With the invention of the Thunderbolt interface, portable storage solutions have begun to transition allowing for increased performance, and even more than what we saw from USB 3.0. The Thunderbolt interface allows for users of Macintosh computers the much needed increase in external storage speed, when previously being stuck on the aging Firewire interface.
The latest external storage solution from Buffalo, dubbed the MiniStation Thunderbolt, takes ample storage capacity ranging from 500GB to 1TB, and adding both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connectivity. Compatibility of the unit extends from Mac OS X 10.6+ and Windows Vista, 7 and 8. Buffalo warranties the MiniStation Thunderbolt for a period of three years.
The scope of delivery for the MiniStation extends as far as including both a USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt cables in white.
At the back of the enclosure we find both the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports.
The only brand identification on the enclosure is found on the side of the enclosure.
Internally, we found the MiniStation to use the Samsung Momentus hard disk drive.
The front side of the PCB houses the ARM Cortex LPC1114 50MHz microcontroller.
The back side of the PCB houses several controllers including the ASMedia1061 PCIe to SATA 6GB/s bridge, along with the Intel DSL2210 Thunderbolt controller.
To test external storage platforms, I utilize two of the most well-known and respected benchmark applications. ATTO Disk Benchmark is the first and is recognized as the industry standard for marketing specifications. Through DiskBench, we offer real-world testing as it offers a custom data set that can be controlled by the user. For our testing I use a 10GB directory of mixed data that includes, pictures in both the RAW and JPEG file formats, AVCHD video and documents in both the XLS and DOC formats.
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The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt is formatted in the NTFS file system, carrying 931GB of useable capacity.
In ATTO testing using the Thunderbolt interface, we found the MiniStation capable of 116 MB/s read, followed by 117 MB/s write.
Utilizing the MiniStation's USB 3.0 interface, the drive ended with the same results as we found with Thunderbolt, although the drive was able to get to the top speed much quicker through Thunderbolt.
In our DiskBench testing, we found the Buffalo MiniStation capable of 105 MB/s transferring our 10GB directory with the Thunderbolt interface. Comparing this to the drive using the USB 3.0 interface, we find a 4MB/s difference in overall capability. This puts the device near the top of our chart, just behind the two WD Passport drives.
The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt combines both an aesthetically pleasing design with its use of aluminium for structure and durable plastics to aid in cost, with next generation technology in the form of the Thunderbolt interface.
Performance of the MiniStation was on par with expectations when we compare it to other drives in the USB 3.0 market space. DiskBench testing had the drive as one of the quickest in our charts, slightly behind the drives from WD. On the Thunderbolt side, Macintosh users will truly enjoy the speed increase of last generation devices.
At the time of writing, I was able to find the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt in the tested 1TB capacity at several online retailers for $179.99.