Feeds
Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

Vulture wraps claws around Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ portable SSD

Speedy storage that burns a hole in your pocket

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Review It took a bit of persuading to be convinced that Elgato’s Thunderbolt Drive+ drive should end up on the test bench for review. The company had released the, er, "non-plussed" version a couple of years ago and it didn’t quite set the world on fire.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ now has the addition of USB 3.0 interfacing

The problem there was that, despite having Thunderbolt interfacing capable of 10Gbps, the SSD inside was only SATA 2, which would top out at around 210MB/s. Given SATA 3 SSDs were just coming on stream this did appear to be a very curious combination.

Although a Thunderbolt cable worth £30 was supplied, the overall price didn’t help either. All in all, Elgato’s first foray into external storage appeared to be more academic than practical. If you cracked open the 120GB model, you’d find a SanDisk Ultra inside worth £120 and yet Elgato was asking £350 at the time. That’s a mighty expensive case, but Elgato’s case in this case was that Thunderbolt users were getting an external drive that could be powered by the interface alone.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

Single ended: no daisychaining supported on host-powered Thunderbolt devices

It’s a selling point that continues with the Thunderbolt Drive+, which this time round features a Plextor SATA 3 SSD. It looks very similar to the previous model but there’s the welcome addition of a USB 3.0 port too. That’s more like it, it’s just a shame that there isn’t a second Thunderbolt port to use for daisychaining.

That said, Elgato can get away with it to a certain extent. OK, so you can’t rig up a second monitor using the host computer’s Thunderbolt port, which will also double as a DisplayPort interface. Still, it’s likely the target users would own more than one item of Thunderbolt storage, presumably a desktop drive such as a GTech G-Drive Pro or a WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo – which could handle the daisychaining to offload that weighty video project to the Elgato for an in-flight editing session.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ relies on a Plextor SSD

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ relies on a Plextor SSD

Indeed, this is precisely the sort of user Elgato has in mind, because everyone involved in video production is rolling in money and £760 for a 512GB SSD is weekend bender money for an entertainment bod, surely? Yet for the rest of us, that’s a serious amount of money for half a terabyte of storage, even if it is solid state. So how does Elgato justify it?

System exclusive

First off, the Thunderbolt Drive+ houses a “server grade” Plextor PX-512M5Pro SSD in its 131 x 83 x 21mm sturdy metal enclosure and the whole lot weighs 270g. Elgato reckons it can deliver transfer speeds of up to 420MB/s, which is going to leave portable HDDs in the dust, for sure, but that’s hardly news for SSDs anyway.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ features a Marvell 88SS9187 controller

Lite-On tweaked firmware and a Marvell 88SS9187 controller

Under the Plextor ‘True Speed’ banner, the web site suggests that a Marvell 88SS9174 controller is running the show, which dates back to at least 2011. As I discovered later, it's actually the two-year-old Marvell 88SS9187 controller on-board that, among other things, Marvell claims has vastly improved power consumption characteristics. Still, if Elgato and Plextor are to be believed, the magic is in the firmware. According to Plextor it is “exclusive firmware” from Lite On, tailored to the to deliver “the lowest average annualised failure rate (AFR) in the industry.”

Evidently, Elgato is endeavouring to deliver a product that can justify a high price because it’s designed to be reliable and enduring. Yet considering you can still pick up a Plextor PX-512M5Pro SSD on-line for around £320, once again we’re back to Elgato asking an awful lot for an enclosure, even if it is for one that’s IP64 certified for dust and water protection with a rubber bung included to cover the ports.

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ rubber bungs are provided to cover the ports in transit

A rubber bung is provided to cover the ports in transit

Apparently, the tech cleverness isn’t just about Lite-On’s Instant Restore, that maintains read/write performance over extended use or Global Wear Levelling techniques to distribute data across the drive to minimise wearing out the memory cells. The additional tinkering Elgato claims to have done is to enable portable use without draining the host computer’s battery too rapidly.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Next page: Cross platform

More from The Register

next story
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Xiaomi boss snaps back at Jony Ive's iPhone rival 'theft' swipe
I'll have a handset delivered. Judge us after you try us...
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.