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ThunderBay Flex 8 - A Thunderbolt 3 Storage, Docking, and PCIe Expansion Box

We take a first look at the new ThunderBay Flex 8. Is it a dock? Is it a RAID? Is it a PCIe expansion box? The answer is yes to all three, down one Thunderbolt 3 cable. (Cat not included)

There are many, many Thunderbolt 3 expansion solutions out there on the market, docks, storage, PCIe expansion, card readers etc. The new ThunderBay Flex 8 from OWC spans all of those categories as they are all built-in to one unit!

So, when we got the opportunity to test one out, we were very pleased when there was a knock on the door from the delivery guy who handed the box over to me. This the first stop on its travels, but more about that later.

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 013 

OK, we know what you are thinking. Yes, it does look like a mini dark-style cheesegrater Mac Pro. So, we decided to put one side by side for you to judge the size! 

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 001 

The unit came populated with disks, so it is pretty heavy, but the majority of the weight is from those spinning platters.

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 002 

On the front is a lock that opens the door to the drives. There are eight bays, you can load up to 128 Terrabytes of storage. The bottom four can take 2.5 or 3.5 inch SATA drives, nice to see sturdy metal caddies compared to the plastic ones from other storage manufacturers.

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 003

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 004

The top four can take the same or (and here is where it gets flexible) U.2 NVMe SSDs (one bay PCIe 3.0 x4, three bays PCIe 3.0 x1), 2.5-inch SATA 6Gb/s SSDs, or 3.5-inch SATA 6Gb/s HDDs. Yes, we did copy that last bit from the website as we are yet to fully understand all the different configurations!

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 005 

Also on the front are two USB A 10 Gb/s ports - very handy for connecting peripherals without having to buy an adaptor. There's also a USB C 10 Gb/s connector that you can use for faster peripherals or just getting media off your mobile phone and/or charging it.

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 007 

Content creators are going to be especially pleased by the inclusion of SD 4.0 and CFexpress card readers right on the front. No scrambling for a card reader and having to plug it in, they're right there waiting.

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 008 

On the back, there is a big fan, which means it can rotate slower and therefore create less noise. 

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 006 

Then we have the expansion slots, more about those in a later article, but we are thinking that this box could end up being a video creator's dream. Imagine installing a Blackmagic card and then having card reader, storage and broadcast output all in one box connected to your MacBook Pro.

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 009 

Underneath that are two Thunderbolt 3 connections. This isn't shared storage so the second one is for daisy chaining. One of the ports can supply power to charge a MacBook Pro. Could you install a network card and make a fileserver? We will have to find out!

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Next to that is a Display Port 1.4 connector that will output 8K if your Mac is up to it. 

All that is left is the IEC power socket and the master on/off switch. Phew!

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 010 

First impressions? Well, the flexibility sends the mind racing with the possibilities. Having so much that you can change or upgrade means that the ThunderBay Flex 8 will certainly have a long life. We really like the idea of the combination of so many elements via one cable. A dock, RAID, PCIe card would have all required separate boxes and separate cables. This gets rid of the mess.

We are not going to be the only people testing out the unit. After we have used it attached to our iMac Pro for editing, it is going on a tour! The idea is to hand it over to other users who might use it in a different way: build a better RAID, add a PCIe card, use it as a DIT box etc. It should be fun.

OWC Thunderbay flex 8 012 

However, in the next article, we will plug it up and test it out! We have spotted that this demo machine has a few SSDs installed and the rest of the drive bays are populated with 4TB HDDs. What combinations and disk speeds will we get?

The ThunderBay Flex 8 starts at $1,299 for the enclosure, however you can get it pre-loaded with disks at varying capacities to suit your need. It also comes with SoftRAID, so you can build you RAID 0, 5 etc.

 

Full Disclosure: OWC is a sponsor of FCP.co, but we would review this box anyway as we think it is rather nice. We don't get to keep it though. No animals were hurt during the photography, although a bowl of Whiskas was involved as payment. 


Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

I was made a Freeman of Lichfield through The Worshipful Company of Smiths (established 1601). Though I haven't yet tried to herd a flock of sheep through the city centre!

Current Editing

great house giveaway 2020

2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. The shows have also been nominated for a 2021 BAFTA.

Tour de france 2020
Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.

 

BBC snooker the crucible

BBC's Snooker has played a big part in my life, I've been editing tournament coverage since 1997. I'm proud to be part of a very creative team that has pioneered many new ideas and workflows that are now industry standard in sports' production. This is currently an Adobe Premiere edit.

amazon kindle BF

Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

Plugin Design & Development

I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

I also take on custom work, whether it is adapting an existing plugin for a special use or designing new plugins for clients from scratch. Having a good knowledge of editing allows me to build-in flexibility and more importantly, usability.

FCP.co

Now in its 10th year and 4th redesign, running FCP.co has given me knowledge on how to run a large CMS- you are currently reading my bio from the database! Although it sounds corny, I am pretty well up on social media trends & techniques, especially in the video sector. The recent Covid restrictions has enabled live FCP.co shows online. This involves managing a Zoom Webinar through Restream.io to YouTube and Facebook. 

The Future

I'm always open to new ideas and opportunities, so please get in touch at editor (at) fcp.co. I've judged film competitions, presented workflow techniques to international audiences and come up with ideas for TV shows and software programs!

 

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