ThunderBolt | MacGizmoGuy Blog

Top 10 Currently Shipping ThunderBolt Hard Drives

Apple ThunderBolt Port
Wanting to take advantage of Apple and Intel's ultra high-speed ThunderBolt interface on your Mac desktop or MacBook? Here's 10 currently shipping ThunderBolt external hard drives that range from surprisingly affordable to insanely fast - and expensive.

Presented somewhat in order of price, starting with the very affordable Buffalo miniStation combo drive under $200 and ranging up to the performance leading Pegasus Rx RAID series. In between, you'll find reasonably affordable consumer drive options under $500 and higher capacity ThunderBolt drive offerings for professional and business markets.

1. Buffalo MiniStation Combo Drive - USB 3.0 + ThunderBolt

2. Seagate Portable External Hard Drive, Dock and Cable

3. Elgato ThunderBolt 120 GB Solid State Drive

4. Seagate GoFlex Desk External Hard Drive, Dock and Cable

5. LaCie 1TB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Dual Drive

6. Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo

7. G-Tech G-RAID with Thunderbolt 4TB

8. LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD 240GB

9. LaCie 2big Thunderbolt Series 6TB Drive

10. Promise Pegasus R4 ThunderBolt Drive Array

* Most of the drive models linked above come in various capacities from each manufacturer. ThunderBolt SSD's are typically 120GB or 240GB. Spinning platter drive options range from a modest 500GB to 3TB in the consumer market, and 4TB to 12TB and beyond in ThunderBolt RAID multi-drive systems.

** Check product details carefully. Many external ThunderBolt storage offerings do NOT include a ThunderBolt cable in the box and must be purchased separately. Currently, Buffalo ships both USB 3.0 and ThunderBollt cables in the box, as does Seagate's GoFlex drives when ordered as a bundle. Otherwise all higher-end drives are still selling the cable separately.

Cheap ThunderBolt Drive For Mac?

As of mid-2012 Apple users now have a fair selection of, well, cheap-er ThunderBolt storage products to choose from: These range from the now more affordable, long-standing Promise Technologies multi-drive RAID array that started it all -- down to cheaper dual and single disk ThunderBolt SSD and HDD external drives priced somewhat more reasonably for the average Mac consumer.

The cheapest ThunderBolt drive currently available is from Seagate with it's innovative and versatile GoFlex interface and drive bundles. Interchangeable interfaces are available for USB2 / USB 3.0, FireWire, eSATA - and now ThunderBolt. The bundling of either a desktop or laptop size ThunderBolt drive dock, a 1TB or 3TB HDD, AND the inclusion of a ThunderBolt cable make either the Portable ThunderBolt Drive Bundle or the ThunderBolt Desktop Drive Bundle offerings the cheapest TBolt solutions to date.

Cheapest Mac ThunderBolt Hard Drive Bundles
The closest competition for an affordable, single drive, cheap ThunderBolt HDD is from LaCie - and it's 1TB desktop size offering is nearly $100 more than Seagate's portable solution. And ElGato's single SSD ThunderBolt offering comes in under $500 - if 120GB of much faster storage is big enough for your needs.

The gotcha? With a single drive - and using mechanical platter hard drive technology - the drive itself becomes a bottle-neck. The 10Gbps per channel bandwidth of ThunderBolt is starved for data and under-utilized unless 2 or more hard disk or even SSD drives are paired in a striped RAID configuration. So the cheapest ThunderBolt drives certainly aren't anywhere near the fastest.

For many, Seagate's cheap ThunderBolt laptop drive will still offer the fastest data backups and transfers they've ever experienced - for under $300. But that's still pricey compared to what $100 or so will buy you in a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed drive at half the cost. In other posts, I talk about the bright future of Mac USB 3.0 ports. Ultimately, 5Gbps USB3 will likely satisfy far more Apple users in the decade ahead than more expensive 10Gbps ThunderBolt products will. But for those that want TBolt storage NOW - the cost of living on the bleeding edge has gotten a bit more tolerable.

It's been a slow road to the fast lane of high-speed ThunderBolt storage and accessories - at least for the average consumer. In the year and a half since Apple ThunderBolt ports were available on it's MacBook laptops then other models, the only products that reached the market were very high-end storage solutions geared towards enterprise and professional video and audio editing needs and costing nearly or more than $1000.

That's rather normal for any technology: The first-to-market products tend to be high-end, high-margin to recoup R&D costs quickly. So too with the ThunderBolt HDD and SSD drive scene. As volume shipping occurs and competition in the market heats up, downward price pressure and more affordable computer peripherals will become available.

Slow Road To The Fast Lane : Apple ThunderBolt Accessories

Computer market leaders Intel and Apple introduced a bleeding edge computer data interface named ThunderBolt about a year or so back. Capable of transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps on each of its dual channels, it promises twice the bandwidth of its nearest competitor - the 5Gbps emerging USB 3.0 SuperSpeed standard. Unfortunately, it's been a long, slow road to the fast lane their ThunderBolt computer interface technology. Only a handful of hard drives have reached consumers. Other ThunderBolt accessories and adapters have been announced, but few if any have shipped.

