Thunderbolt Drive+ 512GB vs. DriveStation Mini Thunderbolt 512GB

Thunderbolt Drive+ 512GB

This portable SSD gives you a choice of connections – but which is best?

Don’t be misled by this solidstate drive’s name. Although it shouts about the drive’s Thunderbolt port, there’s also a USB 3 connection – and you might be better off using it. USB 3 performance peaked at 430MB/second and averaged 352.1MB/second. Thunderbolt was a little behind, and it was the same story when writing data. It was only when transferring very small files that Thunderbolt fared better.

Elgato say this is due to its choice of controller to manage the flow of PCIe data over the Thunderbolt cable into the storage’s Serial ATA connection. It said a controller with better performance would have prevented the drive drawing power from the Thunderbolt port. Its chosen USB controller performs better under the same constraint.

However, having both ports is useful. On recent Macs, it provides flexibility if your only Thunderbolt port has a display connected, or if your USB ports are already used up. The Thunderbolt port is vital on the earliest Macs capable of using it due to their snail-paced USB 2 ports. When it comes to the object itself, the metal-bodied drive weighs 270g – heavy for a portable drive. And aside from branding on the top, the drive isn’t adorned with a distracting LED.

Verdict:

This SSD’s good speed, flexibility and portability embodies the saying ‘you get what you pay for’.

Pros

Two connections for flexibility

Bus-powered

Large capacity

Cons

Expensive

£708 Manufacturer Elgato, elgato.com

Ports 1 x USB 3 port (cable included), 1 x Thunderbolt port (cable included)

Power Bus-powered

Weight 270g

DriveStation Mini Thunderbolt 512GB

This may be the device that puts your Thunderbolt port to good use

This solid-state drive stands upright, so it doesn’t require a lot of space. But if it looks wider than you expect, it’s because it contains two SSDs configured as a striped RAID array for speed. Buffalo claims the drive can reach 763MB/second, but our tests showed its peak read speed averaged 611MB/second, and 521.9MB/second when writing. The drive uses OS X’s built-in capability to turn two (or more) disks into a software-controlled RAID array. It can be reconfigured as a 256GB mirrored array at the expense of speed, dropping the maximum write speed to 319.6MB/second. Features include a metal enclosure and a second Thunderbolt port allows for further expansion.

The SSD bays, however, aren’t accessible. Active cooling is another feature – the Drivestation’s fan whirred to life as soon as we connected it, but the sound is faint. A status LED on the top pulses during activity. After ejecting the drive in the Finder, the drive’s only button puts it to sleep, which allows downstream devices to operate even when it isn’t being used.

The drive requires a mains power supply, which restricts it being truly portable. However, it’s thief-proof with a Kensington lock slot on the back to secure it.

Verdict:

This SSD offers good performance and practical capacity at a good price, with only minor downsides.

Pros

Good speed, capacity and price

Pass-through Thunderbolt port

Quiet fan

Cons

SSDs not user-serviceable

£542 Manufacturer Buffalo Technology, buffalotech.com

Ports 2 x Thunderbolt ports

Power Mains-powered RAID

modes 0 (striped), 1 (mirrored)