Published on December 3rd, 2012 | by Greg0
Buffalo Three: 1TB MiniStation Thunderbolt, Dual-Interface Capable
We’re on a roll today. Three products from Buffalo, a firm that makes a wide range of solid storage and networking solutions, but a company you may not be familiar with. Hopefully, you’ll check out our recent look at their blazing-fast 802.11ac router, the fastest that we’ve yet tested, but one with a bit of a catch. You’ll need to use their bridge, reviewed separately, to see the best results and performance.
Next up, the final piece of the trio. Buffalo’s 1TB MiniStation Thunderbolt isn’t just another hard drive. This one features not only USB 3.0, which is quite zippy, but also the new Thunderbolt connector (which runs at about twice the speed of USB 3.0, but until recently was primarily available on Apple laptops). We don’t have a PC with Thunderbolt, but do have several with USB 3.0, as well as a MacBook Air with Thunderbolt that we used for testing.
Available in a 500GB capacity as well, we suggest opting for the larger version- at press time, pricing was similar. Thunderbolt boasts about speeds up to 10 Gbps, but the fact is that hard drives simply cannot read or write that fast. Real-world speeds will always differ from the theoretical ones, but this drive was hampered by it’s apparent inclusion of a slow 5400 RPM drive, confusing for a high-end peripheral that boasts about throughput.
The casing is solid, aluminum framed, and feels good. It looks nice alongside your Apple gear, is pre-formatted for Macs, and is Time Machine compatible. They included the cables, thankfully, since the Thunderbolt cables themselves are expensive and not so easy to find (even if the ones in the package are a bit short). The MiniStation is impressively quiet, and we loved that there is a three year warranty on the device.
External hard drives are fairly similar products, differing in form factor and software packages primarily. But this is the first external hard drive that we’ve tested supporting Thunderbolt. It’s a shame that it doesn’t really make full use of the speeds though- there is no doubt that the cable and adapters can support the speeds, but the drive itself cannot handle a fraction of them. In fact, in our tests, we found transfer rates similar between USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt over a sustained 100GB- about 100 Mb/s, with no major difference between the two interfaces. We’re not complaining really- that’s a solid transfer rate- but you won’t see much advantage to Thunderbolt over USB 3.0. If you’re stuck with the older USB 2.0, but have Thunderbolt (some Macs are in this category), this is perfect. Similarly, if you have an open Thunderbolt port but no available USB ports, it’s a good choice. Well-built, the Buffalo 1TB MiniStation runs about $180- a decent pricing for still-expensive Thunderbolt gear, but pricey if you don’t need or cannot use it.