Reviews, Video

CalDigit AV Pro 2 3TB of speed and silence

With its new storage product range, CalDigit takes a completely different approach from its competitors. The company seems to realise more than any other supplier that Apple’s portable solutions are poor in legacy connection capabilities. Hence, the upcoming T4 RAID system and the recently released AV Pro 2 single-disk solution will charge your laptop and adds a USB 3.0 hub to get more connectivity without adding extra devices.

My test unit was a 3TB AV Pro 2, which seems to be the most popular option — the AV Pro 2 can be had with up to a single 6TB disk or a 2TB SSD as well. The unit features both active and passive cooling systems that allow the hard drive to stay in nominal operating temperatures at all times. I might add it never sounds like it’s having trouble to keep it there, either, as the drive goes about its business quite silently. That’s partly because the ambient temperature-controlled smart fan runs only when the AV Pro 2 needs it most.

The AV Pro 2 is unique in that it comes with one removable drive module that looks exactly the same as the ones installed in the T4 RAID box and which are compatible with it. Replacement CalDigit drive modules come with a hardshell case to keep your backups and archival drives secure. You can, if you want to, install any third-party disk inside the module, but CalDigit’s Toshiba drives are certified by the company to be 100% working and compatible. By the way, I didn’t know Toshiba drives were that quiet and fast.

The AV Pro 2 has two ports — one USB-C 3.1 port and one Micro B USB 3.0 port. The latter is great for use with older laptops that don’t support USB-C yet. Speed-wise, there’s a difference. Using the AJA System Test, the USB-C connection gave me a 200MB/sec speed on both read and write tests. The USB-A connection still managed a decent 170MB/sec write speed and 195MB/sec read speed on my mid-2011 iMac.

If you connect the AV Pro 2 to a Thunderbolt 3 laptop, it will charge the Thunderbolt 3 laptop with up to 30W without connecting your factory AC adapter.

The AV Pro 2 storage hub includes two USB 3.0 Type-A ports that allow you to connect USB peripherals such as card readers — my personal favourite — other drives and Apple SuperDrives (!). The USB 3.0 ports also feature stand-alone fast charging at 1.5A (7.5W), even when not connected to a computer.

The verdict

After having used the AV Pro 2 for a week, it has struck me how fast this drive really is. I decided to try it out as a secondary offload drive, so I’m offloading with ShotPut Pro 6 to both the Thunderbolt 2 T4 RAID and the AV Pro 2 (via USB 3.0) and the two systems finish that process very close to one another — which speaks for the AV Pro 2’s speed.

In addition, I leave the AV Pro 2 on at all times and while the drive is located right behind my iMac’s 27” screen, I can’t hear it. In fact, it’s the only drive so far I can stand having so close to my ears without going nuts over the soft whine most of them produce.

Finally, I have an OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini connected to the AV Pro 2 (review coming soon) via the USB 3.0 hub and serving as a Time Machine drive and it works like a charm.

At the end of this week, I also started offloading my SD-cards via the AV Pro 2, which was then connected to a Touch Bar MacBook Pro 15”. Here, it’s easy to see how the replaceable drive module is another boon. If the drive fills up with 4K footage, you can just swap it for another, put it in its padded yellow storage box until you’re at your post-production workstation, where you can duplicate the drive to a T4 RAID, for example — or if you have a T4 set in JBOD mode, you can plug the drives that you took with you directly in the T4.

At the end of the week, the AV Pro 2 has proven its worth to me as a flexible, fast, silent, robust and well-designed piece of equipment that can be made an integral part of an efficient workflow if you have a T4 as well. It’s hard to see another vendor improve on that for a price of €339.99 for a 3TB version.