Sabrent Thunderbolt 3 16TB Docking Station: Storage First, Dock Second

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Sabrent turned heads when it introduced a Thunderbolt 3 Docking station that got here filled with 16TB of NVMe M.2 SSD storage together with a number of different ports in a compact bundle. After testing and teardown, I’m happy to report it’s a reasonably superior and value-rich complete bundle, however I want it was higher capable of sink warmth.

Introduced in early March, the Sabrent DS-SKRT-D16TB Thunderbolt 3 Twin NVMe SSD Docking Station — which for the sake of simplicity we’ll simply be referring to because the Docking Station — was instantly attention-grabbing to me due to the large quantity of SSD storage it promised in addition to a wealth of I/O, regardless of the eye-watering $2,900 asking value.

Whereas it is available in 4 capability choices, the 16TB possibility was of curiosity as a result of rarity of that a lot SSD capability (which brings as much as a promised 1,500 MB/s switch speeds) in a single enclosure. The Docking Station achieves this by pairing two 8TB NVMe SSDs collectively within the enclosure and because of this, out of the field, my laptop acknowledged it as two separate storage gadgets, not one.

Along with that unbelievable quantity of high-speed storage, the Docking Station has two Thunderbolt 3 ports with as much as 40Gbps of bandwidth, two USB 3.2 Sort-A ports, and one USB 3.2 Sort-C port which is able to as much as 10Gbps. It additionally has a USB 3.0 Sort-A port that’s good for as much as 5Gbps and a gigabit ethernet port.

Design and Construct High quality

Even earlier than I bought the field open, I used to be forming opinions: this whole system is surprisingly heavy at 4.7 kilos. That weight is damaged up between the Docking Station itself and its big energy brick. This beefy brick has about the identical footprint and weighs about the identical because the Docking Station itself, so maintain that in thoughts: you’re going to need to discover a place to cover this factor.

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station

The Docking Station feels extraordinarily nicely made. It has a completely brushed aluminum exterior that feels sturdy and substantial and one factor that may not have been apparent from the corporate’s product images is that it doesn’t have any tender of energetic cooling system. I’m usually a fan of RAID arrays and all the ones I’ve ever owned have some form of fan to assist maintain the system cool because it writes and accesses knowledge. Even different SSD choices will nonetheless are inclined to have some form of energetic cooling, and that features the OWC miniSTACK STX which serves an identical perform to the Sabrent Docking Station.

The choice to maintain the Docking Station completely closed off and with out energetic cooling signifies that once I’m at my desk and pairing it with the Mac Studio, my workplace is lifeless silent. After years of getting each a fan in my laptop and my RAID array, there’s something to be mentioned concerning the bliss of that form of silence. However the Mac Studio does have a fan, even when I can’t hear it, and the shortage of energetic cooling within the Docking Station means it will get extremely popular to the contact when it’s working onerous to put in writing or entry knowledge, however even simply as a degree in my Thunderbolt daisy chain, it’ll warmth up quick after I’ve turned on my laptop and keep very toasty all day.

Rear of the Sabrent Docking Station

One final word: Whereas Sabrent for some purpose says that full operability of the Docking Station is barely supported on Intel-based Macs, it labored instantly in a plug-and-play scenario with a Mac Studio, so I don’t suppose there’s something for M1 customers to fret about.

On the Inside

As a result of it seems to be a completely sealed system, I had considerations that the Docking Station was constructed like an Apple product: sealed and unable to be upgraded after buy. However once I bought it in my arms, I observed it had some very apparent screws on the again that may enable me to take it aside.

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station

After I eliminated the 4 Philips head screws and two hex screws, the rear plate got here off and gave me a glimpse on the inside.

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station

With that plate eliminated, the inside of the Docking Station simply slips out of the outer aluminum shell.

