ThunderBolt3 Data Storage Peripherals

3rd-Generation ThunderBolt 3 Backup Drives

Last Updated: January 2nd, 2017

With the arrival of ThunderBolt 3 ports we're seeing a new generation of Solid-State SSD and HDD hard drive based ThunderBolt3 peripherals. These 3rd-generation 40Gbps ThunderBolt 3 drives and storage devices use the same, reversible Type-C connectors also used in USB 3.1 USB-C gadgets.


ThunderBolt 3 Adapters And Docks

To preserve your investment in legacy backup drives and peripherals, Apple is offering a low-cost ThunderBolt 3 to ThunderBolt 2 adapter to connect 10Gbps ThunderBolt and 20Gbps ThunderBolt 2 devices.

Apple ThunderBolt 3 To ThunderBolt Adapter

Type-C TBolt3 to TBolt 2

It's also REVERSIBLE: So if you had a ThunderBolt 3 (Type-C) external HDD or SSD drive, you could connect it to an older Mac's ThunderBolt/mini DisplayPort port running MacOS Sierra with a standard ThunderBolt cable. The drive would operate at the slower 10Gbps or 20Gbps speed, but be otherwise functional.

OWC has announced, but not yet shipped an updated version of it's Thunder 3 Dock with dual ThunderBolt 3 pass-through ports - and many others for a total of 13 data, audio and video interfaces. Expect manufacturer's like CalDigit, Belkin, and others to offer ThunderBolt3 multi-port docks in the year ahead.

ThunderBolt 3 External Backup Drives



ThunderBolt 3 USB-C External Backup Drives

Because a ThunderBolt 3 computer port incorporates BOTH USB AND THUNDERBOLT protocols - You'll be able to plug either a ThunderBolt 3 or USB 3.1 Type-C device into your computer. They'll detect the proper protocol and device speed depending on what's connected at the far end. For many users, a 10Gbps USB 3.1 HDD or SSD drive isn't even going to use a fraction of the available bandwith, so an affordable USB-C drive may be a better and far cheaper choice.

ThunderBolt 3 Multi-Drive RAID Arrays

To leverage the most potential out of ThunderBolt 3's 40Gbps bandwidth, multi-drive arrays are best suited to fill the pipeline. Particularly for demanding 4K and 5K ultra-HD video editing, high-speed, high-volume storage is needed to both drive the display and pump huge video file data to and from your drive storage simultaneously.

ThunderBolt 3 Drive Enclosures

There's stil a dearth of HDD or SSD drive enclosures with Type-C ThunderBolt 3 ports on the market. The change in physical connectors from the mini DisplayPort shape that the original 10Gbps ThunderBolt and 20Gbps ThunderBolt 2 used will require manufacturers to make more extensive modifications to the PCB and disk enclosure casings to accomodate the Type-C ports. As with all other ThunderBolt peripherals, the cost of licensing Intel's ThunderBolt chipset will make Type-C ThunderBolt 3 drives, docks and enclosure hardware more expensive than it's USB counterparts.

Certified ThunderBolt 3 Cabling

To handle the higher data speeds and bandwidth of ThunderBolt 3, high-quality cables with intelligent circuitry built in is needed to assure error-free and reliable data transmission. Depending on how demanding your computing requirements are, and what ThunderBolt peripherals you use will determine which ThunderBolt 3 cables you should buy if they're not included with the product.

ThunderBolt 3 cables can be rated for 20Gbps or 40Gbps operation and are manufactured, tested and cerified to operate at those data rates.