Elgato Thunderbolt SSD offers blazing speed -- at a price
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Elgato Thunderbolt SSD offers blazing speed -- at a price

You feel the need for speed? You got some serious moolah to spend? Then check out the Thunderbolt SSD from Elgato (http://www.elgato.com), which combines a solid-state drive with Thunderbolt technology.

Elgato calls it "the ultimate portable high-speed storage solution." That's a bit of marketing hyperbole, but this thing is wicked fast. It trounces the performance of USB and FireWire (even FW800) drives.

Elgato says it's over three times as fast as a FireWire 800 drive and over eight times as fast as an USB 2.0 drive. Again, that's a bit of an exaggeration, at least on the FireWire 800 comparison, though I've found the Elgato drive to be over twice as fast as any FW 800 drives I have. (You can find some detailed tech specs at http://barefeats.com/hard147.html).

The Thunderbolt SSD is extremely convenient to use. Housed in a metal enclosure, the drive draws its power directly through the Thunderbolt port. No external power cord is needed (though you will need to spring for an US$40 Thunderbolt cable, as one isn't included). Also, Mac OS X fully supports the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, so no additional software or driver installation is required.

Plug it in, and it mounts on any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac. The drive is pre-formatted as HFS+, since few Windows systems have Thunderbolt support yet.

Finally, the Thunderbolt SSD runs silently. In several days of using the drive, I never heard it make a peep.

Write speeds are lower with data that can't be compressed. Why is that? The SSD inside the Elgato ThunderboltTM SSD contains a SandForce controller that uses real-time hardware compression and de-duplication to reduce the amount of data written to the flash memory. If data can't be compressed because it consists of random bits or already compressed files, all of the data will need to be written. Most factory-installed SSDs in Macs use the same technology.

What you have to decide is if having this state-of-the-art storage solution is worth the cash. The Elgato Thunderbolt SSD costs US$429.95 for a 120GB version and $699.95 for a 240GB model. You can get traditional hard disk drives with LOTS more storage for a LOT cheaper price. However, the Thunderbolt SSD is less costly than similar products, such as LaCie's TB external SSD (though this product does come with a Thunderbolt cable).

The Elgato drive is also the only Thunderbolt drive at present that's bus powered. Also worth considering: due to the lack of moving, mechanical parts, Solid State Drives are less prone to accidental damage than traditional hard drives.

If you can afford it, the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD is blazingly fast and a perfect complement to the latest Macs, especially the storage impaired MacBook Air line. However, with the price tag, it's probably not a viable purchase for casual users.

Rating: 9 out of 10

-- Dennis Sellers

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