External Drives: Thunderbolt hdd vs usb 3 ssd

Tygoeser

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 2, 2015
10
1
Chicago, IL
I already have a drive set up for backing up my files.

This is just for working off of, instead of keeping files on my internal drive. My internal is 512 gb flash. I am keeping the applications I use on the internal (photoshop, Illustrator, Quarkxpress mostly)

For working off of an external drive, which would be best (fastest)?

USB 3 - ssd

or

Thunderbolt 1 - hdd 5400rpm

Thanks for the input!
 
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Ledgem

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Jan 18, 2008
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USB 3 and SSD. While Thunderbolt has a theoretical higher transfer speed, I don't know that you'd ever reach it even if you substituted a SSD in place of a 5400 RPM HDD. You're definitely not going to go anywhere near close to that maximum speed with that HDD. Since the drives are more likely to be the bottlenecks, the SSD is the better choice.

There are other benefits to the Thunderbolt option over the USB 3.0, if you're interested in other applications besides pure access speed. For example, you can't chain the USB device, but you can chain Thunderbolt. If you get into exotic configurations (like wanting to run Boot Camp from an external drive), Thunderbolt allows the hard drive to be recognized as if it were an internal drive and will permit that. USB can't do that. But a 5400 RPM drive... meh... you might not notice it terribly since it's not your system drive, but the SSD will be better.
 
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theSeb

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Aug 10, 2010
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USB 3 is fast enough for most single SATA SSD drives. Outside of synthetic benchmarks you would not really notice that speed difference anyway. You would also not notice the speed difference with a single SATA SSD in a thunderbolt enclosure versus a USB 3 enclosure.

You can think of USB 3 and Thunderbolt as the road and the drive as the car. USB 3 is like a 3 lane in each direction highway and Thunderbolt is like a 5 lane in each direction road. You can go pretty fast on either one, but you would need a really fast car to go at the maximum speed that is possible on these roads.
 
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Weaselboy

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+1 TB for a standard hard drive setup is a complete waste of money. Make sure you get a USB3 enclosure that supports UASP and the speeds will be very very close to a SSD in a TB enclosure. See this test.
 
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theSeb

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+1 TB for a standard hard drive setup is a complete waste of money. Make sure you get a USB3 enclosure that supports UASP and the speeds will be very very close to a SSD in a TB enclosure. See this test.
Oh, yes. Good point on the UASP. Also make sure to buy a decent brand with good reviews, especially if shopping on Amazon.
 
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Weaselboy

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Oh, yes. Good point on the UASP. Also make sure to buy a decent brand with good reviews, especially if shopping on Amazon.
I have this one from Inatech and it works really well. I have seen quote a few other forum posts from members using this one also, so I think it is a safe choice.
 

Tygoeser

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 2, 2015
10
1
Chicago, IL
+1 TB for a standard hard drive setup is a complete waste of money. Make sure you get a USB3 enclosure that supports UASP and the speeds will be very very close to a SSD in a TB enclosure. See this test.
Wow! Awesome results. Forgive me if this seems simple to you, but I want to make sure I understand correctly. The Inatech device goes over the usb 3 ssd?
 
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Weaselboy

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Wow! Awesome results. Forgive me if this seems simple to you, but I want to make sure I understand correctly. The Inatech device goes over the usb 3 ssd?
Yes... the Inatech is just an empty plastic case with a USB3 interface on the outside. So you pop it open and install the SSD inside then attach it to a USB port and off you go.
 

BeatCrazy

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Jul 20, 2011
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There are other benefits to the Thunderbolt option over the USB 3.0, if you're interested in other applications besides pure access speed. For example, you can't chain the USB device, but you can chain Thunderbolt. If you get into exotic configurations (like wanting to run Boot Camp from an external drive), Thunderbolt allows the hard drive to be recognized as if it were an internal drive and will permit that. USB can't do that. But a 5400 RPM drive... meh... you might not notice it terribly since it's not your system drive, but the SSD will be better.
The other reason you might want TB, is because USB 3.0 enclosures typically emit 2.4Ghz RF noise that can really mess up Bluetooth devices. Happened to me, so I ended up using a TB dock, then hooking up the USB drives to the TB dock.