Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ review: Blazing fast portable drive

Out of the box, the Thunderbolt Drive+ is formatted in HFS+ and will work right away with a Mac. You can easily reformat it to make it work with Windows computer however. The included Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables means that you can really use the drive right out of the box. There's no setup necessary. This is a bus-powered drive and that means you only need to use just one of the cables at a time. If you plug it into a computer with both the USB and Thunderbolt cable, only the first connection will work.

Outstanding performance
I tested the Thunderbolt Drive+ with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. With the former it was tested with a new Macbook Pro (late 2013 model), the latter was done with a Windows computer. With both, it offered unprecedented real-word copy speeds.

CNET Labs Thunderbolt performance

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+
283.85
308.02
Pegaus J2 (RAID 0 - with power adapter)
201.93
180.80
Promise J4 (RAID 0)
200.31
156.26
LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 0)
179.22
180.96
WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo (RAID 0)
156
167.47
Promise Pegasus R4 (RAID 5)
150.47
171.10
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
129.61
168.97
LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 1)
126.96
147.2
LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt (RAID 1)
121.11
141.63
WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo (RAID 1)
107.73
109.15
Drobo Mini
106.03
94.66
Pegaus J2 (RAID 0 - bus-powered)
83.83
153.32

Legend:

Write
Read

Note:

Measured in megabytes per second

When used with Thunderbolt, the drive offered the sustained speed of 284MBps for writing and 308MBps for reading, by far the fastest I've seen for portable Thunderbolt drive. It's not the fastest Thunderbolt storage device, but just trails behind the recently-reviewed Pegasus2 , which is an advanced RAID system. Note that when used with older Thunderbolt-enabled Macs, however, its performance was a little slower, slightly less than 200MBps. This means, if you really want to have the best performance, you need to get the latest Mac.

CNET Labs' USB 3.0 external drive performance

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+
242.9
289.53
Buffalo DriveStation DDR
215.5
216.78
Toshiba Canvio Slim II
118.8
118.49
WD My Passport Ultra
118.5
117.87
Silicon Power Armor A15
113.0
112.09
Seagate Slim
110.4
111.49
IoSafe Solo G3
109.1
110.98
WD My Password Slim
107.7
107.89
LaCie Christofle Sphere
105.5
111.43
Canvio Connect
97.4
97.1
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt
92.29
112.23
Seagate Backup Plus
90.94
110.1
Drobo Mini
59.26
76.79

Legend:

Write
Read

Note:

Measured in megabytes per second

With USB 3.0, it registered 243MBps and 290MBps for sustained writing and reading, respectively. Note that the Windows test machine also use SSD as its internal drive, if you use the Thunderbolt Drive+ with a USB 3.0-enabled computer that uses a regular hard drive as its internal storage, the copy speed will be much lowered since the computer's storage is the bottleneck.

All in all, the Thunderbolt Drive+ offered superb performance for a compact portable drive. In fact it can rival the speed of other high-end advanced RAID storage system. In my testing, the drive also stayed cool during and worked without any hiccups.

Conclusion
The Thunderbolt performance of this Elgato is outstanding and impressive, even when compared to much more advanced storage devices. However, what makes this drive special is its unprecedented USB 3.0 speed. It's by far the fastest to date, even faster -- faster than the Buffalo DriveStation DDR , which is a desktop drive with special caching. This means end users can now tab into real-time HD video editing kind of performance without having to invest in Thunderbolt, but rather just a decent computer with USB 3.0. In all, if superfast performance and portability are what you need, look no further than the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Hard Drive Type external hard drive
  • Capacity 256 GB