Computer Interface Speed Comparison Chart

These ThunderBolt ports are an extension of either a Mac or PC computers internal PCI Express bus. Because of this, it provides a rather direct and multiple-lane freeway to a computer's memory and CPU. Think of it as an expansion card slot that's just a little external port on the side of your laptop or desktop system. Perhaps the days of having to open up a desktop computer to insert a card into a slot are behind us.

ThunderBolt technology originally debuted on Apple's MacBook laptop - and later - Macintosh desktop system as a ThunderBolt port where the DisplayPort used to be. That's an important thing to note: ThunderBolt can also drive ultra-hi-resolution external computer monitors. There's also promise of other ThunderBolt peripheral and drive adapters that can connect to other eSATA, USB 3.0, FireWire and Ethernet accessories. And ThunderBolt is not exclusive to the Mac platform. Intel and other PC makers will soon be shipping motherboards with ThunderBolt ports built-in.

The largest performance gains will be in the data storage area. A ThunderBolt backup drive using this interface promises insanely rapid data transfer and backup speeds, especially when paired with solid-state SSD flash drives. A full DVD of data can be copied in seconds, an entire Terabyte backup drive worth of videos, music and photos in just a few minutes. Expect other high-demand Thunderbolt peripherals for Mac and PC such as HD TV tuners, High-Def and other high demand devices to hit the market to take advantage of the speed ThunderBolt technology offers.

Biggest Apple FLOP of 2011 - Intel ThunderBolt Rollout

Apple ThunderBolt Peripheral Port
When first introduced on Apple MacBooks in February of 2011, that tiny ThunderBolt interface port sat poised to change the future of computer peripherals and expansion. Integrating both mind-blowingly fast direct access to the PCI-Express bus and rolling in DisplayPort monitor functionality, there's no doubt it's going to change the landscape of personal computers for the next decade and beyond. But what good are Apple-Intel ThunderBolt ports if there's not much of anything to actually plug into it?

With only PARTNERS and PROMISES - and ZERO SHIPPING PRODUCTS on the day of ThunderBolt's release, this has got to be one of the biggest Marketing and Product Rollout FLOPS Steve Jobs had to take to his grave. For months, the only Apple Inc product to cling to was a $49 ThunderBolt cable - limp and begging for something, anything to plug into it. Where was a ThunderBolt backup drive to go along with that new Mac?

Fast forward to the end of 2011. Promise Technologies was the only Pro level high-end game in town delivering ThunderBolt drives for many months. LaCie only recently moved from announced to shipping products as it utterly struggles to ramp up production and distribution of it's LittleBig Disk ThunderBolt SSD and platter drives. Seagate GoFlex ThunderBolt drive adapters have yet to ship. Sonnet Technologies line of drives and TBolt adapters are still temporarily stuck in 'Real Soon Now' mode. And the biggest player of all in storage - Western-Digital - is still only in the cheerleading section and not out on the playing field. Yet.

Yeah we got the ThunderBolt Cinema Display now: Ho-Hum. And perhaps most bizarre of all - The truly professional-grade Macintosh Pro tower workstations have YET to see an upgrade that includes ThunderBolt ports?!? That's got to be the biggest WTF I've ever seen foisted on Apple's high-end customer base.

In 2012, things can only - and WILL get better. ThunderBolt technology and it's benefits are an iceberg just breaking the surface. But what a disappointment it's been so far. Apple should be ashamed. We were sold a carriage with no horse, but I see some coming down the road towards us… "Better Late Than Never" isn't the way a world-class, leading-edge technology company like Apple ought to be addressing its customer's needs.

ThunderBolt For Mac - Next Generation Device Interface

Intel and Apple ThunderBolt Port
Apple and Intel released a new computer interface port - THUNDERBOLT and have been incorporating it across it's Mac laptopand desktop computer line. It promises up to 10GBps potential bandwidth throughput to deliver literally a 20-Fold increase in device speeds over USB 2.0.

MacBook ThunderBolt Port Accessories
We'll have to wait for ThunderBolt drives, SSD's, TV Tuners, Webcams, Printers, Keyboards, Mice and other accessories to take advantage of the 10GBps bandwidth. Once code-named LightPeak - Thunder-Bolt promises a huge leap in data transfer speeds for Mac gadgets and add-ons. This versatile computer port co-developed by Intel and Apple replaces Apple's min DisplayPort - yet will allow nearly any sort of device to connect with it. Other peripheral interfaces like USB2, 5GBps USB3, FireWire, SCSI, eSATA and beyond -- can work THROUGH ThunderBolt ports with the slew of ThunderBolt adapters that will become available later this year. Stay tuned, this is game changing computer technology for the next decade.