CalDigit is no stranger when it comes to producing peripherals for the Mac. In particular, the California-based company has concentrated on Apple’s laptops with USB-C and Thunderbolt. The CalDigit AV Pro 2 is its latest such product: an external storage solution wrapped in a high-grade aluminum enclosure.

CalDigit has merged external storage with a USB 3.0 hub to create a product capable of providing three things of interest to MacBook owners — access to more storage, additional USB ports, and charging up to 30W. Have a look at our video walkthrough as we unbox and go hands-on with the CalDigit AV Pro 2.

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Specifications

  • Removable drive module with lock
  • Supports 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives
  • Front side power button/drive access LED
  • Uplink: USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C or USB 3.0 Micro B
  • Hub: USB 3.0 Type-A (x2)
  • 30W laptop charging via Type-C port
  • 7.5W USB charging for mobile devices
  • Smart fan
  • Kensington Lock
  • Drive stand
  • Supports Apple’s SuperDrive
  • Support for (UASP) USB attached SCSI protocol
  • Dimensions: 5.8-inches-by-1.8-inches-by-9.5-inches
  • Weight: 4.37 lbs

The AV Pro 2 can accommodate either a 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drive. The model we reviewed was one equipped with a 3TB 3.5-inch HDD.

Other CalDigit products share the same drive module form factor, which means that you can easily swap modules between other storage devices. You can also order replacement drive modules, and each comes with a hard case lined with foam to ensure safe transport for backups and archival drives.

Like CalDigit products that we’ve seen before, the AV Pro 2 features a familiar aluminum chassis with ridged accents on the side. It’s a premium enclosure that should feel right at home on your desk next to a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

Video walkthrough

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What’s included?

CalDigit includes everything you need to get started inside the box. You’ll find a drive module with a preinstalled drive, USB Type-C cable, and a USB Type-A to Micro-B cable for connecting to your computer. There’s also an AC adapter, drive keys, and a drive stand included in the package.

CalDigit sells several versions the AV Pro 2, and those versions are differentiated based on the type and size of the preinstalled drive. You can find the 3TB entry-level version on sale for close to $200, and the price goes up from there.

The AV Pro 2, at 5.8-inches-by-1.8-inches-by-9.5-inches, is fairly large, so it’s not the type of drive that you’ll want to carry around while traveling. You’d be better off grabbing one of the company’s portable Tuff Drives, or Samsung’s T5 for that. But if you regularly use a MacBook Pro, MacBook, or even an iMac at your desk, then the AV Pro 2 makes for an interesting desk companion.

The unit features four built-in rubber feet, allowing it to sit flat on a desk, or you can opt for the included clear plastic stand, which allows it to stand up vertically to save on desk real estate.

In particular, I think that the AV Pro 2 is a handy companion for those working with video. When editing extra-large Pro Res files produced by gear like the Atomos Ninja Inferno, a spinning hard drive is probably more practical for storage purposes than an SSD at this point in time. Pairing a fast, extra-large hard drive with the AV Pro 2 may be a good choice if that’s a relatable scenario for you.

Drive access

The AV Pro 2 drive module can be removed by means of a pair of keys included in the package. This key-based removal system prevents the drive module from being removed by accident or by theft when combined with the Kensington lock.

There are two keys included with the AV Pro 2. One of the keys is used to lock or unlock the drive module, and the other is used to eject the drive module.

To be honest, it’s kind of a hassle to have to use both keys to fully secure or un-secure the module, and I wish that a single key was able to do both. The key system works, but it may be annoying to those who just want to easily mount or dismount drive modules without having to fool with keys.

Speed

The AV Pro 2 provides a variety of use-cases based on its specifications, just don’t be fooled into thinking that it utilizes USB 3.1 (gen 2) (10Gbps) or Thunderbolt 3. The unit is backward compatible with those technologies, but is bound by the maximum theoretical 5Gbps transfer rates of USB 3.0/3.1 (gen 1).

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With all of that said, USB 3.0 is still fairly fast, especially since CalDigit makes sure to support UASP, or USB attached SCSI protocol. UASP allows devices to execute commands bi-directionally for better throughput performance over the interface.

CalDigit notes that its AV Pro 2, when paired with an SSD, will support read speeds up to 433MB/s, and that’s pretty much spot on from my testing. Spinning hard drives will obviously be a lot slower, with the 7200 RPM drive that I tested maxing out just shy of 200MB/s in both read and write. That’s fast enough to handle 4K video editing at slower frame rates, but you’ll probably want to opt for an SSD if you regularly edit high-bitrate 4K video at 60 frames per second.

Charging

One of the big advantages of the AV Pro 2, when compared to normal external drives, is that it can be used to charge your MacBook or MacBook Pro. The unit provides up to 30W of power to a connected laptop via USB-C, which is perfect for charging the 12-inch MacBook at full speed, and enough to slowly charge a 13- or 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Unfortunately I don’t own a MacBook Pro at the moment, but I was able to test the unit with my 12-inch MacBook. Charging worked just as advertised while providing me with access to the drive’s contents, and to the devices connected to its USB hub.

Smart Fan

The majority of the noise emitted from the AV Pro 2 occurred when I had the spinning hard drive connected. If you’re looking for silent operation, then you’ll definitely want to opt for an SSD instead of a traditional hard drive.

Besides the drive itself, the AV Pro 2 includes a fan on the case’s rear. CalDigit notes that this is a “Smart Fan” capable of turning on when needed, and staying off when it isn’t. The aluminum chassis itself is basically a giant heatsink, so the AV Pro 2 can dissipate heat without needing to rely on a fan. When the temperatures do rise due to ambient conditions or drive performance, the fan will spin up to help keep things cool.

SuperDrive compatibility

If you still have an Apple SuperDrive lying around, then you may be interested to know that the AV Pro 2 supports it via its USB hub. CalDigit notes on its product page that no other external storage devices available for sale are able to support Apple’s SuperDrive. Keep in mind that you’ll need to download a special driver in order to properly connect to Apple’s external disc reader.

Conclusion

Due to its size, and potential heft with a spinning hard disk module, The AV Pro 2 isn’t the type of unit that you’d normally go traveling with. However, it makes for a solid desktop companion.

The AV Pro 2, as mentioned, is essentially three devices in one. It’s an external storage device, capable of interfacing with removable SSD or HDD drive modules. It’s a USB 3.0 hub, which supports both daisy-chaining additional AV Pro 2 units, and is SuperDrive compatible. Lastly, it’s a 30W charger for charging your MacBook or MacBook Pro.

There is one big thing missing in the whole package, and that’s support for external displays. If that’s something you need (highly likely in a desktop environment) you can connect the unit to a dock that supports external displays.

The bottom line is that not all Mac users will have a need for such a device. As someone who works with extremely large video files, however, I can see the appeal of having access to an external drive source that supports large, swappable, spinning hard drives, as well as SSDs.

What is your opinion of the AV Pro 2? Can you imagine a use-case for it in your daily workflow? Sound off in the comment section with your thoughts.

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