About a year and half ago I bought a Caldigit VR Mini2 to use for work. It’s a couple of 2TB 2.5″ drives wishing a very pretty aluminium enclosure providing RAID 0 or RAID 1. This allows me to present a single device to OS X which in turn allows CoreStorage encryption services to easily coexist with a RAID device, something AppleRAID struggles with. You also get two Firewire 800 ports so I can use it on an older 2011 Mac and a USB3 so I can use it with newer machines as well. It looks great.
A week or so the drive failed to power up, power and activity lights flickered but the LCD displayed nothing. I contacted Caldigit and asked them to send a replacement power supply which they did but the problem persisted. I’d found by this time by powering the drive using Firewire (USB needs an external PSU) I could still use the drive so maybe a problem with the power board inside the enclosure. The LCD on the front of the drive seems to think the RAID array was still intact
After a prolonged e-mail conversation with Caldigit support two things emerged.
- Caldigit only provide a 12 month warranty and didn’t want to replace the unit
- One of the two Seagate SpinPoint drives had failed (click of death) which seems to be responsible for the enclosure not powering up
Here’s what I learned
Caldigit tech support is poor and their enclosures diagnostics are worse.
I found myself having to drive the diagnosis with CalDigit. At no point did Caldigit suggest it might be something as simple as a drive failure but then who designs a RAID enclosure whose response to a drive failure is to flicker the power LEDS, display nothing on the LCD and offer no ability to initiate recovery. I’ve got backups and I can live without the drive for a week, I wonder if the guys featured on their website shooting footage on location are so sanguine when a drive goes tits up? I can only assume my support experience is unique.
CalDigit’s warranty sucks.
What does it say about your confidence in your own product if the generic drives inside have double the warranty of your enclosure? You really only want to warrant this £474 enclosure will work for 12 months? Think about it, at some point, some guys at CalDigit sat down in a meeting room and had a discussion that ended up with them saying “The VRMini2? I’d give it a year.”
I was suckered by the branding
CalDigit presents itself as providing robust, professional storage solutions particularly to creative industries. Their website is full of exciting location shots with their gear co-existing with other high end, hard-use professional brands: Go Pro and Nikon, you know the kind of thing. And that’s great, it’s one of the reasons I chose the VR Mini2 in the first place – I mean look, here’s one half way up a mountain side! Who wouldn’t want that?
I work in the exciting area of content creation! Up a mountain!
But the figures don’t add up
You can pickup a 4TB VR Mini 2 from Caldigit in the UK today for £474. It’s got a couple of Seagate Spinpoint 2TB drives which I can get on Amazon for about £78. £474-(78*2) = £316. So I’m paying £316 for a RAID enclosure that a) doesn’t handle drive failure well and b) only has a 12 month warranty. I could have bought 6 2TB drives and a USB hub for the same sort of money and had more space and more fault tolerance.
Here’s one I made earlier
And I’ve been there and done that, it would have been ugly and needed more work and that’s kind of the point; for my work I was willing to pay more for the convenience, the aesthetic and the brand. In purely economic terms that what brand is, a mechanism to get supposedly rational consumers to pay a higher price for a product by altering their perception about the product or, more often, their perception about themselves with the product in their life. We all do it all the time but what we don’t always do is try and figure out how much we actually pay for that.
How much of that £316 did I pay for convenience? From my experience too much; it’s true the initial setup was easier compared to the drive nest above but when I needed the enclosure firmware to deal gracefully with a drive failure it was spectacularly inconvenient. The aesthetics? The brand? I’m not sure but had I worked the figures out before hand and asked my self – do you want to pay £316 for a pretty box that the manufacturer won’t stand behind when it goes wrong I’d probably say no.
Get What You Pay For?
Brand should still mean something. It’s been argued that brands came into being because companies (food manufacturers) wanted to stand behind their product, “We guarantee fewer rat droppings in Bloggs Flour!”
These days it’s too easy to see brand as something inherently evil, cooked up by grinning MBAs to extract money from us. I’ve got a couple of very old Garmin GPS units. Last year the battery cover broke on one of them and Garmin sent me a free replacement, years out of warranty, very obviously battered.
I’ve got a 35 year old Land Rover that needed a hard to find part, a small part but hard to find. Land Rover UK sent it to me free of charge after asking them for help on Twitter. That car hasn’t been in Land Rover dealership in thirty years.
Apple replaced the graphics card in my 2011 iMac last year when it failed. They just swapped the power unit on my late 2012 iMac which failed too. Both out of warranty, no questions asked.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why those companies behaved the way they did, it may have been policy, it may have been that I got the right person on the phone. Whatever the reason you know the brand of the next GPS I buy, the next computer and the next car. Well maybe not the next car as that thing is never going to need replacing.
Now give me what I paid for
I live in the UK and there is a piece of legislation here called the Sales of Goods Act (or now the newer Consumer Rights Act) which essentially says, if its reasonable to assume that a product should last a certain length of time and it fails within that period due to a defect than the retailer should repair or replace it. From a consumer point of view it’s a good piece of legislation although I’m sure retailers hate it, if they’re even aware of it. It also needs a bit of effort from the consumer’s point of view to wield it but in my experience t’s worth it. Eventually CalDigit have said that ‘as a favour’ they would consider replacing the enclosure. You know what CalDigit? Complying with the law is not doing your customers a favour.
We’ll see if they repair or replace the unit but one thing is for sure, I won’t buy CalDigit again.