Portable external drive dilemma. HDD/SSD; 3.0/Thunderbolt?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by fruu, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. fruu macrumors newbie


    Mar 5, 2013
    I'm looking for the best compromise in terms of portable external drives. From what I gathered the fastest is obviusly Thunderbolt + SSD, however the pricing is really painful. Is it worth the cost? Especially that the storage is obv not that big and at first I was aiming for a 1TB to even 2TB (WD Passport)...

    I know the speed difference between Thunderbolt and usb 3.0 is fairly insignificant in HDD drives, and I think I'm considering this combination, but I'd really appreciate if it would be fairly silent, does anybody could recommend sth? I'd use it on a daily basis I'm afraid to keep my computer fairly clean. WD, Seagate, LaCie? I'm clueless, it's kind of hard to decide on anything. I was close to buying a WD, but on this forum there appear to be quite a number of people who suffered of failure of these drives which makes me even more unsure.

    Help much appreciated!
  2. Ice-Cube macrumors 6502a


    Jul 27, 2006
    Somewhere over the rainbow
    Before we can post any suggestions, its best to let us know what you intend to use it for? Are you using the drives to do video editing/time machine backup/storing of everyday files/etc?

    When you explain your usage, we can give you better recommendations.
  3. fruu thread starter macrumors newbie


    Mar 5, 2013
    Oh, I'm so clumsy. So, so sorry. You're completely right, I don't know why I didn't mention the purpose lol.

    Basically just storing photos and maybe videos, but still from my dSLR (apart from that maybe movies, casual files, but the main purpose would still be files from my camera). I'd like to omit the need to store everything on my computer while editing (esp. video), even temporarily for better speed. If I can achieve similar results having the files on an external drive that would be a dream come true for me.

    Thanks again!
  4. gr8tfly macrumors 603


    Oct 29, 2006
    ~119W 34N
    I just bought the WD 1TB My Passport USB 3.0. I don't know which drive they use in it, but it's very fast - approaching 7200 3.5" drives. I'm running it through a Pluggable 7-port USB 3.0 hub. It's virtually silent (as are most current 3.5" 7200 drives). It's actually a good deal, as you'd be hard pressed to buy a fast 2.5" bare drive and USB 3 case for what they get for the My Passport.

    Computer is rMBP, mid-2012, 2.7/16/768. 10.8.3 and the latest firmware. It's highly recommended to be running at least 10.8.2 (and in the case of rMBPs, at least the first firmware update). I would recommend going the latest and greatest for your machine (10.8.3, etc.).

    I've had about the same luck with both Seagate and WD, which is mostly very good.
  5. Ice-Cube macrumors 6502a


    Jul 27, 2006
    Somewhere over the rainbow
    The best value you can get for your dough is USB 3.0 drives if your mac has usb 3.0 . Thunderbolt/SSDs are only worth if you are working on large video files off them where speed is essential.
  6. Sophia., Mar 25, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013

    Sophia. macrumors member


    Mar 15, 2013
    United Kingdom
  7. Giuly, Mar 25, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013

    Giuly macrumors 68040


    7200RPM 3.5" drives are approaching 200MB/s by now, even the best 2.5" drives are around 100MB/s.

    If you want to use it with your camera, you probably need storage – so I'd rather go with the 2TB Western Digital My Passport for Mac.
  8. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    "I'm looking for the best compromise in terms of portable external drives."

    The "best compromise" is USB3 in an external enclosure.

    If you're going to be putting a platter-based HDD into the enclosure, it probably won't make a whit of difference whether you connect via USB3 or Thunderbolt -- the speeds will be the same (limited by the speed of the spinning drive).

    Even with an SSD, USB3 will come _very close_ to Thunderbolt speeds, and may even exceed them.

    How does $30 sound? For that, you can buy a good USB3/2.5" external enclosure:

    With either an HDD or an SSD, this will be all you need.
    And it won't even be "a compromise" -- it will be quite fast indeed.

    Final thought -- I suggest you buy an enclosure, and then find the drive you like best to go inside. These things go together with only a couple of screws and a screwdriver. You will do better to "build it yourself" -- then you know what's inside, and if you ever need to re-open it (change out the drive inside), you'll know what to do...
  9. utekineir macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008
    do you have a costco membership?

    they've always got seagate external usb 3 drives in a variety of sizes and types with coupons going and their return policy is fantastic if what you get doesn't work out.
  10. Giuly, Mar 25, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013

    Giuly macrumors 68040


    The problem with that is that the bare 2TB Western Digital Green 2.5" drive costs more than the My Passport I linked above, which has the same drive inside.
  11. fortysomegeek macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2012
    The best solution is to get a USM enclosure or go Seagate Go-Flex, USM, Backup plus. That is the best solution because:

    1) You can use USB 3.0
    2) You can use eSATA
    3) you can use Firewire 800
    4) you can use Thunderbolt.

    You simply swap out the end.

