Elgato's Thunderbolt SSD drive delivers speed, sticker shock

When it comes to external SSDs, speed costs

By , Computerworld |  Storage, Elgato, solid state drives

While I test quite a few drives, both external and internal, it's rare that I see anything but incremental performance increases with each new generation. But the Thunderbolt interconnect makes this drive a truly fast backup device, more than three times faster than an external hard drive using USB 2.0. However, there are drawbacks.

The Elgato Thunderbolt SSD

An issue with this particular drive is that it has only one Thunderbolt port. One of the cool attributes of the Thunderbolt specification is that it allows you to daisy-chain peripherals together. As many as five peripherals, for instance, can be connected to the Apple Thunderbolt Display, such as a Promise Pegasus desktop RAID array or a LaCie Little Big Disk , which was the first Thunderbolt-enabled external hard drive.

Another issue with Thunderbolt-enabled hardware is the price, which hopefully will change as more products hit the market. I tested the 240GB model of the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, which retails for an impressive $700 . A 120GB version sells for $430. Even the three-foot Thunderbolt cable I used for this review cost $50. Ouch!

By comparison, a 1TB LaCie Little Big Disk with Thunderbolt connectivity (7200rpm) goes for $400; the 2TB, 5200rpm version sells for $500. So you're paying a hefty premium for the portability and ruggedness of an SSD.

In terms of style, the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD has a modern, techy look. The dark-gray matte finish is good for resisting fingerprints and makes the drive easy to grip.

Performance tests

The hardware platform I used to test the drive was a new MacBook Pro with 8GB of memory and a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor. The laptop was running version 10.7.2 of Mac OS X (Lion). (The SSD supports Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later.) The stock drive in the laptop was a 750GB 7200rpm SATA hard drive.

Since neither the MacBook Pro nor the MacBook Air support USB 3.0 or eSATA, comparisons involving Thunderbolt have to be made with USB 2.0, which has a maximum throughput of 60MB/sec. Thunderbolt offers a maximum throughput of 10Gbps.

My first performance test of the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD was a single file transfer.

QuickBench 4.0 test results


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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