Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt

Buffalo's MiniStation Thunderbolt supports both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, but the latter provides no advantage and adds considerable cost.

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Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

With a matte white top, aluminium bottom and coming in 500GB and 1TB variants, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt is significantly thicker than your traditional external drive.

The reason is down to its dual controllers, supporting both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, for which Buffalo thankfully includes both cables.

The only other decoration is a white status light under the lip of the drive, which pulses when data transfers are happening, and stays solidly lit when idle.

As a mechanical drive is inside, we were curious to see what benefit, if any, Thunderbolt transferred to the device over USB 3.0.

CrystalDiskMark USB 3.0 read/write (MBps) Thunderbolt read write (MBps)
Sequential 108.5/108.5 108.5/108.2
512K 37.15/41.46 37.36/40.62
4K 0.450/0.902 0.452/0.908
4K QD32 0.550/0.926 0.779/0.905

CrystalDiskMark pulled up little difference between Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, with only the 4K QD32 read test showing any marked improvement.

But then, if anything, it'd be burst speeds that would differ between the two interfaces. Firing up HDTune, USB 3.0 clocked a burst speed of 187.1 per second, while Thunderbolt netted a considerably slower 157.5MBps. We're not sure whether this is part of Thunderbolt's teething issues on Windows, but regardless, it seems as though there's little advantage to using this device over Thunderbolt without performing some surgery and grafting in an SSD.

The 500GB edition of the drive sells for around AU$270, while the 1TB version goes for around AU$315 — far, far too expensive for the capacities involved and the zero advantage offered by the Thunderbolt interface.

Unless you intend to graft in a high-performing SSD drive, do yourself a favour and stick to the significantly cheaper, USB 3.0-only external drives.

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