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Elgato Thunderbolt SSD 240 GB

Nine External Thunderbolt Storage Devices, Rounded Up
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Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
120 GB (10024012)
240 GB (10024024)
MSRP
$420
$699


Elgato is well known in the Mac world for its capture card products, and is now jumping into the storage market with the Thunderbolt SSD.

One significant limitation of this drive is that it hosts a single Thunderbolt port (a side effect of its Intel Port Ridge controller), which means you have to put the Thunderbolt SSD at the end of a daisy chain or use it on its own. This is an issue if you only have one Thunderbolt port and are already using a mini-DisplayPort adapter to drive a monitor; you're forced to choose between one device or the other. There is no way around that issue, as we haven't seen any mini-DisplayPort adapters with Thunderbolt pass-through.

The Thunderbolt SSD's thick aluminum case makes it rather hefty, but it's actually fairly simple inside. Aside from Intel's DSL2210 controller, you find an ASMedia ASM1061 SATA 6Gb/s controller on the PCB and an older SanDisk 3Gb/s 240 GB Ultra SSD. Based on SandForce's first-gen technology, SanDisk’s Ultra-series drives are functionally similar to OCZ's Vertex 2.

Elgato’s decision to use a SATA 3Gb/s-class SSD really impacts the device's benchmark results. As you can see, sequential read and write speeds top out at ~250 MB/s. But that's not all. Testing with incompressible data (SandForce's Achilles' heel) drops sequential write throughput to ~90 MB/s, making the Thunderbolt SSD ill-suited for working with multimedia files. Random reads and writes aren’t impressive either, unfortunately. SandForce’s first-generation controller logic performs rather poorly in those two disciplines, explaining why we see random access numbers peaking near 100 MB/s.

Upgrading the Thunderbolt SSD's internal drive voids its warranty. If you want to throw a faster SSD in there anyway, be aware that Elgato employs a tamper-resistant tar-sealed hex cap that discourages opening the case. In its stock configuration, this is a good example of a drive that lacks the composition to fully exploit the potential of Thunderbolt. And yet, after the cost of SanDisk's roughly $130 drive (in the 120 GB model), you're still paying close to $300 more to get 3 Gb/s performance in Thunderbolt trim.

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