Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thunderbolt storage roundup: The hair-pulling irony

Editors' note: This roundup was originally posted on March 23, 2012, and is to be updated on a regular basis as more devices are reviewed.
Yesterday I finished a review of the G-RAID with Thunderbolt, which concluded the first batch, or should I say the first generation, of Thunderbolt storage devices. Calling this generation interesting would be an understatement.

Thunderbolt opens up a new storage ecosystem,
in which all members so far, despite their differences, share these common attributes: They are all fast (or very fast), and expensive (or very expensive), and they discriminate against all other connection types (such as USB, FireWire, or eSATA). And not only do they all support only Thunderbolt, none of them come with a Thunderbolt cable, which is required for them to work. Imagine getting yourself a shiny new car just to find out that you'll need to go get the steering wheel separately before the joyrides can start.

The cable costs $50 by itself, on top of the price of a Thunderbolt drive, which is easily some $200 more than a similar storage device of the same capacity that uses USB or FireWire would cost. The WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo, which is the most affordable Thunderbolt drive for now, for example, costs about $700 for the 6TB version. The 6TB WD My Book Studio II, which is similar but supports USB 3.0, FireWire, and eSATA, costs just $430.

Back to the Thunderbolt cable: when you get one, you'll find that it's way too long for most situations. At 6.6 feet, when curled up, the cable is actually bulkier than the Elgato Thunderbolt drive itself. And for now, there's only one size cable. It seems that though Apple chose to adopt the Thunderbolt standard it is making it really hard for consumers to enjoy it, even when they're willing to pay a lot for the privilege.

There have been two big challenges for me in reviewing Thunderbolt drives. One is to refrain from pulling my hair over the irony, which I failed to do. The second is how to avoid sounding like a broken record, which you can see how well I managed by reading each review or watching the video playlist at the bottom of this post. Hopefully this will soon all change when Windows computers that support Thunderbolt become available.

That said, if you can't wait to have a superfast storage device for your professional needs and are willing to put up with everything required to own one, these seven drives are the options currently on the market. I've sorted them by review order because they're pretty much half a dozen of one, six of the other.

G-RAID with Thunderbolt
The G-RAID with Thunderbolt is the latest in the Thunderbolt storage ecosystem, and, like the products it follows, it's fast, expensive, supports only Thunderbolt, and doesn't come with the necessary Thunderbolt cable. The drive makes up for this by offering the best performance among dual-bay and single-volume Thunderbolt drives. It was even faster than the top-notch Pegasus R6 in one of my tests.

It's not perfect, however, since users can't replace its internal hard drives at all. On top of that it's also comparatively expensive, costing about $150 more than the WD My Book Thunderbolt of the same capacity. Read the full review of the G-RAID with Thunderbolt.

WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo
The WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo is the first Thunderbolt storage device from Western Digital. The drive is basically the Thunderbolt version of the My Book Studio Edition II. It has two drive bays accessible from the top. Inside, you'll find two SATA hard drives of either 2TB or 3TB each, so the Duo can offer 4TB or 6TB of storage space when formatted in RAID 0. In RAID 1, you'll have half of that.

In my testing, the My Book was one of the slowest Thunderbolt storage devices on the market, but it was still much faster than any other non-Thunderbolt external hard drive. That plus the fact that it costs significantly less than its counterparts makes it a very good deal. Read the full review of the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo.

Seagate GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt adapter
At $190, the Seagate GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt adapter is the best deal among Thunderbolt storage devices. Though it doesn't come with any storage itself, it can turn any GoFlex drive, whether desktop or laptop version, into Thunderbolt storage. On top of that it also works with internal hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs). And when you combine its price and the price of a GoFlex Desk drive (or an internal drive), it still comes out much cheaper than any Thunderbolt drive.

This flexibility also means you can be in total control of your Thunderbolt's capacities and performance. For example, you can get a SATA hard drive of any capacity or use an SSD for top performance. You can also use multiple adapters and daisy-chain drives together to increase storage space.

In my testing, the adapter offers great performance, even faster than some regular Thunderbolt drives. Read the full review of the Seagate GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt adapter.

Elgato Thunderbolt drive
The Elgato Thunderbolt drive is the first bus-powered Thunderbolt storage device. This means you won't need to use a separate power adapter with it and can just use a Thunderbolt cable for both data and power connectivity. You do need to buy the Thunderbolt cable separately, and the 6.6-foot cable is actually bulkier than the drive itself. You can't find a shorter cable, unfortunately, and for now that means the Elgato is a lot less portable than it could be.

Since it's a single-volume storage device, the Elgato's performance is limited to that of the SSD it houses inside, and that was exactly what I found in my testing. Still, it's the fastest bus-powered portable drive on the market. Read the full review of the Elgato Thunderbolt drive.

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt
The LaCie 2big Thunderbolt is the Thunderbolt version of the LaCie 2big and comes with two Thunderbolt ports, though it doesn't have any other connection types. Like the WD My Book Duo, the LaCie offers RAID 0, RAID 1, and the option to replace its hard drives, though this would void the warranty.

With regular high-speed hard drives instead of energy-efficient ones, the LaCie was faster than the WD My Book in my testing, but it's also much more expensive. Read the full review of the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt.

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD
The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD is the first Thunderbolt external drive that's based on an SSD. For this reason, it's very expensive, costing about $900 for just 240GB. The drive is fast but due to its outrageously high cost and the fact that it requires a separate adapter, there's no reason why you should pick it over the Elgato above. Read the full review of the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD.
The Promise Pegasus R6 is the thoroughbred of the Thunderbolt standard. It's the first storage device and up to now still the fastest of its type to offer the most storage space, up to 12TB. This workhorse storage product houses six hot-swappable hard drives that can be set up in many different RAID configurations. The downsides of the drive include its enormous cost (about $2,000 for 12TB) and the noise and the vibration it generates during operation.
In addition to the R6, Promise also offers the R4, which is similar but has only four drive bays. Read the full review of the Promise Pegasus R6.

Wondering how I managed to remain original while reviewing each of these very similar devices? Check out this video playlist below.

View the original article here

Source From CNET

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