macOS, Reviews

Performance of the big in a small package: OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini

How efficient is a small, 2.5in mobile disk station with two disks inside? Very efficient, it turns out. Even more so if you can put those two small disks in one of four RAID modes. And if that external station also delivers on speed, you’re sold — or at least, I am. It’s flat, it’s fanless and there are two 2.5in hard disks or SSDs inside. It’s the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini, which is a mouthful for a small unit that isn’t much bigger than its two internal disks put next to each other. OWC Digital sent me an SSD version with 1TB of space on its SSDs in RAID 1 mode. This small-footprint OWC device offers USB 3.1 Gen 2 performance and can be bus-powered.

OWC Digital installs its top-of-the-line SSDs inside the SSD versions of the Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini, so you get the best they have on offer and enjoy the highest possible speed. OWC itself speaks of 800MB/sec throughput rates, but on my old system, I didn’t get much further than about 600MB/sec on a sunny day, which is still good enough for 4K editing. The HDD versions will offer up to 4TB of storage space, while the SSD versions will only stop at 2TB.

As with all OWC external disk drives, the Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini is made of aluminium with a nice and unobtrusive design. The unit’s back panel has a tiny On/Off switch, a RAID selector, a power in port and a USB-C port. Hooked up to my mid-2011 iMac, it worked splendidly with both the two SSDs and with two WD Scorpio drives I had still lying around. Exchanging these for the SSDs to see the difference in performance was easy, but dit does involve the use of a screwdriver.

The aluminium housing looks nice but isn’t as rugged as, for example, a CalDigit Tuff — OWC doesn’t market it as a rugged portable drive. The top has a smooth finish in the centre and that one is prone to scratches if you’re not a bit careful. Other than that, however, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini. For example, you can power it from its included power brick, but it will work just as well if you power it from its USB-C port — even with two hard disk drives inside.

It’s a fantastic, lightweight piece of equipment to take with you on a video shooting trip on the road. I wouldn’t recommend taking it with you for shooting the great outdoors, but for anything else — from a warm and cosy library to the streets of a city — it will do perfectly. You won’t even need a mains power socket if you have a USB-C Mac to plug it into.

It’s also an efficient small companion to use as a Time Machine drive. For those of us who don’t need or want Time Machine to run at its default interval, you can just plug in the OWC Mini when you feel like it, hit the Backup Now button and unplug it when Time Machine has finished.

In fact, if there’s anything I would want to change about the Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini, it would be the On/Off switch. It’s too small to operate comfortably and there’s a space enough to fit a bigger one.

My version costs a little under $600, while the most expensive one sets you back some $800, which still is very decent given it has two 1TB high-quality, Atomos certified Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs inside. You can put it in RAID 0, RAID 1, disk spanning and JBOD mode using a screwdriver to change the selector and push the tiny Set button.