Akitio Palm RAID review: A fast portable drive that's way too expensive

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The Good The Akitio Palm RAID can rapidly read your data, is small, easily portable and its aluminum unibody feels tough. It also comes with an integrated Thunderbolt cable.

The Bad The drive is much more expensive than competing drives. It works only with Thunderbolt, and its write speed is slower than many of its peers.

The Bottom Line The Akitio Palm RAID is a speedy ultra-portable drive, but there are similar options that deliver more for less money.

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6.9 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Support 5

Editors' note: This review was updated on November 11, 2015 to reflect the drive's new warranty length, which has been increased from one year to two years.

Though compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the Akitio Palm RAID delivers the fastest sustained read speed I've seen: close to 500MB/s in my testing. It also feels like it could take some punishment and has an integrated Thunderbolt cable, making it convenient to use.

What's more, housing two solid-state drives (SSDs) on the inside, the drive can work in either a RAID 0 or a RAID 1 setup. (The former is optimized for top speed and maximum storage space at the expense of a higher risk of data loss, whereas the latter guards data against a single drive failure but results in less storage space and slower performance.)

But all that goodness comes at a price. At the current cost of nearly $600 (£389 or AU $827, converted from its US price) for 512GB of storage space, the Palm RAID is the most expensive portable drive on the market in terms of cost per gigabyte. And while the drive's read performance is unmatched, its write speed is far from the best. The included two-year warranty is also short for a drive of its class.

That said, if you really need a supercompact and easily portable storage device that's also way fast, the Palm RAID is worth the investment. Just remember, though: you'll need a computer that supports the Thunderbolt connection. Alternatively, another equally fast but non-Thunderbolt option is the LaCie Rugged All-Terrain , which is bulkier (though still compact enough to slip in your pocket), has similar performance, costs about $170 less (for the same capacity), and also works with USB.

For more mobile storage options that might fit your needs and budget better, check out this list of top drives on the market.

The Palm RAID has an integreted Thunderbolt cable.

Dong Ngo/CNET

Design and features

The Palm RAID is an ultracompact storage solution that has support for RAID configurations. If you've no idea what RAID is don't worry, I'll explain it below.

So just how small is this drive exactly?

Pretty darn small. Measuring 4.72 by 3.11 by 0.55 inches (12 by 7.9 by 1.4cm), the Palm RAID is the most compact storage device I've seen that houses two internal drives. In fact, the drive is slightly smaller than a typical portable drive, such as the Seagate Backup Plus or WD My Passport. It's also awfully light, weighing less than 7 ounces (20g).

What type of storage does it use?

The Palm RAID houses two 256GB mSATA solid-state drives (SSDs). mSATA is a much smaller design than the regular 2.5-inch design of most drives and is often used in ultraportable laptops or tablets. This is the reason how the drive remains compact despite having two internal drives.

So what's "RAID" anyway?

RAID stands for "redundant array of independent disks." Basically it combines multiple disks (drives) into a single volume to improve performance, achieve data redundancy, or both. You need at least two drives to create a RAID array, and the more drives you have, the more RAID configurations you can create.

Which RAID configurations does the Palm RAID support?

The Palm RAID's two internal mSATA drives can be combined together into one single volume in a RAID 0 (also known as a stripe set or striped volume) or RAID 1 (also called mirror.)

RAID 0 vs. RAID 1

In a RAID 0 configuration, which is the default setting of the Palm RAID, data is split and spread between the internal drives equally to cut down the amount of time needed for both writing and reading of the data, hence the improvement in performance. The combined volume also has the total storage space of both of the drives involved, which in the case of the Palm RAID, is 512GB. Unfortunately, if one of the drives fails, data on drives drives is lost.

In a RAID 1, data is mirrored from one of the two internal drives to the other. In other words, data is written twice, for redundancy, resulting in slower performance. Not only that, the RAID volume has only the capacity of just one of the drives being used; 256GB in the case of the Palm RAID. However, the trade-off is that your data is safe in case one of the drives fails.

I tend to break things easily. Can I still use the Palm RAID?

I would always recommend taking good care of your storage devices, but yes, on its exterior, the Palm RAID has an all aluminum uni-body, making it feel solid and tough. While Akitio doesn't specify the level of its toughness, the drive feels as if it can handle impacts and pressure. In fact, during our testing, I dropped it a few times on a carpeted floor from about 6 feet, and there were no noticeable repercussions. The internal SSDs themselves are also less susceptible to shocks and drops, thanks to the fact that they have no moving parts.

Is it water-resistant?

No. The Palm RAID is not water-resistant. It has little openings that will allow water and even dust to enter and make contact with its internal drives and circuit board.

Do I need a separate Thunderbolt cable to use it?

No. The Palm RAID has an integrated Thunderbolt cable that tucks away around its side. This kind of convenient built-in cable design has been getting more and more popular, starting with the LaCie Rugged All-Terrain, and has since been repeated with others, such as the Sony HDD HB or the G-Drive EV ATC. Note that the drive has no other Thunderbolt port on its body, so that means that in a daisy-chain setup -- a Thunderbolt feature that allows as many as six devices to be plugged together to share one port from the host computer -- it can only be used as the last device in the chain.

Akitio Palm RAID's specs

Drive type Bus-powered portable hard drive
Connector options Thunderbolt
Available capacities 512GB
Internal drive 02 mSATA 256GB solid-state drives
Dimensions 4.72 x 3.11 x 0.55-inch (12 x 7.9 x 1.4 cm)
Weight 7 ounces (20g)
RAID support RAID 0 and RAID 1
OSes supported Windows 7 or later; Mac OS 10.7 or later
Warranty Two years

My computer doesn't have a Thunderbolt port. Can I still use the Palm RAID drive?

No. The Palm RAID works only with computers that have a Thunderbolt port.

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