Storage bridges come in many varieties within the internal and external market segments. On the external side, they usually have one or more downstream SATA ports. The most popular uplink port is some sort of USB connection. USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C supports up to 10 Gbps of bandwidth, and also allows for higher power delivery compared to previous USB versions. This has enabled some unique products such as bus-powered RAID enclosures. Today's review is that of one such product from CRU - the ToughTech Duo C.

Introduction and Product Impressions

The CRU ToughTech Duo C sports two 2.5" SATA drive bays and has a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C host interface. It can operate the two internal drives in RAID 0, RAID 1, JBOD, or SPAN configurations. The device can operate on bus power when used with the appropriate host, but, for wider compatibility, it also supports external power.

The ToughTech Duo C is a follow-up product to the ToughTech Duo QR and ToughTech Duo 3SR RAID enclosures from CRU. This product family targets content creators looking to keep two copies of their data simultaneously, and automatically generating backup copies - either for archival purposes, or, to transfer a copy to another location.

The ToughTech Duo C package includes the main unit, Type-C to Type-C and Type-C to Type-A USB 3.1 Gen 2 cables, screws for installation of 2.5" drives in the bays, a 15W AC adapter, a quick start guide, and warranty information.

The unit can be laid flat on its back, or oriented vertically with the help of the attached stand. The drive bays can be taken out by sliding out the front tab and pushing in the corner. Inserting a drive in a bay involves pushing the tab marked 'Push' and drawing open one side arm. The pegs on the two side arms slide into the side holes of the 2.5" drive. This makes the bays essentially tool-free. For hard drives, it is suggested that the supplied screws be used to minimize vibration effects.

The gallery above takes us around the external design of the unit. Thanks to its medal body, the unit feels solid in hand. There are LEDs on top of the drive bays to indicate drive access status. The rear side has all the controls and ports. The DC-In can take external power from the 15W (5V @ 3A) adapter. This input is mandatory if the USB-C POWER LED adjacent to the the Type-C host interface lights up red after connecting to the host. A green light comes on if the internal circuit determines that the host is able to supply 3A. In that case, the device can power on without any input to DC-In. The unit also has an explicit ON-OFF switch. On the rear panel, we also have LEDs indicating the current configuration of the internal drives. RAID 1 indicates a 'safe / mirror' mode in which both drives in the unit maintain the same data. RAID 0 is the 'fast' mode in which the data is striped across the two drives. SPAN indicates that the drives are presented to the host as one, but the second drive starts getting filled with data only after the first one is full. JBOD is the mode in which the drives appear as standalone drives to the host. A screwdriver can be used to rotate the mode selection dial that is placed a bit deep to avoid accidental alteration. Rotation causes the selected mode LED to start blinking. Pressing the 'HOLD TO SET' button permanently lights up that selected mode

Moving on to the internals, we see significant protection for the internal drives. They appear to help in drawing away the heat from the internal drives and on to the chassis. On the main board, we find the ASMedia ASM1352R bridge chip that has RAID functionality with two downstream SATA III ports and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 upstream port. The Type-C port is enabled by the ASMedia ASM1542 passive switch.

Our evaluation of the CRU ToughTech Duo C is from the viewpoint of a storage bridge. The table below summarizes the specifications of the unit and also compares them against the other storage bridges that have been reviewed earlier by us.

Comparative Storage Bridges Configurations
Downstream Port 2x SATA III 1x SATA III
Upstream Port USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
Bridge Chip ASMedia ASM1352R VIA Labs VL716
Power Bus Powered
15W (5V @ 3A) Wall Wart with 150 cm Cable
Bus Powered
Use Case Tool-free 2-bay 2.5" HDD/SSD Enclosure (up to 9.5 mm height)
Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, JBOD, and SPAN configuration for the two drives
Supports auto-rebuild in RAID 1 mode when connected to a PC (can be used to make backups)
2.5" HDD/SSD Enclosure (up to 9.5 mm height) with Female Type-C Interface
Physical Dimensions 159 mm x 89 mm x 34 mm 127 mm x 81 mm x 13 mm
Weight (diskless) 770 grams (with cable) 118 grams (with cable)
Cable 100 cm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-C
100 cm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A
29 cm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C (Male to Male)
S.M.A.R.T Passthrough Yes Yes
UASP Support Yes Yes
TRIM Passthrough No Yes
Price USD 179 USD 30
Review Link CRU ToughTech Duo C Review Satechi B01FWT2N3K Review
Performance Benchmarks
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  • Meteor2 - Sunday, November 20, 2016 - link

    I believe there is a subtle difference between 3.0 and 3.1 Gen 1 -- the latter uses a more efficient encoding scheme, so real-world performance is better even though the theoretical data rate is the same.

    Personally though I just check new devices for Gen 2. No Gen 2, no buy. Yeah, it would be better if it had been USB 3.2 or 4, but 'Gen 2' is easy-enough to remember.
  • Meteor2 - Sunday, November 20, 2016 - link

    I'm right in thinking that these devices are limited by the 'downstream' SATA interface, rather than the USB link, aren't I? Gen 1 can shift about 600 MBps but Gen 2 can transfer 1200. So it would need NVMe drives for the upstream link to become saturated.
  • vladx - Thursday, November 24, 2016 - link

    You forgot the encoding overhead, Gen 1 tops around 480 MBps and Gen 2 at ~1000 MBps.
  • ironwing - Sunday, November 20, 2016 - link

    Ganesh, were you provided any drop test certifications or test results for this drive? The "ToughTech" name implies that the unit is ruggedized but I don't see any mention of shock resistance in the review. Is the unit ruggedized comparable to a LaCie or Transcend external drive?
  • AKMtnr - Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - link

    RE: reviewso n Anandtech: I'm just happy to have a break from the constant onslaught of SSD's that are only slightly different than each other!

    I have the FW800/eSATA version of the Tough Tech Duo and being able to run dual drives without having to lug around external power has been awesome. (I do a lot of photography and videography, mostly in remote places with a backpack and not much else). I had a HDD die and had to shell out $1900, so I'm pretty into RAID1 drives now. (in addtion to online backups, calm down, I know "RAID IS NOT A BACKUP") I'm too poor for SSD's though, I put two 2TB HDD's in it.

    Will definitely look into this one now that I got a touchbar MBP a couple days ago. Trying to leave the donglelife, and this brand has been rock solid in build quality and reliability.

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