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Promise Pegasus R6 review: Thunderbolt is here

CNET editor Dong Ngo reviews the Promise Pegasus R6, the first Thunderbolt-enabled storage device.

The first Thunderbolt-enabled storage device, the Pegasus R6 from Promise Technology.
The first Thunderbolt-enabled storage device, the Pegasus R6 from Promise Technology. Dong Ngo/CNET

If you're looking for a storage device that only a few deserving computers can handle, Promise Technology's Thunderbolt-enabled Pegasus R6 external hard drive is for you. It's a storage device like no other.

And it was hard to review it. For one thing, as it's the first storage device with Thunderbolt, we needed to think of a new set of tests for it while still comparing it with existing storage devices in a way that makes sense. However, the hardest part was not the logistics but how to rate the drive.

As Thunderbolt currently offers 10Gbps bandwidth (about 1.2GBps), the Pegasus R6 is by far the fastest storage device we've ever seen. You can even call it too fast, as it's much faster than our test machine's internal drive, which is already one of the fastest internal storage devices on the market: a SATA 3 (6Gbps)-based solid-state drive. This means that in some parts of our testing, it was the test machine itself that imposed the bottleneck of the data connection. In other words, nobody can complain about the drive's performance. On top of that the drive is good-looking and, per the Thunderbolt standard, can be daisy-chained with five others without reducing the bandwidth. We did try two Pegasus R6es together and witnessed no drop-off in performance.

Now playing: Watch this: Promise Pegasus R6

Unfortunately, there are quite a few other things you can complain about. The first is that, as a storage device, the drive works only with Thunderbolt-enabled Macs, which includes the latest releases of the MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini. This is because it doesn't come with any other connection types. If Promise would include just a USB, FireWire, or eSATA port with the Pegasus, it would make the device compatible with the rest of the existing Macs and even PCs, and hence increase its value tremendously. Owners of a Mac Pro, for example, could get one to use via FireWire or eSATA for now, before upgrading to a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac later.

The second catch is the price. The Pegasus R6 costs around $1,500 for the 6TB version or $2,000 for the 12TB version, making it one of the most expensive direct-attached external-drive storage devices on the market. To add to the insult, the device doesn't include the necessary Thunderbolt cable, which you'll have to spend another $49 for.

That said, the Pegasus R6 is still an excellent device for those who want to get the most data performance and have the funds to pay for it. If you are one of them, be aware that you might not be able to take full advantage of the device's speed--that's how fast it is!--as there aren't any computers on the market that offer the same level of storage performance. For most owners of Thunderbolt-enabled Macs, the Pegasus R6 is still a very good device to consider; but for now they should probably sit tight and wait till the price goes down. As for those of us with a Windows computer or an older Mac, well, we'll have to wait for the next device or until we upgrade our computers.

For more information on how really fast the drive is, check out CNET's full review of Promise's Pegasus R6 Thunderbolt drive.