Patriot Convoy XL (a.k.a. PCXL25SR) is an aluminum-made 3.5” HDD enclosure that holds up to two 2.5” HDDs or SSDs (solid state drives), with a built-in RAID controller. It can be installed on a floppy disk drive or hard disk drive bay from your case and connected to the motherboard using a standard SATA connection or can be used as an external device, being connected to the PC using an eSATA or a USB 2.0 port. Let’s take a look at this product.
First let’s take a look at the product box (Figure 1) and the items that come inside the box (Figure 2). On the box there is this big sentence “* Works only as an external drive on NVIDIA platforms,” which gives the wrong idea that this box can only work as an external device on NVIDIA-based motherboards, which is not the case. According to Patriot they will fix this on the next production batch. We will talk more about this ahead on the section “Compatibility.”
Figure 2: What comes inside the box.
Convoy XL supports the following RAID modes:
- Single: Called “JBOD (single)” on the product manual, under this mode the drives are accessed as individual units. This is the default operating mode of Convoy XL.
- JBOD: Called “BIG (span)” on the product manual, the drives are combined into a single logic unit. The drives can have different capacities. For example, if you install a 64 GB and a 32 GB SSD, they would be seen as a single 96 GB unit under this mode.
- RAID0: Called “FAST (strip)” on the product manual, the drives are accessed in parallel for increased performance (double performance, in theory). The drives must be identical and the total capacity available is added, so if you have two 64 GB SSDs they will be seen as a single 128 GB unit.
- RAID1: Called “SAFE (mirror)” on the product manual, the second drive will hold a real-time copy of the contents from the first drive. If the first drive fails, all your data will be preserved on the second drive. The drives must be identical and the total capacity is the capacity of only one of the drives, so if you have two 64 GB SSDs they will be seen as a single 64 GB unit.
- 33% Mirroring: This is a combination of RAID 1 with JBOD. Here 33% of the drive capacity will be built as RAID1 and the remaining 66% will be joined on a JBOD configuration.
- 50% Mirroring: This is a combination of RAID 1 with JBOD. Here half of the drive capacity will be built as RAID1 and the other half will be joined on a JBOD configuration.
RAID modes can be configured through a DIP-switch available on the product.
[nextpage title=”The Convoy XL”]
The Convoy XL is a 3.5” aluminum enclosure able to hold up to two 2.5” devices. Since 2.5” hard drives are manufactured for laptops and they usually rotate at 5,400 rpm – meaning lower performance compared to mainstream desktop drives, which spin at 7,200 rpm –, performance-wise it makes more sense to install 2.5” SSDs in it. But you can install 2.5” hard drives if you want.
The installation of 2.5” devices inside Convoy XL is very easy: all you need to do is to open the little yellow door from the bay you want to use. No disassembling or installation of cables on the drive is required. Near each door there is a small lock that prevents you from accidentally opening a door and removing a drive while it is working. Convoy XL supports hot-swap, where you can remove and install drives with the enclosure and computer turned on (on Windows you need to first disable the unit you want to remove, by using the “Safely remove hardware” wizard). Opening the door also pulls the drive from the corresponding bay, facilitating its removal.
Convoy XL has a small “backup” button on the front panel, which allows you to easily backup your data by simply pushing a button. For that you need to install and configure the “57xx SteelVine Manager” software that comes with the product and provided by the RAID controller manufacturer (Silicon Image).
Figure 5: Installing an SSD drive on the lower bay.
As previously mentioned, Convoy XL can be installed as an internal device on an empty floppy disk drive or hard disk drive bay from your case (Figure 6) or it can be used as an external device, coming with a stand (Figure 7).
Figure 6: Installing as an internal device.
Figure 7: Stand for using it as an external device.
Convoy XL comes with a SATA power connector, a SATA data connector and a mini USB connector (see Figure 8). The unit comes with four cables: USB power, USB data, standard SATA data cable and eSATA data cable (see Figure 9).
You have the following connection options with Convoy XL:
- Internal connection using a SATA connection: provides the best performance possible. This connection is not supported on NVIDIA-based motherboards due to compatibility issues.
- Internal connection using a USB connection: even though this connection is possible, it is not recommended, as it provides low performance.
