ThunderBolt Drive EnclosuresLast Updated: November 29th, 2016
DIY ThunderBolt And ThunderBolt 2 Drive CasesBelow we have some of the first of (hopefully) many ThunderBolt drive enclosures finally reaching the market. It had been a really slow process for any ThunderBolt drive case products to reach the market, and even then, the average consumer has been discouraged by the price premium of TBolt devices. It's made it hard to cobble together a Do-It-Yourself ThudnerBolt storage solution at a price that's competitive with off-the-shelf retail drives.
Up To 15mm 2.5" High-Capacity Laptop Drive
ThunderBolt 2 RAID Enclosure
Akitio ThunderQuad TBolt2 Case
Currently priced just around $100 USD, the DLock portable enclosure is ridiculously expensive when a comparable USB 3.0 enclosure would be around fifteen bucks. But there you have it. It's 15mm depth is advantageous if you opt for a 2 Terabyte 2.5" hard drive which are thicker than most 7mm, 9mm, or 11mm 2.5" SATA drives in lower capacities.
ThunderBolt 2 drive enclosures recently began shipping too. Akitio seems to be agressively pursuing the 20Gbps ThunderBolt 2 enclosure market.
Multi-Drive ThunderBolt EnclosuresSeveral mult-bay ThunderBolt and ThunderBolt 2 drive enclosure with ThunderBolt port products recently came to market, offering either two or four drive capabilities. Most support laptop size drives, a few support full size desktop drives. Oddly, we've yet to see many SINGLE-drive portable ThunderBolt enclosures ship. Multi-drive ThunderBolt enclosures tend to have DUAL ThunderBolt ports on the back to easily faciliate daisy-chaining, but that extra port also adds to the cost and price premium of the enclosure.
|2.5" Drive ThunderBolt Enclosure||3.5" ThunderBolt+USB3 Enclosure||Dual-Drive ThunderBolt Enclosure|
|Akitio Thunder Duo Case
For Two SSD - HDD Drives
|OWC Combo USB3 + TBolt
Dual 3.5" Drive Bays
|StarTech 2-Bay ThunderBolt Case
2.5" SATA I/II/III SSD or HDD
We finally have the first true ThunderBolt compatible disk drive enclosures shipping. Initially these are dual or quad drive cases for multi-drive array's in various software or hardware RAID or JBOD configuration depending on the drive case manufacturers support. Both Akitio and StarTech's 2x2.5" ThunderBolt enclosure products seems to have idential OEM hardware on the back panel, with Akitio having a more refined case design. Still, all three of the above enclosures have a street price of around $250, a very stiff premium for a 2-bay case when comparable USB 3.0 RAID interface enclosures typically cost $100 USD or less. Ouch!
ThunderBolt Drive DockSeagate's first TBolt drive dock was released for laptop-sized "GoFlex" and later renamed, "Backup Plus" drives. A full-size drive ThunderBolt docking station for 3.5" Backup Plus Desk mechanisms shipped later. While you can piece your own working solution together, Seagate now offers a *BUNDLE* with the adapter, drive AND cable in either portable or full size drive configurations. (See the Sidebar on this page.)
The first true multi-drive ThunderBolt dock recently shipped from HighPoint with it's RocketStor 5212 ThunderBolt SATA docking module. It has dual bays for both a 2.5" laptop or full-size 3.5" hard disk or SSD drive modules. It has a single ThunderBolt port at the back.
|SATA ThunderBolt Drive Dock||Backup Plus Laptop Drive Dock||Backup Plus Portable Drive|
|ThunderBolt SATA Dock
2.5" or 3.5" Drive Slots
|2.5" Backup Plus TBolt Adapter
For Laptop Backup Plus Line
Also Works With Bare 2.5" Drives!
|Pair With This Seagate Drive
Portable Backup Plus Drive With GoFlex Interface
By all accounts, the rollout of ThunderBolt was nothing but a slow struggle, even well into 2015. With Intel solely controlling the ThunderBolt chipset and licensing of Intellectual Property, it's slowed the ability to ship announced ThunderBolt accessories or drives. Now however, even more orginal ThunderBolt and some of the next-generation ThunderBolt 2 peripherals announced at CES have started to ship in volume.
Because of Thunder-Bolt's daisy-chain topology, the ideal ThunderBolt drive case will ideally have DUAL TBolt ports on the enclosure for greatest flexibility in placement along the chain. Unfortunately, Intel is the SOLE SUPPLIER of ThunderBolt chipsets at this time - and only those who've signed licensing agreements with Intel have access to do samples for ThunderBolt product development and testing. ThunderBolt Enclosures are likely to command quite a price premuim. As we're seeing with Seagate's Backup Plus dock at $99, that's 5-10x more than a $10-20 SATA USB laptop drive enclosure costs these days. From what we're seeing with the retail pricing of ThunderBolt drive offerings, there's definitely a $50-$75 price premium for the privelege of using the ThunderBolt chipset versus more conventional I/O interfaces. Ouch!
We'd suspect Amazon, Tiger Direct and NewEgg will be a good source for ThunderBolt drive cases once enclosures start shipping in volume. Lord knows they currently carry a huge line of 2.5" and 3.5" hard disk enclosures for in a multitude of other eSata, FireWire 400/800 and USB 2 and SuperSpeed 3.0 USB drive configurations. T
ThunderBolt RAID Enclosures - An Ideal Drive CaseThe insane amount of bi-directional bandwidth available on a ThunderBolt port begs for storage technologies able to fill it's pipeline. Striped multi-drive ThunderBolt drive arrays like Promise Technologies Pegasus R4 and R6 ThunderBolt RAID enclosure leverages high RPM 3.5" conventional spinning-platter drives in a striped RAID 0 configuration.
Which Drives Are Best For ThunderBolt Enclosures?ThunderBolt's potential speeds far exceed any storage technology available today. The fastest ThunderBolt drive you can build will ideally be based on multiple solid-state disk modules. But unless you've got a fat wallet and rather modest storage requirements - achieving more than 512GB of high-speed SSD backup space is going to be pretty expensive. For higher capacity with a few speed tradeoff's - Dual Drive ThunderBolt hardware RAID enclosures will fit the bill.
In the conventional spinning platter hard drive market: Two top performing hard drives for ThunderBolt are the barn-burning Western Digital Velociraptor Drive - In this case, a 3.5 inch form-factor 10,000 RPM, SATA III 6Gbps mechanism with 32MB of onboard cache in the $200 ballpark.
The other alternative which may be a good ThunderBolt enclosure + drive choice may be to build a HYBRID THUNDERBOLT DRIVE using a Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid Drive - Here you get a 1TB 2.5 inch drive that blends a 7200RPM SATA II 32MB Cache mechanism with 4GB of single-layer (fast and durable) SLC SSD flash memory for the best of both worlds on a budget, currently Hybrid drives are only about $100. We're moving beyond just mechanical drives with big on-board cache - the instegration of a relatively small amount of SSD flash is likely to become the norm. Hybrid SSD's promise to become the low-cost performance and capacity choice for general purpose computing.