Elgato Thunderbolt SSD review: Elgato Thunderbolt SSD

Performance
Though the Thunderbolt standard has the ceiling throughput of 10Gbps, since the Elgato hosts a single SSD, its top speed should be that of the SSD. And this was exactly what I found in my testing. The portable drive was about as fast as an internal SSD, which, by the way, is very fast for any external drive but slower than other multiple-volume Thunderbolt drives I've reviewed.

I put the Elgato through two sets of tests. In the first set, I compared its performance with that of internal drives, including traditional hard drives and solid state drives (SSDs). In the second set, the drive was stacked up against other popular external devices that use USB 3.0, USB 2.0, FireWire, and eSATA connections.

The test machine is a 2011 MacBook Pro running OS X Lion, on a SATA 3 (6Gbps) SSD, which is the same standard as the SSD used in the Elgato.

For the first set of tests, I used the Pegasus R6 connected to the Elgato and benchmarked how fast the portable drive transferred data to and from the Thunderbolt partner. In this test, the Elgato registered 121.96MBps, very fast but still slower than many SSDs and than all of the Thunderbolt storage drives. When I took the R6 out of the equation and let the Elgato worked by itself, doing both writing and reading, the drive, as expected, scored much lower at just 72MBps. Comparatively, this is still much faster than any other non-Thunderbolt external drive.

In the second set of tests, I used the Elgato as most people would use an external hard drive: copying data back and forth between it and the host computer's internal drive. In this test, the drive registered 169MBps and 121MBps for reading and writing, respectively. These numbers were by far faster than any other external hard drive using USB, FireWire, or eSATA connectivity, but again, not the fastest among all Thunderbolt drives.

All in all, the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD performed as I expected for an SSD-based external drive. The drive also stayed relatively cool during the testing and worked without any hiccups.

CNET Labs' data transfer scores, Thunderbolt vs. internal (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unit to Unit  
Self Read and Write  
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 0)
353.24 
228.06 
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5)
323.79 
192.53 
Plextor PX-256M2S
261 
162.03 
OCZ Vertex 3
260.71 
150.01 
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
233.5 
141.69 
Crucial M4
235.51 
117.99 
OCZ Agility 3
207.75 
101.67 
Patriot WildFire
202 
99.72 
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
121.96 
71.84 
WD VelociRapter 600GB
126.33 
58.05 
Seagate Barracuda XT
115.71 
51.1 
WD VelociRapter 300GB
112.59 
47.12 

CNET Labs' data transfer scores Thunderbolt vs. external (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 0)
184.94 
212.5 
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5)
177.53 
210.5 
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
186.8 
184.71 
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
168.97 
120.61 

Service and support
Elgato backs its Thunderbolt SSD portable drives with a three-year warranty, which is good compared with the two-year warranty for the Pegasus R6. At Elgato's site, you can find a page dedicated to the drive, where you can find all information you need about it.

Conclusions
If priced lower and equipped with a shorter Thunderbolt cable, the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD would make an excellent portable drive for a Mac owner. For now it's an option for those who absolutely need a fast storage device to accompany their Macbook Air or Macbook Pro.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Interface Type Thunderbolt
  • Capacity 240 GB
  • Hard Drive Type External hard drive