Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 Storage Array Review

If your drive goes south, without backup storage and some type of backup strategy, you could be in a world of hurt.  Everyone here at Gear Diary knows what that means… We’ve had a couple of server issues over the past few years that have caused all of us some major pain.

Enter the Elite-AL Pro Qz2.  It’s a RAID drive system and backup device that will accommodate up to 8TB (yes… that’s 8 TERABYTES) of data in a single drive array. Let’s take a look and see how it does with both Windows and Mac systems.

P1010684
The Elite-AL Pro Qz2 RAID array (right)

If there’s one thing that I know right now, its storage.  See the picture above?  Yeah… the one with the Elite-AL Pro Qx2 in it… That’s a 250GB USB drive right next to it, and my 1TB MyBook World Edition NAS next to it.  I’ve got 1.25TB of storage in the house; and if I wanted or needed, I could have it all hanging off of my home network, as  my MyBook World Edition NAS has a USB expansion port on it, meaning I can take ANY USB drive, plug it into the MBWE’s USB port, and expand the available storage by the size of that USB drive, including the Elite-AL Pro Qx2, for that matter.  THAT’S pretty sweet.

But let’s talk about just the Qx2 right now (and not what additional functionality it can have when married to another device) and see what TB goodness it has to offer!

What’s kinda cool about the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2, is that while OWC offers the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 in models up to 8TB, you can put your own 3.5″ SATA drives into this housing and create your own drive configuration, though I don’t think its offered without the drives (I couldn’t find a price for JUST the housing).  The only thing you’re going to have to be aware of is that in a RAID array, the drive will only take the form/size of the smallest drive in the system.  You can mix and match just about any size of SATA drive you want, but if you configure the housing for drive mirroring, its only going to be as big as the smallest drive, no matter how big the other drive(s) are.

The model that I was sent to review was the 2.0TB configuration.  The unboxing pictures can be seen below. Out of the box, the device seems very simplistic.

P1010669
The Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 with the cover off, and the contents of the box.

However, here are the specs on the device itself:

  • eSATA,
  • FireWire 800
  • USB 2.0 1U
  • 4-Bay SATA Desktop RAID Solution with selectable RAID 0,1,5,10 Hardware RAID Mode,
  • NRAID Span Options.
  • Oxford 936 chipset,
  • 3 Year Warranty
P1010671
The four 500GB drives I was sent to use with the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2.

Putting the device together was pretty easy.  All you have to do is pull the drives out of the carrier they come in,

P1010670
A close-up of the empty Qx2 and it’s drive slots.

and slide them into each of the slots that the housing has.  Each drive is encased in a drive housing, and its very easy to pull drives in and out.  In fact, each drive is hot-swappable, so you don’t have to bring the PC or the device itself down to plug in a new drive.  This is an easy pull/push once you get a new drive in its housing.

P1010675
All 4 drives installed in the Qx2’s housing.  We’re ready to rock…

The drives come preformatted as HSF+, and also contain over 2GB of Mac software for your perusal.  The big package on the drives are SpeedTools Utilities (OEM version…).  There’s a big difference between the OEM and the retail version. The OEM version is VERY limited, and clicking the Updates button below compares your OEM version with the latest, released OEM version. If it finds an update, it will allow you to download the OEM update for free.

However, if you want full functionality, you’ll need to purchase the full version, and that’ll cost you $89.99 (though you get free updates, forever). However, that will add nearly another $100 to the total cost of ownership for this device. If you have an Intel based Mac and run Windows in a Boot Camp partition, you will likely want to split this baby is some way so you can use it in both OSX and Windows (it makes an AWESOME TimeMachine backup device).

screen-capture-1
The SpeedTools Utilities (OEM version) launch pad. Don’t expect full functionality from ANY of these…

The Disk Defrag tool was of interest to me, as I have never defragged any of my Macs. The tool did an OK job, though it tended to start and stop…a lot. It also ended up skipping over a couple-three hundred files/forks without even a small hint as to why.

screen-capture
This Mac defrag app is much like Windows Defrag (aka Diskeeper Lite). It does a very basic job, but doesn’t completely defrag the drive.

