We have multiple Apple compatible storage vendors competing in the TBolt3 SSD space: Sonnet Tech with it's Fusion Drive, LaCie with it's Bolt 3, OWC with it's ThunderBlade at the high end price points. However, NekTeck, Plugable and CableMatters offering blisteringly fast blade drives at the more affordable end of the spectrum using an OEM design they all share.
As with all solid-state storage, the Read speeds in the 2000+ MB/s tend to be more impressive than the Write speeds, but that's normal for SSD's in general. A lot depends on the files. Huge multi-gigabyte video files will transfer faster than a folder full of itty-bitty data files any day. But with the potential of unhampered 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 throughput paired with a NVMe PCIe SSD module, you'll experience the most painless transfers or TimeMachine backups ever. If your wallet or needs are more modest, consider a modern 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen2 external SSD drive with USB-C connector, it'll still be plenty fast, far cheaper than Thunderbolt-Anything, and still deliver snappy performance on a new Mac's Type-C ThunderBolt 3 port.
240GB and 480 Capacities - Integrated TBolt Cable
The cost overhead of licensing Intel's Thunderbolt chipsets have always added a premium price to any external Thunderbolt backup drive, but declining SSD costs are helping make them more affordable than ever. Monster Digital is being very aggressive with pricing lately, and that makes it possible to actually call their 240Gb and 480GB ThunderBolt SSD drive cheap. They're significantly undercutting the competition like LaCie or Akitio for comparable sized drives.
My particular Apple MacBook Air has only 2 USB 3.0 ports which usually are already in use by my iPhone charging cable and my USB powered speaker system. Although a USB 3.0 SSD drive might be cheaper, I opted for a SSD Thunderbolt external backup drive to take advantage of an otherwise under-used port and not have to disconnect my other USB devices when I need to do a TimeMachine backup. As such, the slight price premium for Monster Digital's silent and fast 240GB Thunderbolt backup drive was worth it.
- Compatible with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) enabled Macs running MacOS Sierra or later
- Currently it's incompatible with ThunderBolt 3 Windows PC's for unknown reasons
- The Type-C ports provide Thunderbolt 3 data transfer rates
- MacBook charging up to 85 watts with a single cable
- Total 40Gbps bandwidth to handle all your Mac peripherals at full data transfer speeds
- Enables Dual 4K displays (DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3 for multi-monitor support
- You can daisy-chain up to 5 additional Thunderbolt3 compatible devices from the dock
- 2 Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C Ports, 3 USB-A 3.0 Ports with 1.5 amps charging current, a full-size DisplayPort, 1 Audio in/out port, an Audio-out headphone port and a Gigabit Ethernet networking port
The number of shipping ThunderBolt docking stations and device expansion hubs has grown rapidly recently. If you remember two or so years back, the world waited, waited, and waited for Belkin to actually ship it's announced, delayed, then revised the specs on it's multi-port ThunderBolt dock. Eventually Matrox beat them to the punch with the first devices that reached the market. Fast forward another year and we now have a half-dozen or more ThunderBolt expansion hubs from six manufacturers vying for consumer's wallets.
The current players now include Belkin, Matrox, Akitio, StarTech, CalDigit - and now ElGato. It should be noted that StarTech, CalDigit, Matrox and ElGato's products appear very similar; with Analog Audio In and Out jacks and a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed port on the front -- with varying USB / FireWire / Ethernet / Video / ThunderBolt output interface configurations on the back.
It seems some are licensing a reference OEM design of some sort, and custom tweaking their port configuration choices somewhat. Check specs closely since some only have a single ThunderBolt port which doesn't allow easy pass-through daisy-chaining, others may have only a single USB 3.0 port but additional, slower USB 2.0 ports on the back. Some don't feature a FireWire port at all, but hubs featuring dual ThunderBolt ports might allow you to use one of them with a ThunderBolt to FireWire 800 adapter. Video support for DVI or HDMI might vary as well.
Of note, some of the newer models of these ThunderBolt hubs can properly support high-current device charging for iPads and/or additionally support devices like Apple USB keyboards or external USB-powered SuperDrive disc drives. ElGato and CalDigit offer such support for their ThunderBolt multi-port devices with an OSX 10.9+ software download available at their respective websites.
Computing technology isn't set on a 'battle ground'. It's simply a landscape for emerging, existing, aging and fading technologies that cycles through some very logical progressions, serves specific computing needs and is eventually supersceeded by 'The Next Thing' that does it better, faster, more efficiently and ulltimately cheaper.
This false 'War' between ThunderBolt vs USB 3.0, or ThunderBolt II vs USB 3.1 doesn't resonate in the least with MOST consumers. Spec driven tech GEEKS may be important early adopters and cheerleaders, but little of this matters to a computing technology consumer who just 'plugs gadgets in' and doesn't give a damn about what's under the hood.
USB in general - USB 3.0 in fact, and USB 3.1 in particular will resonate with consumers for 1 reason above all others: Any given USB gadget will simply be CHEAPER than it's ThunderBolt equivalent. So if you want a gadget war, the war is always won on price for the cheapskates, and won on time-is-money technical prowess to the Professional, Business and Enterprise markets.
Intel and Apple's ThunderBolt interface had a rocky debut year in 2011. Although Apple managed to ship millions upon millions of ThunderBolt enabled MacBooks and desktop Macintosh systems through the year, products to plug into this new high-speed interface were in desperately short supply.
This year's Las Vega Consumer Electronics Show gave hope that A LOT more ThunderBolt accessories are on their way. CES 2012 had a diverse range of ThunderBolt product announcements from several high-profile companies that spell good things for the TBolt market in the year ahead.
Proof that ThunderBolt isn't just a market for Macintosh -- The Acer Aspire S5 Windows notebook was featured as one of the first PC laptops that will incorporate a built-in ThunderBolt port.
A surprising twist for a company known for their awesome Mac TV Tuner products, ElGato announced a ThunderBolt SSD drive in a compact, laptop size format for release later this year.
OCZ Technologies - the clear leader in the Solid-State PC and Mac SSD drive market also announced a laptop-sized SSD drive with ThunderBolt port, the LightFoot series.
Peripheral maker Belkin trotted out a multi-port ThunderBolt Hub and docking station that offers HDMI, USB 2.0, FireWire 800, Analog audio and Gigabit Ethernet ports in a sleek case - that's sadly slated to ship near the END of 2012.
Promised to ship MUCH sooner - Seagate showed off it's GoFlex ThunderBolt drive adapter to reach the market by the end of Q1 2012. The GoFlex desktop and portable drive series is already a great line of hard drive storage products with interchangeable USB2, USB 3.0, FireWire and eSATA adapters currently available. ThunderBolt adapters will help preserve and extend the value of GoFlex drive owners.
LaCie - one of the few companies besides Promise Technologies to actually ship ThunderBolt hard drive and SSD storage products in 2011- announced an interesting ThunderBolt eSATA hub/ converter that features dual ThunderBolt ports and twin eSATA ports to offer very direct drive transfers at maximum speeds.
Currently shipping, Sonnet Technology showed off it's Sonnet Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter - a great intermediary solution for those with eSATA, FireWire or USB 3.0 Express cards and drives to convert to ThunderBolt at a reasonably affordable price point.
While still proving to be a slow-road to the fast lane of truly high-speed Mac computer peripherals, ThunderBolt *IS* gaining momentum and traction - if you can wait it out and afford these products when they arrive. However, I still think the not-so dark horse in this race is USB 3.0 which is MUCH further ahead in the market and will deliver a far wider range of computer peripherals - more affordably and sooner - to the Mac (and PC) consumer marketplace.