Cheap ThunderBolt Drive For Mac? | MacGizmoGuy Blog

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.