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Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 external hard drive hands-on

Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 external hard drive hands-on


Buffalo's new MiniStation Thunderbolt external hard drive supports the high-speed I/O port and USB 3.0, and works with Macs and PCs.

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Thunderbolt has been extremely slow to gain traction, but Buffalo Technology is joining the fray with a new low-cost external hard drive that supports the high-speed port. The MiniStation Thunderbolt itself doesn't look special — it's a 2.5-inch hard drive wrapped in a white-and-silver plastic exterior — but when you look at the port selection you'll see that there is indeed something different about this portable drive. In addition to a sole Thunderbolt port, there's a USB 3.0 port. That means that this drive will work with both Macs and PCs (though you'll need to swap file systems, of course), so you won't be stuck with a drive that only works with new, Thunderbolt-enabled machines. Thankfully, the drive is bus powered, leaving it as one of the few Thunderbolt drives that doesn't require an external power source.

We decided to put the MiniStation Thunderbolt through a quick speed test with a new MacBook that we had on hand, which supports both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. Of course, the 2.5-inch platter in the external drive is the limiting factor — not these high-speed interfaces — but there was a slight different in performance depending on how we connected the drive. Over Thunderbolt the drive achieved 106.88 MB/sec sequential read and 102.59 MB/sec sequential write speeds (256KB blocks), and over USB 3.0 almost all was the same except for the read speed, which was about 10 MB/sec less. Overall it isn't a significant difference: what's important is that the device is one of the first affordable Thunderbolt drives around at $199.99 for the 500GB model and $229.99 for 1TB. If you're tempted, both will be available on June 25th, and you'll be glad to hear that both a Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cable are included.