 

OWC_NovaStor1
This was a real shock.  I got this dialog when I installed the app for the first time.

NovaBACKUP is the Windows backup tool that comes with the drive array, and IT is $49.99 ($59.99 if you want a CD).  Nice… My TOC (total cost of ownership) just went up another $50 bucks…

OWC_NovaStor2
The one (and ONLY one registered app that came with this device would NOT unlock or function in ANY way.

This was the final nail in the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2’s coffin for me. I went over this with tech support a couple of different times, and they either didn’t understand my problem, or could not adequately resolve it.  This problem was pretty simple.  For them not to be able to solve it on the first try (let alone on the second or third e-mail from me which included screen shots and a very detailed description of what happened was just incomprehensible to me.

Cost: The OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 comes in 7 different configurations ranging in price from $679.99 to $1899.99:

2TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 (500GB x 4 w/64MB cache) & 3 year warranty – $679.99
3TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 (750GB x 4 w/128MB cache) & 3 year warranty – $849.99
4TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 (1TB x 4 w/128MB cache) & 3 year warranty – $979.99
6TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 (1.5TB x 4 w/128MB cache) & 3 year warranty – $1149.99
8TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 (2TB x 4 w/128MB cache) & 3 year warranty – $1899.99

Enterprise Class 2TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 (500GB x 4 w/64MB cache) & 5 year warranty – $799.99
Enterprise Class 4TB Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 (1TB x 4 w/128MB cache) & 5 year warranty – $1149.99

They can be purchased here.

What I Liked: The array does offer a number of different RAID configurations to suite your storage needs.  The cabinet is kinda cool looking and performance of the device is clearly dependent on the drives in it.

What Needs Improvement: A lot, though the device works as designed and as its advertised.

The 4 500GB drives that OWC shipped to me performed well, though the device does have to spin up all 4 drives before it will do ANYTHING; but in a RAID solution, that’s not a big surprise. Depending on the type of drives you have, this could take a little bit to do.

However, I think the device is incredibly overpriced.  There is NO way I’d purchase this for myself, when a single 1TB drive can be purchased for as little as $67 bucks shipped (a recent online deal a friend of mine told me about)  If that’s the case, and I can get 4TB of storage, shipped for under $300.

While that doesn’t get me a RAID array, it IS 4TB of drive space that I can hang off of a USB hub.  I also think that the fact that a device of this type that’s this expensive should be configured as a network device, like my MyBook World Edition NAS.

The device MIGHT be worth it IF and ONLY if all of the software that came with the device were registered copies.  As it stands, its all trialware or shareware, requiring extra registration fees to get them working.  Some of the apps don’t even have full functionality, either.  Finding that out was very, VERY disappointing.

The fact that I could not get the Windows version of Nova Backup to work AT ALL, despite the numerous e-mails I traded with OWC’s/MacSale’s technical support people was simply ridiculous.  A program’s registration code should NOT be expired out of the box…and when I send you multiple messages AND a screen shot of the error message and you tell me to try it again, you’re just confirming that your product is overpriced and of little to no ECONOMIC value, despite the benefit it might bring.

OWC offered me my review unit at a 30% editorial discount, bringing the price down to $475.99.  At that price, its STILL too expensive for only a 2TB solution, despite the RAID capabilities. Maybe I’m missing the point, but I really don’t think so.…

Bottom line – Its good, but not great; and definitely NOT worth the cost, in my humble opinion.  The device is cool and performed well, but at nearly $700 bucks (for the version I was shipped and will be shipping back shortly), before tax and shipping, and at only 2TB, I really can’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t Bill Gates. It’s just too expensive, when similar devices (though, in all fairness, not exactly the same) can be purchased for nearly 1/3 the price.