    The Seagate Backup Plus 1TB USB 3.0 is normally $79 on sale. I use it with Firewire 800, Thunderbolt, USB 3 depending on what mac I have. I simply swap out the end piece. And since I only buy USM drives, I can justify getting the adapters. I use my Thunderbolt adapter with SSDs all the time. Then I can swap it for a 1TB 2.5" HDD.

    You can even buy blank 2.5" USM catridges to enclose your SSD. Start standardizing on USM. It is pretty awesome. They even have desk docks, adapters.
  12. fermish macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2013
  13. meistervu macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2008
    I was in the same boat, until I found this drive

    By far, this is the fastest drive right now, other than some SSDs:


    Here is a review from CNET:

    It's faster than virtually any hard drives out there, RAIDS included. The killer thing is, its cost is comparable to a typical hd. I am thinking about getting a 3TB.

    Until now, I was looking for one with 2 Thunderbolt ports to double as a dock. But now I decide that I want a Thunderbolt dock with sound as well to connect my external speakers, so a USB drive is fine.

    I also debated between getting a NAS and a DAS, but for photography and Aperture, I think I want all the speed I can get, thus a DAS makes more sense. Sure, it would have been nicer to have the option of 2 drives in the same enclosure, but these are cheap, so I can just buy 2.
  14. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    Sorry... but this is not good advice.

    Large video files are typically "large sequential files"... which is the type of file where SSDs have the least advantage over HDDs. SSDs shine when the workload is lots of small random accesses... not large sequential access.

    An example of tons of small random access might be when you are pulling up thousands (or 10's of thousands) of small thumbnail pictures while scrolling through photo libraries.

  15. cocacolakid macrumors 65816


    Dec 18, 2010
    meistervu is right, the Buffalo drive is the fastest external non-Thunderbolt drive. And the price is in the same range for the most part as other external USB 3.0 drives, while being 2.3x faster. It's a great value. Still not as fast as Thunderbolt using SSD, but a nice all-in-one package for less than any Thunderbolt option.

    I have a Seagate Thunderbolt adapter with a 2TB 3.5" drive in it for additional storage and occasional backup of my backup, you can swap out any 2.5 or 3.5" drives at will. It's nice. The adapter runs about $150, plus the cost of the drives. (They make a 2.5" only version for $99) But you are limited by the speed of the drive. An SSD flies. Any traditional hard drive is limited by the speed of the drive itself, not the USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt interface. The Buffalo drive solves that problem by putting DDR between the interface and the traditional hard drive. It's a brilliant engineering design.

    BTW, Thunderbolt and a mechanical drive is NOT silent at all. An SSD is, but there again you have the cost/storage problem.
  16. fluxen macrumors newbie

    May 2, 2013
    I'm sorry, but that is a completely untrue statement. Check this out - That's the same SSD in THE SAME ENCLOSURE. 400MB/s over Thunderbolt; 267MB/s over USB3.


    That Buffalo is great, but keep in mind that the way it accomplishes those speeds is via that 1GB of DRAM - that's 1GB of your data with no battery backup during any write operation that, if you lose power, is going to be lost, and possibly even corrupt a much larger file if that's what you're writing to. That drive should only be used if plugged into a UPS for this reason.
  17. rw3 macrumors 6502a


    May 13, 2008
    DFW, TX
    His statement is not entirely false. I have a LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt and have tested many an SSD in it and the USB3 scores are usually within 10% of the Thunderbolt speeds, sometimes even beating Thunderbolt in write tests. Reason being: Thunderbolt has 4 total chips to go through before reaching the host (drive, cable end, cable end, Thunderbolt controller) whereas USB3 is going from controller to controller.
  18. meistervu macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2008
    I think it's debatable. I would not make that statement without doing some experimentation. In my opinion if there is an interruption, a conventional drive is also interrupted as well. While you are doing a transfer, it doesn't matter much if one file or multiple files are affected: you will have to redo the transfer just to be sure because you don't know which files are OK.

    Sure, a UPS helps. It also help conventional drive as well. I see no increased risk using a Buffalo DDR.
  19. Giuly, Jul 1, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013

    Giuly macrumors 68040


    The same goes for data that is written onto the system RAM and then copied to the hard drive as well, so data loss because of power failure is nothing to special in that regard.
  20. fluxen macrumors newbie

    May 2, 2013
    My point is that you've got probably 8 seconds of buffered write with that drive that you wouldn't have with another drive. It just increases your exposure to corruption if there is a power issue.

    I'm a big fan of Buffalo, and I'd like to believe they allowed for this by using capacitors, for example, but nothing I've read about the drive suggests this is the case.
  21. jcpb macrumors 6502a

    Jun 5, 2012
    Umm, if you remotely care about your computers and data, you're going to invest some money into power backup anyway.
  22. Sym0 macrumors 6502


    Jun 6, 2013
    This is also not an issue when running off a MacBook as the battery is a form of UPS and power loss to the mains would still mean 4-8hrs computing time and a USB3/TB HDD is powered by the bus.

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