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There's no doubt that this is a fantastic drive enclosure, but the 2 RAID + 3 indepedent bay design may not suit your requirements. If you're in the market for these exact features, then you're in luck!
If you just need something in which to cram as many hard drives as possible, TerraMaster has a solution for you: the D5-300C, with room for five full size hard disks and a ridiculously fast USB-C interface, for a not unreasonable price of around $230.
If you read my F2-220 NAS review from January 2017, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of TerraMaster. The D5-300C however, is not a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device. It’s simply a USB-equipped enclosure in which to place multiple hard drives – two of which can be linked together in RAID.
TerraMaster D5-300C Features
No drives are included, which means the D5-300C is firmly on the expensive side, especially when you consider that it has no processor, nor can it be connected to your network. What you do get however, is 5Gbps USB-C, support for up to five 10TB HDDs or SSDs, and a unique 2 + 3 RAID system.
The first two drives bays support RAID 0 (high speed) or RAID 1 (redundant). The other three bays do not support raid, so each drive installed in these will show up on your computer as individual drives.
The RAID mode for bays one and two can be easily changed by using a small screwdriver on the back of the device. RAID is optional, if you’d like to access these drive independently, you can do so.
While this unusual RAID configuration may not be for everyone, it’s an innovative concept. A mixture of RAID and individual drive caddies that does work well if you don’t need massive capacity in a single volume, or redundancy.
The USB-C connectivity is incredible. This massive 5Gbps support means you can read or write to every drive at the same time, with no loss of performance. You can connect to your mobile device, and have the drives appear like several giant memory sticks. USB-C ‘just works’, and I look forward to the day when every device and accessory uses the same port.
If you’re unsure of what exactly USB-C is, then make sure you read out guide to USB Type-C.
The D5-300C is beautifully designed. Like the other models in the series, its aluminium chassis and dual rear fans ensure the precious data is kept safe from overheating. Not only does this case serve a practical purpose, but it also looks very cool — almost Apple like. This enclosure would be right at home underneath an Apple iMac or Mac mini.
Hard drives are installed into quick release caddies, and a simple lever system means they can quickly and easily be removed. The five status lights on the front show when each individual drive is being accessed, and the power button is conveniently placed underneath these status lights.
In the Box
Inside the box you’ll find a power supply, spare rubber feet, user manuals, along with various screwdrivers and more than enough screws for your drives. Curiously, several sheets of VHS style drive labels are provided. These can be used to label your drives, but if you’ve not purchased any additional drive caddies, these are rather pointless.
Included is a USB type A to USB-C cable. It would be nice to have a USB-C to USB-C cable included as well, but it’s not the end of the world.
There’s not much of an interface. Like a giant flash drive, the D5-300C presents each drive to your computer. Bays one and two, when linked together in RAID are presented as one single drive, and modes are easily changed with the physical switch. A small reset switch has to be held in with a paperclip or other small device. This tells the unit that the RAID mode has changed, and that it needs to update the drives.
No software is provided or required. This is breath of fresh air in some ways, as software written by hardware companies can often be troublesome and confusing. While you do lose some flexibility, particularly with which RAID versions are supported, it’s a worthwhile price to pay for such an easy to use device.
I connected the D5-300C to my Google Pixel (any USB-C equipped device like the Pixel 2 will work), and all the drives appeared. As my drives already had data on them before installation into the enclosure, Android struggled to read the macOS filesystems. Realistically, if you want to attach such a device to your phone, you should probably format a dedicated drive for it.
Noise and Vibrations
Unlike previous generations of TerraMaster devices, this enclosure is very quiet. Having worked almost exclusively on Apple iMacs and Macbook pros for several years now, I’ve become accustomed to quiet if not silent computers. While the D5-300C does make some noise, it’s inaudible from several feet away, and it’s no noisier than a desktop computer underneath your desk.
Much like noise and vibrations, read and write speeds are mostly down to your choice of drive. With my mixed variety of Seagate drives (some brand new, others several years old), I achieved 175MB/s read and write on average.
Surprisingly, RAID 0 did not significantly increase the speed. In real world terms, RAID 1 + 0 (unsupported) is the preferred method of striping data, due to its resilience and speed. Splitting data across two mechanical drives is a risky way of storing it, and it’s only really worthwhile with this enclosure if you’re using SSDs. That said, portable SSDs such as the Samsung T5 are fast enough to edit 4K off, without the need for RAID.
Should You Buy It?
The TerraMaster D5-300C is an excellent drive enclosure, but it’s not a simple yes/no answer. As a photographer and video producer, having access to my existing independent drives in one fast box is incredibly helpful, but your requirements may differ.
If you really need to link dozens of drives together in RAID, or want some server capabilities and shared network folders, this device is not for you. Consider the fantastic Synology DS418play NAS device instead. Similarly, if you only need one or two drives in RAID or otherwise, the 5 bays offered by this enclosure is a bit over the top. If you like the design though, TerraMaster also have a 2-bay device.
There’s no doubt that the TerraMaster D5-300C is an outstanding device, but its unique RAID configuration does limit its appeal.