Don't let the compact design of the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ fool you! It's the fastest portable storage device on the market. Here's CNET's full review of the drive.
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.
|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 |
|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 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.
I tested the Thunderbolt Drive+ with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. With the former it was tested with a new Macbook Pro (late 2013 model), the latter was done with a Windows computer. With both, it offered unprecedented real-word copy speeds.
When used with Thunderbolt, the drive offered the sustained speed of 284MBps for writing and 308MBps for reading, by far the fastest I've seen for portable Thunderbolt drive. It's not the fastest Thunderbolt storage device, but just trails behind the recently-reviewed Pegasus2, which is an advanced RAID system. Note that when used with older Thunderbolt-enabled Macs, however, its performance was a little slower, slightly less than 200MBps. This means, if you really want to have the best performance, you need to get the latest Mac.
With USB 3.0, it registered 243MBps and 290MBps for sustained writing and reading, respectively. Note that the Windows test machine also use SSD as its internal drive, if you use the Thunderbolt Drive+ with a USB 3.0-enabled computer that uses a regular hard drive as its internal storage, the copy speed will be much lowered since the computer's storage is the bottleneck.
All in all, the Thunderbolt Drive+ offered superb performance for a compact portable drive. In fact it can rival the speed of other high-end advanced RAID storage system. In my testing, the drive also stayed cool during and worked without any hiccups.
The Thunderbolt performance of this Elgato is outstanding and impressive, even when compared to much more advanced storage devices. However, what makes this drive special is its unprecedented USB 3.0 speed. It's by far the fastest to date, even faster -- faster than the Buffalo DriveStation DDR, which is a desktop drive with special caching. This means end users can now tab into real-time HD video editing kind of performance without having to invest in Thunderbolt, but rather just a decent computer with USB 3.0. In all, if superfast performance and portability are what you need, look no further than the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+.