Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt (500GB) - Dual-Interface Portable HDD

Launch SRP: S$279

Conclusion

Dual Interfaces - A Catch-22 Situation

From the results of the benchmark results, the implementation of Thunderbolt technology on the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt did not impress us. For the most of its results, it lagged behind its older USB 3.0 interface. Any hint of Thunderbolt's performance potential was only vaguely evident in the IOMeter's suite of tests. However, given this benchmark's stressful nature, that's not a typical usage pattern of these portable external drives. In terms of its performance scores turned in from its USB 3.0 interface, we noted earlier that it fared much better than its Thunderbolt interface on most occasions and equaled Buffalo's own MIniStation Extreme, but a little slower than the other recent Thunderbolt-capable Seagate Backup Plus Portable HDD. In one benchmark, CrystalDiskMark, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt on USB 3.0 actually recorded over 50% higher sequential transfer rates, but it wasn't able to maintain nor reproduce the lead it had in other tests.

 

We applaud the efforts of Buffalo in their efforts to bring Thunderbolt to the masses in the form of this portable HDD drive that smacks of Apple's post-industrial look-and-feel design touches. The company even bundled a copper Thunderbolt cable, its thoughtfulness is much appreciated as we have had encountered Thunderbolt-enabled storage devices that shipped without this essential cable. However in terms of overall portability, the drive's integration of Thunderbolt electronics has added extra weight and bulk to the overall unit and doesn't compete well with other drives that concentrate on just one interface and maintain a slim figure. In fact, given that Thunderbolt didn't really help the drive, its characteristics come at an expense versus that of the competition which made it optional and maintained better portability.

What we are truly puzzled is by the company's decision to pair a 5400RPM SATA 3Gbps notebook HDD with Thunderbolt interface as the drive did evidently do injustice to the dual-channel theoretical bandwidth of 10Gbps that the new interconnect technology offers. It would have been a much better coupling if Buffalo had decided to use a SSD instead. That would however inevitably drive up the price of of the drive to over S$700 for the same 500GB capacity point. As a go-between, Buffalo should have opted for a high performance notebook hard disk drive to better utilize the speedier interface if their goal was to provide large capacity at a reasonable price point.

Yet another letdown is the fact that there is only a single Thunderbolt interface available, restricting the drive's ability to daisy-chain. So if you've only one Thunderbolt port in your system, you would probably think twice using it on this interface, further reducing the usability and advantages of the Thunderbolt interface.

The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt, as a drive, is a flexible portable storage device with its option for either USB 3.0/2.0 and Thunderbolt as an interface. In terms of its absolute price point (SRP: S$279 for 500GB and S$349 for 1TB), it is an expensive device for a consumer to jump onto the Thunderbolt bandwagon with the caveat of its paltry performance as a Thunderbolt-enabled device. For that price, you could very well obtain a very fast 240GB SSD drive or get a 2TB Buffalo MiniStation USB 3.0-only drive. The choice is yours.

In conclusion, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt came across as an expensive 2.5-inch, USB 3.0 portable HDD but its Thunderbolt feature would allow its owner some bragging rights as an early adopter of this new interconnect technology (even if it offers no advantages in this implementation).

6.5
Design
7.5
Performance
7
Features
8
Value
4
The Good
Dual interface offerings makes it versatile
Decent USB 3.0 performance
The Bad
Expensive
Bulky for a portable drive
No Thunderbolt daisy-chain capability
Thunderbolt has no advantage on basic HDDs