Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ review

A Thunderbolt SSD that’s blisteringly fast but eye-wateringly expensive

22 Mar 2014
Our Rating 
5/5
Price when reviewed 
760
inc VAT

Specifications

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.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

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.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

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.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

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.

Basic Specifications

Rating *****
Award Ultimate

Storage

Hard disk Plextor PX-512M5Pro
Capacity 512GB
Formatted capacity 476.7GB
Price per gigabyte £1.48
Disk size N/A
Interface USB3, Thunderbolt
Power connector USB3 from host, Thunderbolt from host
Cache N/A
Seek time N/A
Weight 270g
Size 83x21x131mm
Power consumption idle N/A
Power consumption active N/A

Buying Information

Backup software included none
Price £760
Warranty one year RTB
Supplier http://www.elgato.com
Details www.elgato.com