the bay, the installed drive can be removed or replaced. To install a drive, pull the bay out and mount the drive. Since this is a Serial ATA enclosure, the TR5UTP is hot-swappable.


One of the best features of the TR5UTP is the very large fan in the back of the unit for the hard drives. Since it is a single large fan, the fan spins slower than multiple smaller ones which means less noise. The one problem is the fan for the power supply is one of those whiny types. It is the small fan on the bottom right of the picture.

There are jumpers and a reset button to allow you to set how you want to configure the TR5UTP without any software. While the product comes with RAID management software, we found that it wasn't too great to setup an array through it. It also only works on Windows. The jumpers are pretty much the best way to setup the array. If you want to have a four drive RAID5 array with a hot spare, simply unplug whichever drive you want to be a hot spare and set the jumpers for RAID5 (up/down/up). Hold the reset button and turn on the power. You can let go of the reset button after 5 seconds. The array should be built and you can plug the hot spare back into the TR5UTP. Be mindful that doing this will wipe the data from the drives. Any time you make a new array, be sure to backup the data.


Each bay is sturdy since it is made with tough metal. There are screw mounts for traditional hard drive mounts. Each bay is a 3.5" hard drive bay. Using SSDs probably isn't the best use case with the TR5UTP as it is made for RAID level redundancy.


Installation of the drive was simple. Screw it in and go.
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Testing and Use

We mentioned that the included RAID management software for Windows didn't work so well. It was buggy, it has some language errors, and doesn't seem to be that polished. Do yourself a favor and setup the TR5UTP with the jumpers. Not only will it work without software, it takes the hassle out of setup. You have the option to have a number of different array setups. RAID10/RAID1/RAID0/RAID5/RAID3/CLONE/JBOD are the options are get. CLONE is basically RAID1 with more than two drives.

We tested the TR5UTP in a variety of cases. The first was using the included RocketRAID 622 card in an average Prescott Pentium 4 system. The system was using PCIe version 1 so the throughput should be limited to around 200MB/s. What we found was that it was limited to well below that even on a 5 drive RAID0 array. The second case involved the RR622 card installed in a Asus P6T based Core i7-920 system. The RR622 card was installed in one of the 8x slots. These are PCIe v2.0 and should provide enough bandwidth to saturate the drives. Sadly, the RR622 still underperformed.

We elected to use the internal to external SATA connection and that's where the TR5UTP performance started to shine. We well present four benchmarks. Each benchmark was done on Ubuntu 10.04 with the Drive Utility benchmark program. The benchmarks basically goes through the entire drive surface (or logical surface for a RAID array) and finds the transfer speeds. The drives used were 1TB WD RE3 enterprise level drives.


This benchmark shows what the fastest possible combination would be. It is a 5 drive RAID0 array. Don't ever run a RAID0 array if you value your data. What you can see is that the controller doesn't need to be Serial ATA 6GB/s to get to the maximum speed. Granted, if you used faster drives, you might hit the wall, but not for these enterprise drives. These drives would be typical for this type of setup. Average reads of 232MB/s and writes of 201MB/s are nothing to sneeze at, though. These are very fast speeds.


Next up is a 4 drive RAID5 array. This is probably the most typical setup. It allows for a single drive to be placed for a hot spare and gives you good speed and data security. Average reads of 210MB/s and write of 180MB/s are very good for a RAID5 array. The controller handles everything onboard the TR5UTP. There is no CPU offload.


We took the same RAID5 array and unplugged the hot spare and one of the drives in the array to make it degraded. This benchmarks shows what happens if a drive fails and you have no hot spare. Write performance drops to less than 60MB/s. This isn't too terrible, but it is a very large drop. Thankfully, most operations are reads which stay near 210MB/s.


If you had the hot spare online, this benchmark shows what happens when the array is degraded and is being rebuilt. The access times and transfer speeds increase as the controller attempts to reconcile the data. This is why the graph is all over the place. It still can keep up with a load, though. It is always good to have a hot spare in if you have a drive available.

After the long rebuild time, the TR5UTP happily went back to healthy RAID5 performance. It takes hours to build a large array. That's generally the case with multi-terabyte arrays. All in all, the TR5UTP handles the test cases without issue and performs well. It is good to see a product work as advertised.


The TR5UTP retails for about $340 (Newegg Link, Amazon Link). This is a pretty good price for a quality 5-bay enclosure. It is more expensive than the cheaper commodity type units that offer less features and offload the parity calculation to the CPU. The TR5UTP will give you fast transfer speeds along with the redundancy of whatever RAID level you want. The hot spare feature is icing on the cake. If you're out of internal drive bays and need more redundant storage, the TR5UTP is an excellent choice.

HardwareLogic would like to thank Sans Digital for making this review possible.


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