Buffalo Technology MiniStation Thunderbolt review
500GB hard disk, USB3, Thunderbolt, 22x130x81mm
As its name suggests, Buffalo’s MiniStation Thunderbolt uses Intel’s Thunderbolt interface to double the amount of available bandwidth compared to its secondary USB3 interface. However, it uses a 500GB mechanical hard disk rather than an SSD, so Windows users using USB3 won’t find performance too dissimilar.
The brushed metal and matt white finish should be your first clue that Buffalo is aiming the MiniStation Thunderbolt at Mac owners – Apple’s machines are currently among the few systems you’ll find Thunderbolt ports on. Whether you use Thunderbolt or USB3, the disk draws power from your PC and doesn’t require an additional power supply.
It comes pre-formatted in the HFS+ file format, which is well suited to Mac OS X but incompatible with Windows. The 500GB of storage becomes 465GB once formatted to NTFS, but you don’t have to worry about wiping off bundled software – the MiniStation Thunderbolt doesn’t come with any. It supports Time Machine though, so Apple users are catered for.
Performance over Thunderbolt was decent, with large file reads reaching 102.8MB/s and large file writes hitting 89.7MB/s. The smaller file test is typically tougher, but read speeds of 37.41MB/s and write speeds of 34.5MB/s were a little disappointing. Switching to USB3, small file read and write speeds were similar, only managing an average of 32.8MB/s writes. Large file averages were also similar, reaching a 95.61MB/s.
Thunderbolt seems a little irrelevant for mechanical hard disks, as performance wasn’t noticeably faster and even Apple products now support USB3. We'd rather buy the cheaper, Seagate Backup Plus Portable 500GB.