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Elgato Thunderbolt SSD Review – the world’s fastest external drive

Does this small, speedy SSD drive make the most of its Thunderbolt connection?

Learn more… •

Price £349.65/$429.95

Key features: • Single Thunderbolt port • 120GB or 240GB SSD • Up to 270MBps transfer

While this certainly wasn’t the first external Thunderbolt drive on the market, it was the first one that utilised an SSD using a single Thunderbolt port. This drive revels in simplicity: plug it in and you’re immediately ready to go with no extra setup.

The single Thunderbolt port is a little limiting, as it means the drive has to sit at the end of any daisy-chain of other devices that you’re using while you work. Most other Thunderbolt-enabled devices use two ports to keep the chain going, but Elgato instead opted for a more portable drive. Adding an extra port would have required an external power supply to the drive, dropping the portable nature of the SSD and forcing users to hook up extra wires. And we actually think that was a great decision – this is a drive designed to quickly transfer large files between computers, not as a backup for your workflow. While it might cause a few problems for some, the pick-up-and-go nature of the SSD is a massive plus-point.

Of course, the other huge bonus is the speed. Unlike most drives that use USB or FireWire 800, Thunderbolt cables can push the transfer speeds close to 10GBps. Obviously this is just a theoretical speed, and you will always be limited by the read and write speeds of the disks that you are using. Thankfully, the SSD inside this drive runs as fast as you might expect – in our tests we got write speeds of up to 121MBps when copying an 18GB folder of mixed files, and read speeds of 190MBps for the same size folder. In our AJA system test we got read and write speeds of 267.9MBps and 256MBps, respectively. Compared to other external drives we’ve tested this is incredible, of course, and when it comes to Thunderbolt drives it might not be the fastest in every category but it’s certainly equal or better in every test.

The price, however, is something of a sticking point. The 120GB model is available for around £350/$430, and while the drive offers the highest speeds from any portable device we’ve reviewed, the cost per GB is also one of the highest we’ve ever seen at £2.92/$3.58. Obviously this is so high because of the SSD, which does admittedly remove the chance of data loss from any accidental bumps and knocks while offering high-speed transfer rates, but sadly the price point might be where this drive really falls down.

Buy now?

Pros: A small, light and portable way to get high-speed storage

Cons: The single port will limit your chains, and it’s extremely costly