Best Thunderbolt 2 RAID systems for Mac

Looking for balls to the wall storage performance for the Mac? Thunderbolt 2 and RAID is the way to go.

If you want the fastest possible data storage for your Macintosh, getting a Thunderbolt 2 system is the way to go (assuming your Mac has Thunderbolt 2, of course). Getting a RAID — a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks — will let you get the best performance and a measure of security, since you'll be able to easily recover and keep working in the event of a catastrophic failure. Here are our picks for the very best you can get for the Mac.

1. 2big Thunderbolt 2

LaCie's 2big Thunderbolt 2 features dual Thunderbolt 2 ports and USB 3.0, if you prefer — but why would you bother if you have the choice? Inside the device are two 7200 RPM hard disk drives, and they're hot-swappable. So if one fails, you can replace it. Because there are only two mechanism inside, you're limited to RAID Level 0 (striped), which gives you a performance boost, or RAID Level 1 (mirrored), which gives you redundancy. It's available in 6, 8 or 12 TB capacities.

2. ThunderBay 4 mini

Other World Computing's ThunderBay 4 mini is an interesting take on the RAID concept, because it sports four 2.5-inch drive bays. It's designed for SSDs. That means you don't get the enormous capacity of other drives in this lineup, but the ThunderBay 4 makes up for it by taking up minimal desk space and offering blistering performance. It's also very quiet. You can configure it with 2.5-inch hard drives too, but unless you really need a tiny four-drive RAID, I think you'd be better off with SSDs. The 500 GB version (equipped with four 120 GB SSDs) starts at $749, with SSD configurations up to 4 TB and hard drive configurations up to 8 TB.

3. T4

CalDigit's T4 is a Thunderbolt 2 RAID whose industrial design matches the MacBook Pro and the pre-2013 Mac Pro — it's clad in aluminum, with polished metal accents. Configurable in RAID 0, 1, and 5, the T4 sports dual Thunderbolt 2 ports on its back. Easy to use software lets you get up and running with the T4 in just a few moments. (There's no hardware RAID controller, though.) The drive trays are lockable, in case you're worried about people wandering off with your storage. CalDigit offers the T4 in configurations from 4 TB to 20 TB, depending on how much you want to spend. CalDigit also backs the drive with a 5-year warranty.

4. 5big Thunderbolt 2

The 2big's big brother, the 5big, sports five hot-swappable drive bays instead. This enables this drive to perform RAID Level 5 and 6, offering improved data security. LaCie ships the drive with 7200 RPM disks. Because there are five drives, you can actually set up the 5big in two separate RAID configurations (a two-drive and a three-drive RAID, for example), if you have multiple projects to work on. A hardware RAID controller, dual Thunderbolt 2 connections and a Neil Poulson-designed chassis round out the offering. It's available in 10, 20 and 30 TB capacities.

5. G-SPEED Studio XL

Western Digital subsidiary HGST offers G-Technology-branded products to pro Mac users, and their G-SPEED Studio XL is a no-compromises eight-bay system with hardware RAID controller. It's aimed at video editors and other environments that demand high speed and maximum capacity storage. Configurable in RAID 0, 1, 5, 60, 10, 50, and 60 arrays; it can handle multi-stream compressed 4K workflows with transfer rates of up to 1350 megabytes per second, with up to 64 TB of storage capacity pre-configured.

6. Pegasus2 R8

The earliest Thunderbolt 2 RAID system out of the gate that I remember was Promise's Pegasus 2, and it's an impressive system indeed. It's an eight-bay system configurable in RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, and 60 arrays. It comes pre-configured in 24 TB (eight 3TB drive) or 32 TB (eight 4 TB drive) systems. The matte black chassis complements the Mac Pro, too.

7. Your RAID?

Did I leave your Thunderbolt 2 RAID off the list, or are there others you're curious about? Let me know in the comments.