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Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt review:

Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt

There's nothing to setting up the Buffalo MiniStation. Out of the box, it's preformatted in HFS+; once connected to a Mac via Thunderbolt, it's immediately available to the computer, with an icon automatically appearing on the desktop and the Finder. You can also use it with a PC, but first, you'll need to reformat it into NTFS file system, which is a very easy task. The drive doesn't come bundled with any software.

I tested the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 and stacked it against other portable drives and Thunderbolt drives.

Obviously, it can't compare with other multiple volume Thunderbolt drives in terms of performance, since they come with RAID setups that can manipulate their internal drives to offers speeds faster than that of each individual drive. However, the Buffalo still did very well.

For the Thunderbolt standard, the test machine was a 2011 MacBook Pro running OS X Lion, on a SATA 3 (6Gbps) SSD, which is the same standard as the hard drive used inside the Buffalo. The drive scored 105MBps and 110MBps for writing and reading, respectively.

For the USB 3.0 test, I used a Windows 7 computer, powered by a second-generation Core i7 processor. In this case, it scored 92MBps and 106MBps, for writing and reading respectively. These are among the top performances of USB 3.0 drives.

The Buffalo worked very well in my testing. I noticed the bottom of its aluminum casing got slightly warm after extended operation but this is to be expected since the casing is designed to also work as the drive's heat-sink.

CNET Labs' Data Transfer Scores/Thunderbolt vs. Externa
(Measured in MB/Longer bars indicate better performance)
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5)
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
Promise Pegasus R4 (RAID 5)
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD

Buffalo backs the MiniStation Thunderbolt drive with a three-year warranty, which is very good for a storage device, though not as good as a five-year warranty. Chances are you don't need any other support for the drive, other than the warranty. In this case, Buffalo delivers more than the Elgato, which comes with just a two-year warranty.

The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt HD-PATU3 makes an excellent portable drive for a Thunderbolt-enabled computer, thanks to its affordability, its support for USB, and its decent performance.

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