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station

It’s right here that we will see the warmth sink which is involved with the outer shell of the Docking Station when it’s totally assembled. This sheet of aluminum is ridged (for extra floor space) and held in place by two screws on both facet. As soon as these had been out, I used to be capable of pry the warmth sink off which revealed that it was sitting proper on prime of the 2 SSDs, between that are two thermal pads, one for every SSD.

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station

What this view additionally reveals is that the 2 SSDs look like simply detachable and, due to this fact, theoretically swappable. So whereas the ports can’t be upgraded, at the least the storage can. Sabrent makes quite a lot of SSDs that might theoretically be swapped out and in of right here, and that isn’t even together with SSDs from different producers.

Within the images above, you possibly can see how tightly all of the elements are packed into the Docking Station, which suggests there’s little or no air in there to start with and it principally doesn’t flow into because the whole system is tightly closed. So whereas there’s a thermal pad and a warmth sink in there, that’s the one approach the Docking Station can cool itself and explains why the floor of the system will get so heat.

I think about that if the Docking Station used that very same ridged design someplace on the outside, it might have the ability to sink warmth much more effectively (G-Tech and LaCie have each used a design like this prior to now) and wouldn’t get so heat to the contact.

Depraved Quick, Depraved Sizzling

As you very nicely may anticipate, the Sabrent Docking Station gives some extraordinarily quick switch speeds to both of the 8TB SSDs and no matter how a lot knowledge is saved on them. I examined the pace of the SSDs once they had been empty and once more once they had been loaded greater than three-quarters full of information and the pace exams returned the identical outcomes.

In testing, the included SSDs attain round 1,200 MB/s write speeds and over 1,460 MB/s learn speeds. Peak efficiency was above each, but it surely appeared to settle in round these marks.

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station
Sabrent Docking Station Single 8TB SSD Efficiency

Now should you had been considering like I used to be, maybe you had been questioning if we might go even additional past? Because the enclosure comprises two similar 8TB drives, what would cease us from making a RAID 0 array?

Nothing is stopping us, and so I did:

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station
Sabrent Docking Station 16TB RAID 0 SSD Efficiency

In RAID 0, the Docking Station gave me a blistering common of 1,818 MB/s write speeds and a pair of,471.5 MB/s learn speeds — that’s quick sufficient for something the common photographer or videographer can at present throw at it. These outcomes present that the Sabrent might function rather well as a working drive for photograph and video editors.

Sadly, I can’t advocate it on Apple computer systems. After any quantity of information is placed on the RAID 0 array, pace efficiency plummets:

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station
Sabrent Docking Station 16TB RAID 0 SSD Efficiency after any quantity of information is written

Moreover, the RAID 0 configuration launched much more warmth. Throughout a check knowledge switch the place I attempted to place about 13 TB onto it, the enclosure itself bought too sizzling to comfortably contact and the switch froze after lower than 1 / 4 of the information had been written. I spoke to 1 contact at Sabrent who says he runs his in a RAID 0 configuration on his Home windows machine with no points, so this may simply be a Mac downside. Since I don’t have a PC, I used to be unable to confirm. Sabrent’s contact for Apple computer systems didn’t reply to requests for remark.

After switching it again to 2 separate 8TB drives, I’ve had no points with warmth and was capable of switch that 13 TB of information with out points. The enclosure did get fairly heat throughout that switch, however by no means too sizzling to comfortably contact and never practically as sizzling because it did within the RAID 0 configuration, gratefully.

Is it a Dock or Exterior Storage?

A part of what I initially preferred concerning the Docking Station once I first noticed it was what number of ports it supplied. After utilizing it, I discovered that I principally don’t want very lots of them.

Whereas it’s good to have the USB ports and SD card reader on the entrance, I have already got these on my Mac and most Desktop PCs may have them too. The opposite ports on the again of the Docking Station I principally don’t use as a result of they’re too tough to entry shortly.

