External thunderbolt drive options.

StephenCampbell

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 21, 2009
1,038
52
I'm interesting in what the best options for external thunderbolt drives are, both in terms of enclosures for 3.5" SATA drives that I already have, as well as external thunderbolt drives with the drive included.

I have two 3TB SATA drives in my Mac Pro that I'm going to have to convert to external solutions when I get a Haswell iMac. Would you keep the same drives and get enclosures? Or purchase external 3TB thunderbolt drives? And what would be the best option for each of those?
 

g4cube

macrumors 6502a
Apr 22, 2003
760
13
To date, there are no Thunderbolt external chassis or cases that sold without drives. Of the several vendors offering product, all come preconfigured with drives.

What you may want to consider is watching for refurbished drives. Others here have pointed out that LaCie refurbs of their 2big and their Little Big Disk are frequently available from www.macmall.com. The 2big is interesting, since it will take 2x 3.5" drives and the bracket is easy to change.

LaCie also has a 5big that has 5 drives. Perhaps MacMall might have some 5big refurbs at a lower than list price.

One thing to consider is that not all 3.5" drives may behave correctly in a Thunderbolt casing - some may not wake from sleep properly or have other issues, so you'll want to consider that when substituting various different drives.

And of course, if you do run into issues, the warranty won't cover any foreign drives.

As for USB 3.0, there are many, many empty cases available for single drives, all with differing performance and specs. You'll want to find a casing that specifically mentions support for UAS or UASP. This is a higher performance IO spec that Apple supports for USB.

There are also many multi-drive USB chassis offered, but if the reviews at Amazon or Newegg are any indication, most have nothing but problems with Macs.

Remember, when you are rolling your own, you are also taking support into your own hands.
 

StephenCampbell

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 21, 2009
1,038
52
Remember, when you are rolling your own, you are also taking support into your own hands.
True. My tendency would be to buy normal external drive products without putting together anything myself.

If USB 3.0 would provide similar performance to my current internal SATA drives I may just go with that.

So are we not yet at the point of just having normal, affordable external 3TB Thunderbolt hard drives?

Edit: What about this enclosure? I'd probably be buying the Mercury Elite Pro drives if I was going USB 3.0. It couldn't be much different buying this enclosure and putting my drives in, right?

http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/ME3QHKIT0GB/
 
Last edited:

Bear

macrumors G3
Jul 23, 2002
8,089
4
Sol III - Terra
I'm interesting in what the best options for external thunderbolt drives are, both in terms of enclosures for 3.5" SATA drives that I already have, as well as external thunderbolt drives with the drive included.

I have two 3TB SATA drives in my Mac Pro that I'm going to have to convert to external solutions when I get a Haswell iMac. Would you keep the same drives and get enclosures? Or purchase external 3TB thunderbolt drives? And what would be the best option for each of those?
For SATA HDs, USB 3.0 is more than fast enough to handle the disks. I suggest you either get a pair of enclosures or get a dual drive enclosure.

What about these?

http://www.lacie.com/products/product.htm?id=10600

The thing is, it lists the same read-write speed for both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.

Is there actually a big difference?
The limitation is the speed of the disk and not USB or Thunderbolt. Current SSDs are fine on USB 3.0 as well.
 

StephenCampbell

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 21, 2009
1,038
52
For SATA HDs, USB 3.0 is more than fast enough to handle the disks. I suggest you either get a pair of enclosures or get a dual drive enclosure.

The limitation is the speed of the disk and not USB or Thunderbolt. Current SSDs are fine on USB 3.0 as well.
So why do they sell Thunderbolt external drives that are not SSD? What is the point of doing that as opposed to having it be just USB 3.0?
 

Bear

macrumors G3
Jul 23, 2002
8,089
4
Sol III - Terra
So why do they sell Thunderbolt external drives that are not SSD? What is the point of doing that as opposed to having it be just USB 3.0?
Because thunderbolt is "new fangled, SHINY and fast". And they get more profit from it.

A larger disk enclosure makes sense to put on Thunderbolt considering you can have 6 Thunderbolt devices in a chain. And a large RAID subsystem could push past what USB 3.0 could support.
 

g4cube

macrumors 6502a
Apr 22, 2003
760
13
So why do they sell Thunderbolt external drives that are not SSD? What is the point of doing that as opposed to having it be just USB 3.0?
There is a whole generation of Macbook Airs, iMacs, and Macbook Pros that have Thunderbolt, but only USB 2.0 speeds.

There are also those who might shuttle info between different Macs, only some of which may have Thunderbolt.

As to the OP who mentioned the Areca 8-bay driveless Thunderbolt chassis, thanks for the tip. Only need to find $1499 :D Thats a lot of upfront money for an empty box to casually throw in a few spare drives. Certainly quite useful for the target market, though.
 

boatcapt

macrumors member
Dec 14, 2011
98
1
Would one be able to buy the refurb Lacie d2 Quadra's and run them say with Firewire and then at a later date buy a Lacie esata hub and run the drives through it and achieve thunderbolt speeds? I have the generation with usb 2.o and thunderbolt, no usb 3.0.