- External connection using an eSATA connection: provides the best performance possible. This connection is not supported on NVIDIA-based motherboards due to compatibility issues.
- External connection using a USB connection: this connection is not recommended, as it provides low performance. It is available only for compatibility reasons, for example if you want to temporarily install Convoy XL on an incompatible motherboard to transfer some data.
Pay also attention in Figure 8 for the DIP-switch in charge of configuring the RAID mode and to the “change mode” button, which you need to press after changing the RAID configuration.
Figure 8: Available connectors.
When using Convoy XL installed on a USB port, you need to install two USB connectors, one for data transferring and another for providing power to the unit (using the included USB-to-SATA power cable). Because drives consume more power than ordinary USB devices, it is not recommended to install Convoy XL on the USB ports from the case front panel, which can deliver less current than the ports that are soldered directly on the motherboard. So if you decide to use USB connection, make sure to install Convoy XL on the USB ports from the rear panel from your PC.
One final and important information. Convoy XL cannot be used as a boot device, i.e., for loading the operating system; it can only be used for data storage.
[nextpage title=”Inside Convoy XL”]
Convoy XL is based on a Silicon Image SiI5744 RAID controller. This is the main difference between Convoy XL and most HDD enclosures available on the market, including the standard Convoy from Patriot. When the box doesn’t have a built-in controller they are simple passive boxes, with RAID controlled by the RAID controller from the motherboard and each SATA port on the enclosure needing to be individually connected to individual SATA ports on the motherboard. For example, if the box has two ports, two SATA cables are required. With Convoy XL only one cable is required as it has this embedded RAID controller. Also because of that the SATA port on the motherboard doesn’t need to be RAID (but must be compatible with port multiplier technology – see next page).
If at one hand Convoy XL has as advantages requiring just one SATA cable to connect two drives to the PC and a SATA port on the motherboard that does not need to be RAID, the disadvantage is that the motherboard SATA port must be compatible with port multiplier technology, which allows multiple drives to be connected to the system through just one cable (click here to understand more about this technology).
All current Intel chipsets and AMD 790 chipset series are compatible with this technology and thus you won’t have any compatibility issues with motherboards based on Intel and AMD chipsets. NVIDIA chipsets, however, do not support this technology and thus are incompatible with Convoy XL (USB connection is still possible, but as you know this connection offers very low performance).
However it is not correct to say that all motherboards based on NVIDIA chipsets are incompatible with Convoy XL. Several high-end motherboards have a second RAID controller chip that controls additional SATA ports available on the motherboard, and usually this kind of chip is compatible with port multiplier. So if your NVIDIA-based motherboard has an extra RAID controller you can try installing Convoy XL on a SATA port that is controlled by it.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
Patriot Convoy XL enclosure main features are:
- Material: Aluminum
- Size: 3.5”
- Dimensions: 1” x 4” x 5 ¾” (2.58 x 10.17 x 14.6 cm) (H x W x D)
- Weight: 8.11 oz (230 g)
- Two 2.5” bays
- Connections: USB 2.0, SATA-300 and eSATA-300
- RAID Support: RAID0, RAID1, JBOD and two RAID1/JBOD mixed modes
- Hot Swap: Yes
- Controller: Silicon Image SiI5744
- Warranty: Two years.
- More information: https://www.patriotmem.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 70.00
- Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
Here is a summary of our first impressions on Patriot Convoy XL hard disk drive enclosure.
- Excellent material and top-notch quality.
- Interesting DIP-switch configuration for RAID level.
- Very easy HDD/SSD installation: no tools or cables are required for installing the drives inside the box, and you don’t need to disassemble the box to install the drives. In fact this is the HDD enclosure with the easiest HDD/SDD installation we’ve seen to date.
- Misleading information on box (“Works only as an external drive on NVIDIA platform”), which can make users think that this unit can only work as an external drive with NVIDIA-based motherboards, which isn’t true. According to Patriot this will be corrected on the next production batch.
- Patriot could give more information on compatibility, like a list of compatible motherboards.
- Targeted to solid state drives (SSD’s), which are not mainstream yet.
- Incompatible with some motherboards.
- Can’t be used as a boot device, only for data storage.
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