I feel the perfect buyer for the Docking Station is a laptop computer consumer who desires the good thing about the 96-watt Thunderbolt 3 Energy Supply and might make use of all of the I/O for desktop peripherals in order that the laptop computer will be inserted into and simply faraway from that desktop association all from one cable. It will get much more helpful if you wish to use wired web together with your laptop computer because the Docking Station has an ethernet port.

I want it had yet another Thunderbolt port, perhaps swap out that USB 3.0 enter on the again for one or two extra USB-C 3.2 ports, and maybe the selection between HDMI or DisplayPort would have additionally been useful. After all, Thunderbolt 4 would even have been nice, however Sabrent beforehand defined to us that it simply couldn’t supply these elements proper now. That is fairly comprehensible given the state of the worldwide provide chain.

So far as a dock is anxious, I might say it’s dock, not an excellent dock. I don’t suppose it has sufficient I/O in the correct configurations to qualify as an excellent dock, so I don’t suppose it’s unfair to say the Sabrent Docking Station is storage first, dock second.

SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 16TB NVMe SSD Docking Station

In that very same prepare of thought, for individuals who aren’t bringing a laptop computer to and from a desk day by day, the Docking Station finally ends up turning into largely an exterior storage system. Nonetheless, this doesn’t trouble me. The worth proposition of 16TB of storage in a really small Thunderbolt enclosure nonetheless resonates with me.

On the time of publication, 8TB was the utmost capability for an M.2 SSD and so they aren’t low cost. Sabrent, which was out of inventory after we revealed, asks $1,300. Corsair asks $1,280, and PNY desires $1,130. All three will ceaselessly be costlier while you truly go to purchase them on account of low provide and excessive demand.

Sabrent is barely asking $2,900 for the Docking Station, and if we subtract what it’s asking for its SSDs from the equation, we’re left with a $300 enclosure that performs host to that form of SSD storage and brings 11 ports to the get together. That’s not a foul deal in any respect.

It was identified in feedback to the announcement of the Sabrent Docking Station that it gave the impression to be similar to the SIIG Thunderbolt 3 Dock, and I’ve to agree: they give the impression of being very related. That mentioned, SIIG is asking $500 for an empty enclosure, the identical quantity Sabrent expenses for it together with 2TB of SSD storage. Since SIIG is asking extra for the {hardware} than Sabrent is, I’m unsure which of those two docks got here first, and if Sabrent simply borrowed this enclosure design, why SIIG expenses extra for it.

One Half Dock, One Half Storage, All Worth

16TB of SSD storage shouldn’t be low cost, and Sabrent’s capability to ship it in a compact bundle with 11 completely different ports for $2,900 is pricey, however not as a result of it isn’t price it. Only a few individuals want this sort of quick storage however those that do will actually like what the Sabrent Docking Station affords. As talked about, I feel editors who primarily use a laptop computer will get essentially the most worth out of what Sabrent has created right here.

The one factor that worries me is how sizzling the enclosure can get, because the Docking Station doesn’t appear to have very best cooling for the quantity of warmth that’s generated by the twin M.2 SSDs. It’s additionally unlucky that RAID 0 doesn’t appear to work proper on Mac gadgets.

Are There Options?

16TB of SSD storage is fairly distinctive, however there are different merchandise which have related worth propositions if we have a look at simply the enclosure itself. The OWB miniStack STX affords 4 Thunderbolt 4 ports along with a common HDD/SSD bay and NVMe.M.2 SSD slot in a kind issue that matches neatly underneath a Mac mini. The Trebleet Mac mini Thunderbolt 3 dock feels extra tailor-made to photographers than any on this listing together with the Sabrent and affords an SD and CFexpress reader as well as USB ports on the entrance together with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for $300, however doesn’t embody an SSD, although it does assist one. Satechi affords a number of Thunderbolt docks, however the one one that features an SSD doesn’t assist Thunderbolt. That mentioned, it is rather inexpensive at $100 because it doesn’t embody the SSD.

Ought to You Purchase It?

Sure, should you want a considerable amount of quick storage. Most aren’t going to want the 16TB, however most will definitely need it.

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