Ultra-Fast ThunderBolt External SSD'sLast Updated: November 25th, 2016
Shopping for a fast SSD ThunderBolt drive for Mac or PC? A good number of ever-cheaper ThunderBolt SSD backup drives are now shipping, with more to come. New laptop-size portable and almost cheap SSD ThunderBolt storage solutions recently came to market from Transcend, SiliconPower and Akitio that are quite affordable thanks to the recent and significant per Gigabyte price drops of solid-state drives. ThunderBolt SSD drives are getting dirt cheap - compared to what they were priced at - as SSD costs per Gigabyte collapse.
Tiny mSATA-Based Drive
Now holding the title as the world's smallest SSD ThunderBolt storage solution, Silicon Power's T11 solid-state drive uses an mSATA SSD module and measures 2.5" x 3" and slightly more than 1/2" thick. Proof that even products using 2.5" OEM SSD laptop drives are now bulkier than they need to be given the increasing densities of NAND flash SSD chips.
120GB ThunderBolt SSD
Far more affordable, single SSD ThunderBolt drives from LaCie (in it's Rugged series} and ElGato's 120GB and 240GB SSD drives offer more modest and affordable performance around 300 MB/s. That's 2-3 times faster than any single mechanical platter ThunderBolt storage solution.
Combo USB 3.0 and TBolt Interfaces
The LaCie Rugged series SSD is an affordable and versatile combo interface external solid-state drive with both a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and ThunderBolt port ideal for Macs or PCs, new or older computers - thanks to it's USB 3.0 backward compatibility with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 speed ports. That makes it a very versatile drive for transferring data from nearly any aging computer onto a new modern PC or Mac with ThunderBolt or USB 3.0 ports.
ThunderBolt SSD RAID DrivesThe 2nd generation LaCie Little Big Disk SSD Thunderbolt drive recently upgraded the RAID drive's capacity to 512GB (Dual 2.5" 256GB SSDs.) and 1 Terabyte versions. It's preconfigured as a Striped RAID 0 array delivering up to and over 500 MB/s transfer rates ideal for demanding enterprise and pro media editing environments where high data transfer speeds and top performance matters. Dual-drive ThunderBolt SSD drive arrays like those from LaCie are most interesting, since the paired SSD's can allow striped Reads and Writes across multiple SSD drives at once. A RAID 0 configuration Thunderbolt solid-state drive can deliver unprecedented performance - while still leaving available bandwidth for other high and low-demand ThunderBolt accessories or displays on the bus.
(256x2) 512GB SSD Drive
LaCie continues to offer it's LIttle Big Disk 240GB ThunderBolt SSD (with dual 120GB SSD drives) at a slightly lower price, but the higher capacity versions remain a far better value based on cost per Gigabtye.
Dual SSD Drives
Buffalo Technologies recently entered the SSD RAID market with it's DriveStation. With dual 128GBx2, 256GBx2 or 512GBx2 configuarations up to 1 Terabyte, these ThunderBolt RAID drives also offer dual ThunderBolt ports for easy daisy-chaining with other devices.
ThunderBolt SSD From ElGatoIn addition, there's also the Elgato Thunderbolt 120GB Solid State Drive. (A 240GB external ThunderBolt backup drive is available as well.) ThunderBolt cable is now included with the drive. ElGato has long been known for it's TV tuner for Mac product line for those who want to capture video or record television on their Macintosh. It's interesting to see them branching out into other types of Apple computer accessories to diversify their product line. However, even with the recent addition of a combo interface 1 Terabyte and 512GB TBolt + USB 3.0 combo interface SSD, ElGato has failed to drop the per-gigabyte price of it's solid-state TBolt drive offerings to remain truly competitive with other manufacturers.
ThunderBolt SSD Drive SpeedsThe 10GBps ThunderBolt I/O spec far exceeds eSATA and the data transfer capabilities of any wired computer peripheral interface spec to date. As such, SSD flash memory drives are the best match. TBolt supports Dual, Multi-Channel, Bi-Directional communications driectly off the PCI Express bus. It really is a huge leap forward for technology. Traditional spinning platter drives - even the fastest - can barely utilize a 10th of the available bandwidth of this new I/O standard. Single SSD drive storage speeds currently top out near 6Gbps - basically the limits of the dominant SATA III disk drive interface. They a far better match for T-Bolt's capabilities than any regular HDD.
As we move into 2nd-Generation 20GBps and 3rd-Generation 40Gbps ThunderBolt 3 in 2017 and beyond, many solid-state drives will leave the SATA interface behind and switch to PCIe SSD *MODULES* in pairs or multi-drive RAID ThunderBolt SSD arrays to fully leverage ThunderBolt 2 and ThunderBolt 3's bandwidth potential.