Silicon Power Thunder T11 review: Fast speed stunted by extreme heat

Out of the box, the drive is preformatted in HFS+ and works right away with a Mac. It doesn't require a separate power adapter as the Thunderbolt cable takes care of both data and power at the same time. Since it has only one Thunderbolt port -- not unusual for a portable drive -- in a daisy-chain setup, you can only use it at the end of the chain. (You can usually connect as many as seven Thunderbolt devices together.) The drive is also compatible with Thunderbolt 2 port with no change in performance.

What's with the heat?

The Thunder has an aluminum chassis that also works as the heat-sink to dissipate the heat generated by the internal solid-state storage chips. And it can get very hot. During my testing, after about 10 or 15 minutes of operation, it became hot enough that I couldn't rest my finger on it for more than a few seconds, and after 30 minutes I didn't want to touch it at all with my bare hand.

It's quite normal for portable drive to get slightly hot, but I found the case of the Thunder T11 rather extreme. The drive does cool down fast, however, when unplugged or when the host computer goes into sleep mode. It shares its power status with the host computer.

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The Thunder T11 includes a short Thunderbolt cable. Dong Ngo/CNET

Fast but inconsistent performance

I was a little troubled by the Thunder's performance. On one hand, it was very fast, offering the sustained write speed of some 180MBps and a read speed of 230MBps.

But I could only achieve that performance during the first 10 or 15 minutes of use, while the drive was still cool. Once it became hot, its performance degraded dramatically; at one point, down to just about 60MBps.

CNET Labs Thunderbolt performance

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+
284
308
WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo
192
178
WD My Passport Pro
180
170
LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt
179
181
Silicon Power Thunder T11
178
232
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
130
169
Drobo Mini
106
95
Pegasus J2
84
153

Legend:

Write
Read

Note:

Measured in megabytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance.

That said, the scores on the charts represent the best-case scenario, which is what you'd get when you first plug the drive into a computer to quickly copy some data. To the drive's credit, with its speed, you can actually move a lot of data around within the first just 10 minutes, easily around 100GB, which is more than you need in most cases. For prolonged usage, such as backing up or video editing, expect much lower performance.

Other than the heat issue, the Thunder worked fine in my testing, and it was very quiet.

Conclusion

The Thunder T11 has a lot going for it, including its fast performance and its tiny physical size. Unfortunately, it's hard for me to recommend it due to the extreme amount of heat it generates during extended operation. It still makes a great drive if you just want to move data between different computers, but for heavy usage, you'd be better off with something that's bigger and much cooler, such as the new WD My Passport Pro.

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Silicon Power Thunder T11

Part Number: SP120GBTSDT11013
Low Price: $159.99 See all prices