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Test Setup And Benchmarks

Nine External Thunderbolt Storage Devices, Rounded Up

When it comes to Thunderbolt and storage performance, A/V professionals should be particularly happy with the interface. As you've seen in our product spotlights, sequential throughput is quite often exceptional. By emphasizing the speed at which 128 KB blocks of data can be pushed through the interface, we got an accurate picture of how each submission is able to do its job.

It's not our intention to shun random-access performance entirely. However, none of these solutions are going to deliver impressive IOPS rates. If you don't believe us, check out the second page of Everything You Need To Know About Thunderbolt. A typical 3.5” rotating hard drive  is good for somewhere between 200 and 300 IOPS in random read/write workloads, which is less than 1 MB/s when you're dealing with 4 KB blocks. Even when you stripe six 3.5” desktop-class drives, the result is less than 10 MB/s of random reads.

That's not a problem with SSDs, which are capable of up to 80 000 IOPS, in the case of a Vertex 3. That's why we only presented random benchmark results for the SSD-based Thunderbolt solutions.

Thunderbolt is operating system-agnostic. But because Apple had a one-year head-start with the technology, more of its platforms are already equipped with the requisite controller hardware to support Thunderbolt. We ran our benchmarks on both Macs and PCs, achieving identical performance except where we noted otherwise. There are some PC-oriented problems tied to hot-plugging and daisy-chaining, but they don't affect performance, and Intel claims that it's working to help resolve them.

Installing vendor-specific SATA controller drivers delivered a ~1-3% performance boost compared to using Windows 7's generic ACHI driver.

Test Hardware
DesktopMacBook Pro 8,1
Intel Core i5-2400 (Sandy Bridge), 32 nm, 3.1 GHz, LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost Enabled
Intel Core i5-2430M (Sandy Bridge), 32 nm, 2.4 GHz, 3 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost Enabled
Kingston Hyper-X 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1333 @ DDR3-1333, 1.5 VCrucial 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1333
System Drive
OCZ Vertex 4 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s
Secondary Drive
OCZ Vertex 3 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s
Palit GeForce GTX 460 1 GB
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Power Supply
Seasonic 760 W, 80 PLUS Gold
System Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 x64 Ultimate

DirectX 11-
DriverGraphics: Nvidia 270.61
Iometer 1.1.0
# Workers = 1, 4 KB Random: LBA=8 GB, varying QDs, 128 KB Sequential
Transfer Tests
Copy From Secondary Drive, Proprietary Benchmark
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