At first blush, I was ready to love Sabrent's XTRM-Q 16TB
(SB-DXMQ-8X2)–$3,300 price tag or no. How can you argue with having
16TB of storage at the end of your Thunderbolt cable?
Especially with Apple's consistent habit of gouging you for
internal storage upgrades.
Alas, consternation proved more the result of my hands-on than
affection. The drive relies on your operating system for RAID
functionality, doesn't power up automatically, and performance on
an M1 iMac was hit then miss.
Design and features
The XTRM-Q 16 TB is a charcoal gray, aluminum, dual-NVMe/M.2
enclosure featuring two Sabrent 8TB, 96-layer QLC drives with
Phison E8 controllers. It measures approximately 4.5-inches long,
2.5-inches wide, by 0.75-inches thick. The enclosure is handsome,
wrapped in a removable silicone sleeve for protection, and features
a Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port, a power jack, and an on/off
Thunderbolt 3 delivers a fair amount of power across the bus,
easily enough for a single NVMe SSD, and I would've thought for
two. Apparently not, hence the power jack and external 1.5 amp
supply. Besides providing more than enough power, an external power
supply allows you to use the drive on an Thunderbolt 2 system using
only a T2 to T3 converter. On the other hand, it makes the XTRM-Q
16TB considerably less convenient to drag about than bus-powered
Also inconvenient is the on/off button, which is momentary. I
could understand a switch that retains its state, as the drive uses
so much power, but having to turn it on every time you want to use
it is un-fun. It also forces you to keep the drive where you can
access the switch. Automatically powering up when sensing bus
power, as most do, would make far more sense.
The kicker is, that with an external power supply, there's
plenty of juice for a RAID chip. Instead, Sabrent opted to use your
operating system's RAID capabilities. This means that once
formatted in RAID 0 or 1 mode, you can't move from Windows to the
Mac, or vice versa. It also means you're subject to the performance
vagaries of software RAID, which relies on your CPU. If your CPU is
busy with other stuff, say encoding a file, disk performance may
The first issue with the XTRM-Q 16TB was that on our M1 iMac it
wasn't as fast as claimed, and slowed down rather rapidly as Disk
Speed Test proceeded. By a substantial margin as you can see in the
image below. Note that Mac testing followed PCWorld testing so the
drive wasn't pristine.
This shows the XTRM-Q
16TB's performance on the first pass with Disk Speed Test, and
around the 20th. This test really takes only about 30 seconds per
The RAID 1 mirrored results were also fascinating, however, as
this is macOS's integrated software RAID, it's nearly impossible to
tell what the issue might be. The slowdowns could be due to the QLC
NAND slowing when written natively, i.e., you write the full three
bits (16 voltage levels) rather than just one. However, it could
just as easily have been the Apple RAID implementation.
With no real insight on the odd performance on the Mac, I'll
move on the to the far more stable results from the PCWorld's
Windows test platform. Under CrystalDiskMark in RAID 0 striped mode
(data is spread or striped across both disks), and under ideal
conditions, the XTRM-Q 16TB was very fast both reading and writing:
2827MBps and 2664MBps respectively. Write speed was halved in RAID
1 mirrored mode, but the read speed remained nearly as fast.
The XTRM-Q 16TB was very fast in our 48GB transfers tests, shown
below, though not as fast as the Samsung X5 or OWC Envoy Express FX. The latter can be
attached via Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.
The XTRM-Q 16TB was
very fast in our 48GB transfers tests, though not as fast as the
Samsung X5 or OWC Envoy Express FX. The latter can be attached via
Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.
The one test that the XTRM-Q 16TB ruled over was the 450GB
write. It was smooth and steady, and a good two minutes faster than
the next fastest X5. That's no small consideration if you're
writing large raw high-resolution files to the drive on a constant
The XTRM-Q 16TB was
one of the fastest external drives we've tested when writing a
single 450GB file to its cells.
Note that the XTRM-Q 16TB ran particularly warm, even when
idling. A fan might be in order for the next iteration. Also, I
tested the XTRM-Q with the drives enumerated individually, which is
actually the default. Performance in this configuration was nearly
identical to mirrored RAID 1.
The XTRM-Q 16TB did just fine on a Windows PC, but this is
Macworld, so the slowdowns in Disk Speed Test limit my ability to
praise the drive. I'd have liked to test one of the SSDs inside on
its own on our PCWorld testbed, however, the enclosure is
The PCWorld tests utilize Windows 10 64-bit running on a
Core i7-5820K/Asus X99 Deluxe system with four 16GB Kingston
2666MHz DDR4 modules (64GB total), a Zotac (Nvidia) GT 710 1GB x2
PCIe graphics card, and an Asmedia ASM3242 USB 3.2×2 card. It also
contains a Gigabyte GC-Alpine Thunderbolt 3 card, and Softperfect
Ramdisk 3.4.6 for the 48GB read and write tests.
Write performance will decrease as the drive fills up due to
less NAND available for secondary cache. In some rare cases,
components may change for the worse. If your drive, given similar
hardware, does not perform as well as our test unit, please let us
Current Macworld tests use a M1-based, 24-inch iMac with 8GB
of memory and a 512GB SSD.
Not what it could have
The XTRM-Q 16TB works fine when employed under specific
scenarios and should be fine for Windows users. However, the
performance dips and inconsistencies on the Mac, as well as the
lack of automatic power-on were debilitating and annoying in turn.
As enticing as 16TB sounds, it's not delivered here in a fashion
commensurate with the price, or likely expectations.
I recommend that you go with another solution such as a
bus-powered 4TB/8TB external SSD (including Sabrent's) for performance, and a pair of
capacious external hard drives for capacity and redundancy. Note
that Sabrent also sells this enclosure as a DIY unit.