Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ review
512GB hard disk, USB3, Thunderbolt, 83x21x131mm
Despite Thunderbolt’s impressive potential, few Thunderbolt peripherals are available, and those that are available tend to be very expensive. At £760, or £1.48 per gigabyte, the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+, a 512GB external SSD, certainly isn’t cheap.
We’d expect such an expensive peripheral to be well-made and the Drive+ is. The plain grey enclosure isn’t particularly attractive, but its metal build is rigid and robust. The drive+ is chunky, but it can be easily carried in a bag. As many Thunderbolt-equipped computers are Macs, the Drive+ doesn’t come with any backup software because Mac OS X has its own built-in Time Machine backup program.
The Drive+ isn’t totally devoid of extras, though. Unlike its predecessor, the original Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, this drive has a USB3 port in addition to its Thunderbolt connector. This means you can use the Drive+ to share data with PCs and Macs that don’t have a Thunderbolt connection. The Drive+ comes preformatted as HFS+, though. To use it for cross-platform file sharing you’ll need to either reformat it as FAT32, which imposes a 4GB file size limit, reformat it as ext4 or buy Paragon’s HFS for Windows driver. It’s a shame the latter isn’t included.
Happily, a 50cm Thunderbolt cable is included with the Drive+, something which isn’t always the case with Thunderbolt storage devices.
All of this would be for nothing if the Drive+ didn’t excel in our benchmarks, but it was blindingly fast over both Thunderbolt and USB3. The Drive+ uses a Plextor PX-512M5Pro SSD, so it has the benefit of both 19nm Toshiba NAND flash and a Marvell 88SS9187 controller. When connected via USB3, it wrote large files at 169MB/s and read them at 213.6MB/s. Small files were written at 48.6MB/s and read at 64.6MB/s.
Those speeds are positively glacial compared to the Drive+’s Thunderbolt performance, though. Large files were written at a blistering 386.8MB/s and read at 331.1MB/s. Small files were written at 129.7MB/s and, in the only performance speed bump, read at a noticeably slower 75.6MB/s. The SSD’s speeds in our large files tests don’t quite match Elgato’s claims of 420MB/s, but it’s not too far off and you’d have to invest in a RAID array to see faster performance.
The Thunderbolt Drive+’s performance is excessive for simple backups or the occasional file share with friends or colleagues. It’s great for video and graphics professionals who use Macs and other Thunderbolt-equipped workstations, and need to share large batches of files as quickly as possible, a purpose for which there is currently no better portable disk.