Promise Technology's Pegasus R4 is the first Thunderbolt storage device that works with the Windows platform right out of the box. But it wasn't always that way.
The drive was actually first released together with the Pegasus R6 more than a year ago, when Thunderbolt first came out for Macs exclusively. Now the Thunderbolt standard is available and works virtually the same for both Windows and Mac platforms. From my trial with Intel's first Thunderbolt-certified motherboard, the switch of file system from HFS+ to NTFS (which can be easily done) is the only major thing you need to do to make any previously Mac-only Thunderbolt storage device work with Windows.
And you don't have to do that with the new Pegasus R4, since it also now comes preformatted for Windows. Effectively, it marks the end of an era in which Thunderbolt storage was exclusively for Mac.
Just because Thunderbolt is now available for Windows doesn't mean it's noticeably cheaper. The Pegasus R4 still costs about $1,000 for 4TB or $1,500 for the 8TB version, and you still need to buy the Thunderbolt cable separately. My guess is that the price of the technology as a whole will come down quickly since the Thunderbolt ecosystem has become a lot more popular, with more and more vendors joining.
That said, you're looking for a superfast storage device for use with your brand-new Thunderbolt-enabled computer, such as one that's powered by Intel's new DZ77RE-75K motherboard, the R4 will make a great investment. If you want more options in terms of storage space and other features, also check out the R6 and other Thunderbolt drives I've reviewed.
|Drive type||External Thunderbolt hard drive|
|Available capacities||4TB, 8TB|
|Product dimensions (LWH)||7.3x7.7x9.9 inches|
|Capacity of test unit||4TB |
|OSes supported||Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later / Windows 7 or later|
|Software included||WebPAM PROe (Windows) / Pegasus Utility (Mac) |
Design and features
While some 5 pounds lighter than its big brother, the R6, the Pegasus R4 Thunderbolt drive is still huge, weighing about 15 pounds. This is to be expected since it has enough room to host four standard-size 3.5-inch hard drives. The drive looks very much like the R6, just two drive bays shorter. With an all-aluminum chassis and the white color, it looks more like a typical Mac device than one that works with Windows. But it does work with both, and the review unit is preformatted using NTFS, which is Windows' native file system.
On the back, the R4 comes with a standard power connector, the kind you normally find at the back of a desktop computer. This is very convenient since it means you can use the same type of power cable. There's a big ventilation fan and there are two Thunderbolt ports. Most Thunderbolt devices have two ports, one for connecting to a host computer and the other to another Thunderbolt drive. You can add up to five more devices this way in a daisy-chain setup. In my trials with a computer running Windows 7, the R4 worked well with other Thunderbolt devices, including Apple's Thunderbolt Display. I did need to install Apple's Boot Camp software for the display to work, however.
Note that, like all of the Thunderbolt devices I've reviewed, the Pegasus R4 doesn't come with the necessary Thunderbolt cable. You can get a long (6-foot) one from Apple for $50 or a shorter (3-feet) one from Belkin for $45.
On the front of the R4, in addition to the standard power button and status lights, you'll find the four drive bays. These bays are closed with a latch that's easily opened but prevents you from pulling a drive out accidentally. When a tray is pulled out, you can install a hard drive on it fairly easily with a standard Phillips-head screwdriver. My review unit came with four SATA 3 (6Gbps) hard drives of 1TB capacity each installed, making the total capacity of 4TB, or 3TB in the default RAID 5 setup. RAID 5 is the most recommended RAID setup for multiple-drive storage devices, since it balances performance and storage space while still offering protection against single hard-drive failure.
The Pegasus R4 also supports RAID 0, 1, 50, 6, 60, and 10. It comes with WebPAM PROe software for Windows and Pegasus Utilities for Mac. You can use either program to manage the drive, including changing its RAID setup, viewing the status of each hard drive, and so on. In my testing, the R4 took a very short time to change from one RAID to another, just a matter of minutes. I did find that WebPAM PROe could only be used to manage the Pegasus drive that was directly connected to the computer and not the others in a daisy-chain setup. Pegasus Utilities, however, can manage multiple daisy-chained Pegasus units at a time. This is not a big deal, however, since most of us wouldn't be able to afford more than one unit anyway. Also, Promise says it will soon fix this with a new version of the WebPAM PROe software.