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The Promise Pegasus R4 Thunderbolt RAID user review

Pegasus R4 Review

There has been a lot of debate on our Forum about the best RAIDs, configuration, speed, brands and so on. So it was very positive when we came across this excellent concise user review of the Promise Pegasus R4.

We posted Andrew Gormley's FCPX training class details yesterday, but he also does a few equipment reviews. He very kindly gave us permission to share his experience of the Promise Pegasus R4 thunderbolt RAID.

 

The Promise Pegaus R4

If I'm not mistaken, the Promise Pegasus R4 and R6 were the first commercially available Thunderbolt drives and show stealers at NAB 2011. That doesn't come as much of a shock when you consider that most editors were still using bus technologies that were nearing a decade old at the time. Thunderbolt made some hefty claims about speed and expandability and has followed through on them nicely if not a bit slower than expected.

pegasus1 resized

 

The Design

Not much to say here that you couldn't already glean from the pictures. The Pegasus R4 is a piece of hardware you'll want to display proudly alongside your other gear. This is good news because the furthest you can position it from your computer is six feet, the length of Apple's Thunderbolt cable, which you'll need to fork over an extra fifty bucks to obtain. At 15 pounds and dimensions of 7.3x7.7x9.9 inches, it gladly declares "You can move me, but I'm not portable!" To me, that's a great thing and one of the few redeeming qualities of my exisiting Drobo.

(Editor note, some longer 3rd party Thunderbolt cables have hit the market)

The front of the R4 doubles as a laser light show with exactly 11 LEDs glowing/blinking brightly when all systems are nominal. Each of the drives are easily accessed by pressing with a small amount of force on a latch release button and sliding them straight out. It's reassuring to know that they can't be removed accidentally with an errant bump or nudge.

The back couldn't be simpler: two Thunderbolt ports, a serial port for God knows what (firmware updates?), the power connector, and two fans. Some people might be critical of the fact that there aren't more connections, but once you've used Thunderbolt you won't even want to acknowledge there are other ways to connect peripherals.

Like I said earlier. The R4 is a a great looking device and something you'll be proud to have sitting on your desk. It definitely looks like a Mac peripheral with a fit and finish similar to, but not the same as, recent MacBook Pros and iMacs.

 

Software and Features and Whatnots 

The R4 is a rarity in that I actually read the manual before turning it on. I wanted to make sure there wasn't any kind of prep work on the OS side before getting started. I'm glad I did my reading, because in doing so I came across this little gem, straight out of the documentation:

The [data protection] service can take up to 10 hours, if no other activities are running on the Pegasus subsystem. But it can take significantly longer if other activities are running simultaneously.

pegasus5 resized

  

The translation here, as I understood it, is: "When you first plug in your R4, you may take 10 hours to gaze longingly at it, but not use it until it's had the proper amount of time to gain its composure."

Now I'm not saying that I sat there staring at the clock while this was happening, but it took about 9 hours, 24 minutes, and 27 seconds for this initializing phase to complete. Setting lower expectations and then coming in under the mark is certainly one way to get in someone's good graces.

You can actually start tossing files on it right away as it's getting the data protection services up and running, but it won't be a great indicator of performance and pretty much a waste of your time in the event you decide to change RAID configurations after the fact. Speaking of which, this thing supports a crazy amount of RAID modes: 0, 1, 5, 50, 6, 60, and 10. It arrives in RAID 5 mode, which slices off 25% of your storage space for protection. In the 4TB model I use, I have 3TB of usable space but if one drive completely fails, I won't lose any of my data. Before I added my files I switched to a few different RAID modes and they're fully setup within a matter of minutes, though I doubt many people will even bother with this.

pegasus6 resized

 

On a Mac, you'll be managing your R4 from the Promise Utility, a native application (read: no Adobe AIR) that gives you the information you need in an upfront and pleasing manner and then a whole hell of a lot more if you require it. It features a wizard interface that helps you configure your device the first time and then sends you on your way.

There's also a whole host of tools you can run instantly or schedule. We're talking about preventive maintenance tasks like Media Patrol which "checks the magnetic media on each disk drive" and Redundancy Check "that ensures all data matches exactly." Once I spend a little more time reading about the benefits of each, I'll likely begin flipping them on one by one.

 

Yeah yeah, but how does it perform?

I'm happy to report that the R4 is the fastest drive array I've ever used. My test machine is a late 2011 MacBook Pro with a 2.5Ghz i7, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB factory SSD. The last spec is important because I tested the speed of the R4 against it as well as a USB2 enclosure.

As far as testing the actual device goes, I used the free BlackMagic Disk Speed Test app from the Mac App Store and kept the R4 in its default RAID 5 mode, since that's how most folks will likely experience it. BlackMagic's app allows you to very simply perform a stress test using 1-5GB files. All of these test results are using that 1GB test file, but I saw the same or very similar results from the larger files. I'll start with the internal SSD and we can use that as a baseline:

SSD-DiskSpeedTest

 

Those are very respectable read and write speeds, in the range of what you'd expect an SSD to produce for the model. With larger files there's a slightly lower read speed, but nothing you'd notice in day-to-day use. Next up, let's check out how an everyday USB2 enclosure (with a 7200rpm 3.5" drive) fares:

USB2-DiskSpeedTest

 

Not so hot, yet this is pretty much what we've been dealing with for the past several years. Now, the moment you've been waiting for, the speed results for the R4:

Pegasus-DiskSpeedTest

 

My jaw dropped when I saw these numbers. I honestly thought there was a problem with the speed test, but as it turns out Thunderbolt's theoretical ceiling is 10Gbps versus an SSD's 6Gbps, so these numbers are right on the money.

For real world video tasks like rendering or compression, specifying the R4 as your target or scratch drive provides more than an appreciable performance boost, it's like editing on a machine from the future! Projects open and save quicker, importing directly from an SD card is blazing fast and I could only assume that hooking the BlackMagic Cinema Camera directly into the R4 would create a singularity into which all things are absorbed. A glorious, 2.5k singularity.

 

Let's wrap

Without hyperbole, the Promise Pegasus R4 is the best external enclosure I've ever used and has ruined me for all other devices of its ilk. Unlike other reviews, I'm not going to tell you it's expensive because this is a case where you absolutely get what you pay for and after having some pretty terrible experiences with "comparable" hardware, I would gladly pay a premium for an excellent experience in a device that just works while making my job a bit easier.

©Andrew Gormley 2012/13

 

As a footnote to this article, it is no secret that Active Storage shuttered their storage business recently. Sad news, but it is a tough market out there with storage becoming cheaper and faster everyday as you can see from the above article.

Promise are offering a time limited trade in deal for anybody in the US who owns Active Storage mRAID products.

Editor

 

 


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.

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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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