Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ review: Blazing fast portable drive

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CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars Outstanding
  • Overall: 8.8
  • Setup and ease of use: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 10.0
  • Service and support: 8.0

Average User Rating

1.5 stars 1 user review
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ portable drive offers top performance when used with either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0. The drive is easy to use and includes both USB and Thunderbolt cables.

The Bad The drive is expensive and there's no bundled software.

The Bottom Line The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is by far the fastest portable drive to date and, for power users, totally worth the investment.

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The Thunderbolt Drive+ is the second Thunderbolt portable drive from Elgato and it's a major upgrade to the already very fast predecessor , that came out two years ago. Apart from the support for USB 3.0, the new drive shares the same compact and bus-powered design as its older brother.

The new device now includes a Thunderbolt (and a USB 3.0) cable, which previous model didn't at launch, making it ready to use right out of the box. That is, if you can afford its current hefty price of $480 for 256GB (or $900 for 512GB).

But it's going to be money well-spent since the Thunderbolt Drive+ is by far the fastest portable drive on the market to date. However, if top performance is not a mandate, you can always check out this list for other great, more affordable portable drives.

The new Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ shares the same compact design found in the previous model.
The new Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ shares the exact compact design found it the previous model. Dong Ngo/CNET
Drive type External Thunderbolt hard drive
Connector options Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 256GB, 512GB
Product dimensions (LWH) 5.2x0.8x3.3 inches
Weight 9.5 oz
Capacity of test unit 256GB
OSes supported Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later.

Frill-free plug-and-play design
The new Thunderbolt Drive+ share the same design as the previous Thunderbolt SSD , which is a typical portable drive that's based on a 2.5-inch internal drive. It measures just 5.2 inches by 0.8 inch by 3.3 inches and weighing only 0.5 pound. Its housing is made of aluminum with a grainy finish that doesn't attract dust or fingerprints. On the inside, the drive houses an internal solid-state drive (SSD) from Plextor, which is accountable for its great performance.

On the bottom of the new Thunderbolt Drive+ drive has four small screws that presumably allow you to take the take apart and replace the SSD on the inside. Doing so would void the warranty, however.

The bus-powered portable drive now can work with either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible).
The bus-powered portable drive now can work with either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible). Dong Ngo/CNET

The new drive comes with one Thunderbolt port and one USB 3.0 port. It doesn't support Thunderbolt 2 but also worked with USB 2.0 in my trial. Since this is a single-volume storage device, there's no need for it to support Thunderbolt 2 since the top speed of the original Thunderbolt (10Gbps) is already much faster than the top speed of the internal SSD (6Gbps). The lack of a second Thunderbolt port, however, means that in a daisy-chain setup, the drive can only be used at the end of the chain, since you can't plug another Thunderbolt device to it. This is a normal design for a compact drive, however.

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Where to Buy See All

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ (256GB)

Part Number: 10024036
MSRP: $499.95 Low Price: $515.59 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Hard Drive Type external hard drive
  • Capacity 256 GB
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.