When Apple announced the first Thunderbolt-enabled Macs, the air was thick with excitement – a single port that allowed you to connect up to 7 displays, storage devices, or other accessories, capable of incredible speeds. Unfortunately, the lack of low-priced consumer-level Thunderbolt products has left the technology in a sticky situation.
Fortunately, as time passes and new products are released, Thunderbolt storage solutions aren’t quite as outlandish as they used to be. Seagate has released two new Thunderbolt hard drive adapters that, while they’re still not cheap, are now within reach of many consumers – enter the Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt.
I received a desk model of the GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter, which is designed to connect to Seagate’s GoFlex series of desktop drives. The adapter is not only attractive, durable, and well-designed – it also allows you to transfer files at much greater speeds than USB or FireWire drives.
From the moment I pulled the adapter from its box, I was immediately stricken by how nice it looks, especially with a drive docked inside. The combination of durable matte black plastic and a single small Seagate logo is very tasteful. I was especially appreciative that Seagate didn’t plaster the device with their name in big letters a huge logo.
Besides its appearance, the GoFlex Thunderbolt Desk is also extremely versatile. Rather than make the dock proprietary and only able to connect with their own drives, Seagate opted to use a SATA connection, allowing you to dock standard 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drives as well. This is a big win in my book. Also especially useful is the fact that they have included two Thunderbolt ports, so you can daisy chain with additional Thunderbolt devices.
Speed and Performance
One of the main advantages to the GoFlex Thunderbolt is, naturally, it’s speed. But just how much faster are Thunderbolt drives compared to the competition? The results are pretty staggering. To put the speed increase in perspective, I first tested a Lacie Rugged 1TB drive connected through FireWire 800, which reached read and write speeds of up to 73.1MB/s.
Now compare the above results to a 4TB GoFlex Desk drive connected through the GoFlex Thunderbolt Desk adapter:
The speeds go nearly up to 180MB/s – that’s a nearly three-fold increase in speed (and about 2/3 of the speed of a SATA II SSD), which pushes the limits of the standard rotary desktop hard drive inside. That extra speed could really come in handy when backing up files and transferring movies!
Real-life speeds will depend on exactly what sort of data you are transferring and what size the files are. Smaller files transfer slower, as do compressed files like ZIP archives and MP3 files, while larger video files could easily reach the sorts of speeds I measured with the above benchmark.the data you’re transferring.
The SeaGate GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter is an absolute speed demon, and considering its $200 price tag, and the fact that it can connect to any SATA hard drive you already have, it’s really a pretty good deal for the money, especially in comparison to other Thunderbolt storage solutions.
About the only fault I can find in this adapter is the fact that it doesn’t come with its own Thunderbolt cable, which will cost you an extra $50 if you buy it directly from Apple.
For its price and performance, the GoFlex Thunderbolt Desk simply has no equal, and I award it 4 out of 5 stars, deducting a point because it’s still a bit pricy for just being an adapter, and because it doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable. For the $200 price tag, and the fact that they could buy the cables in bulk, it seems like they should have thrown one in.
All things considered, however, this is an extremely solid setup that can easily triple your speeds compared to FireWire 800 drives, and would see even greater gains compared to FireWire 400 or USB 2 drives. It’s also currently the best all-around deal for those who want an ultra-fast drive to use with a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac.
For more information, or to purchase either the GoFlex Thunderbolt Desk or its $99 mobile counterpart, head on over to Seagate’s product page.
- Extremely fast.
- Affordable compared to other Thunderbolt accessories.
- Stylish and well-designed.
- Includes a second Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining.
- Extremely easy to set up and use.
- Extremely versatile – can connect to any SATA hard drive.
- Does not include Thunderbolt cable.
- Expensive for most consumers.