drive is one of the simpler and more affordable ways to add Thunderbolt
partly because it uses a single drive arrangement. But rather than a hard disk,
it uses SSD technology, as popular rise by the MacBook Air, which is based on
flash memory with an advanced controller. So, despite its compact size and
relatively low capacity, it packs serious performance.
anomaly. Elgato’s monolithic portable drive eschews hard disk technology,
combining SSD with Thunderbolt to good effect
is specifically aimed at mobile use. There’s only one Thunderbolt port, so it
has to be the last item in your chain of Thunderbolt devices. To use a Mini
Display Port monitor with your Mac at the same time, you’d need a Mac with two
Thunderbolt ports - and that means only the 2 7in iMac at the moment, reducing
the appeal of the drive to MacBook users. If you use a Thunderbolt Display or
iMac as your second monitor, however, you can daisy-chain through it to the
good reason for this limitation: unlike the LaCie Little Big Disk, which is
also portable, the Elgato draws its power solely from your Mac through the
Thunderbolt cable, and thus doesn’t require you to carry an external power
supply adaptor or find a mains socket when you want to use it.
Based on a single SanDisk Ultra SSD drive with
a SATA-II connection, this was never going to be the fastest Thunderbolt SSD
Based on a
single SanDisk Ultra SSD drive with a SATA-II connection, this was never going
to be the fastest Thunderbolt SSD around. Elgato says power and heat
restrictions on Thunderbolt drives prevented it from using a faster
arrangement. In testing, however, the drive came admirably close to the maximum
speed of 270MB per second quoted by Elgato: its average read speed for large
files was 269.6MB per second, and its average write speed wasn’t far behind at 257.7MB.
Pleasingly, the speeds that contributed to these averages showed consistent
performance across various file sizes.
the Elgato a good choice for basic video editing and demanding photographic
tasks. Your media can reside on fast storage without cluttering up your startup
drive. In fact, if your MacBook has a standard Apple hard disk rather than an
SSD, the Elgato will outperform it - a remarkable reversal of the traditional
objection to using external drives as working storage.
We tested a
120GB model. The 240GB version costs just a bit less than LaCie’s Little Big
Disk of the same capacity. While that drive offers the flexibility of being set
up as a RAID stripe for even higher speeds, it would be operating at half its
total available capacity in that configuration.
the very fastest storage you can buy, which might seem disappointing from a
Thunderbolt SSD. But it offers a good balance of price, performance and
convenience when you need quick storage to carry with you.
speed test results
file tests push fast drives to their limits. Both of the SSD-based drives gave
fairly consistent speeds when reading and writing. With rates in hundreds of
megabytes per second, variations of around 10MB per second are small. The
Elgato, the only single-disk unit, gave impressive transfer rates of over 250MB
per second, whether reading or writing. The others each contained two disks,
and the results shown are what we saw with each configured as a striped array,
which aims to reach higher speeds by spreading the workload between the two
Thunderbolt speed test results
Little Big Disk, also SSD-based, exhibited a minor speed variation of 9.1MB per
second when writing files; the gap was larger when reading, at 53.2MB per
second, though still much smaller than the variation seen in the hard
disk-based units. To avoid peak speeds skewing our analysis, we looked at their
minimums and averages. Here, LaCie’s 2big was consistent even in its variation,
by 46.2MB per second and 45.8MB per second when reading and writing
respectively. The WD My Book showed much greater variation, with gaps of
110.6MB per second and 61.5MB per second respectively, and its minimum speeds
were by far the closest to a low of 200MB per second of all the drives.
VAT; 240GB $686
Mac * Thunderbolt cable (not supplied)
storage * properly portable * No need to carry an external power supply
capacity * no pass-through