Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ review: Blazing fast portable drive

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MSRP: $499.95

The Good The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ portable drive offers top performance when used with either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0. The drive is easy to use and includes both USB and Thunderbolt cables.

The Bad The drive is expensive and there's no bundled software.

The Bottom Line The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is by far the fastest portable drive to date and, for power users, totally worth the investment.

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8.8 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 10
  • Support 8

The Thunderbolt Drive+ is the second Thunderbolt portable drive from Elgato and it's a major upgrade to the already very fast predecessor, that came out two years ago. Apart from the support for USB 3.0, the new drive shares the same compact and bus-powered design as its older brother.

The new device now includes a Thunderbolt (and a USB 3.0) cable, which previous model didn't at launch, making it ready to use right out of the box. That is, if you can afford its current hefty price of $480 for 256GB (or $900 for 512GB).

But it's going to be money well-spent since the Thunderbolt Drive+ is by far the fastest portable drive on the market to date. However, if top performance is not a mandate, you can always check out this list for other great, more affordable portable drives.

The new Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ shares the same compact design found in the previous model.
The new Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ shares the exact compact design found it the previous model. Dong Ngo/CNET
Drive type External Thunderbolt hard drive
Connector options Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 256GB, 512GB
Product dimensions (LWH) 5.2x0.8x3.3 inches
Weight 9.5 oz
Capacity of test unit 256GB
OSes supported Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later.

Frill-free plug-and-play design
The new Thunderbolt Drive+ share the same design as the previous Thunderbolt SSD, which is a typical portable drive that's based on a 2.5-inch internal drive. It measures just 5.2 inches by 0.8 inch by 3.3 inches and weighing only 0.5 pound. Its housing is made of aluminum with a grainy finish that doesn't attract dust or fingerprints. On the inside, the drive houses an internal solid-state drive (SSD) from Plextor, which is accountable for its great performance.

On the bottom of the new Thunderbolt Drive+ drive has four small screws that presumably allow you to take the take apart and replace the SSD on the inside. Doing so would void the warranty, however.

The bus-powered portable drive now can work with either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible).
The bus-powered portable drive now can work with either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible). Dong Ngo/CNET

The new drive comes with one Thunderbolt port and one USB 3.0 port. It doesn't support Thunderbolt 2 but also worked with USB 2.0 in my trial. Since this is a single-volume storage device, there's no need for it to support Thunderbolt 2 since the top speed of the original Thunderbolt (10Gbps) is already much faster than the top speed of the internal SSD (6Gbps). The lack of a second Thunderbolt port, however, means that in a daisy-chain setup, the drive can only be used at the end of the chain, since you can't plug another Thunderbolt device to it. This is a normal design for a compact drive, however.

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.

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