Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt review: Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt

Since the Thunderbolt standard offers up to 10Gbps bandwidth, it generally doesn't makes sense to make a single volume drive since the internal hard drive, even the fastest one, offers just 6Gbps. In the case of the Buffalo, it totally makes sense thanks to its USB 3.0. The USB 3.0 standard's top speed is just 5Gbps. The addition of the USB port means that the drive will also work with all existing computers on the market since USB is ubiquitous. Supporting USB 3.0, the Buffalo, however, also works with USB 2.0 ports in my trials.

There's nothing to setting up the Buffalo MiniStation. Out of the box, it's preformatted in HFS+; once connected to a Mac via Thunderbolt, it's immediately available to the computer, with an icon automatically appearing on the desktop and the Finder. You can also use it with a PC, but first, you'll need to reformat it into NTFS file system, which is a very easy task. The drive doesn't come bundled with any software.

Performance
I tested the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 and stacked it against other portable drives and Thunderbolt drives.

Obviously, it can't compare with other multiple volume Thunderbolt drives in terms of performance, since they come with RAID setups that can manipulate their internal drives to offers speeds faster than that of each individual drive. However, the Buffalo still did very well.

For the Thunderbolt standard, the test machine was a 2011 MacBook Pro running OS X Lion, on a SATA 3 (6Gbps) SSD, which is the same standard as the hard drive used inside the Buffalo. The drive scored 105MBps and 110MBps for writing and reading, respectively.

For the USB 3.0 test, I used a Windows 7 computer, powered by a second-generation Core i7 processor. In this case, it scored 92MBps and 106MBps, for writing and reading respectively. These are among the top performances of USB 3.0 drives.

The Buffalo worked very well in my testing. I noticed the bottom of its aluminum casing got slightly warm after extended operation but this is to be expected since the casing is designed to also work as the drive's heat-sink.

CNET Labs' Data Transfer Scores/Thunderbolt vs. Externa
(Measured in MB/Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5)
177.53 
210.5 
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
186.8 
184.71 
Promise Pegasus R4 (RAID 5)
171.1 
150.47 
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
168.97 
120.61 

Buffalo backs the MiniStation Thunderbolt drive with a three-year warranty, which is very good for a storage device, though not as good as a five-year warranty. Chances are you don't need any other support for the drive, other than the warranty. In this case, Buffalo delivers more than the Elgato, which comes with just a two-year warranty.

Conclusion
The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt HD-PATU3 makes an excellent portable drive for a Thunderbolt-enabled computer, thanks to its affordability, its support for USB, and its decent performance.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Hard Drive Type external hard drive
  • Capacity 1 TB
About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.