Thunderbolt or USB3 for editing directly from disk?

RiotNOR

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 5, 2008
6
0
I'm waiting for my rMBP and am in need of an external drive for the beauty that is coming to me soon.

I'm kind of at a stand-still. Should I go with the expensive thunderbolt drive WD MyBook 4TB or are the USB3 speeds just fine for editing photos directly from the drive? I'm shooting a D800 with uncompressed raw files at around 70 - 80Mb/ea. I'm not too interested in being slowed down by the drive as I want to keep the lightroom library on the external drive.

Any help is appreciated.
 

MCAsan

macrumors 601
Jul 9, 2012
4,543
415
Atlanta
Thunderbolt is definitely a faster transport. Much of any delay reading/writing will be the I/O speed of the drives themselves and not from the Thunderbolt transport layer.

My rMBP arrives today. YEA! I have a LaCie 2big Thunderbolt set of drives that will be run in RAID 1 (mirror). All my user subfolders (documents, pictures, music, movies, web design..etc.) will all be on the Thunderbolt drive. I will backup to a 3 TB Time Capsule.

I would suggest the you do a Thunderbolt drive for you main external storage. You can put all your media folders (documents, pictures, music, movies..etc.) on it. Then use a large USB 3 drive, or Time Capsule, for Time Machine to do backups of the entire file system. The USB 3 drive would be less expensive than a second Thunderbolt drive or Time Capsule.
 

OreoCookie

macrumors 68030
Apr 14, 2001
2,681
69
Sendai, Japan
Thunderbolt allows you to connect drives at native speeds, i. e. they're as fast as if you connect them internally. So definitely go for the Thunderbolt enclosure.
 

carestudio

macrumors 6502
Aug 6, 2008
457
56
I'm waiting for my rMBP and am in need of an external drive for the beauty that is coming to me soon.

I'm kind of at a stand-still. Should I go with the expensive thunderbolt drive WD MyBook 4TB or are the USB3 speeds just fine for editing photos directly from the drive? I'm shooting a D800 with uncompressed raw files at around 70 - 80Mb/ea. I'm not too interested in being slowed down by the drive as I want to keep the lightroom library on the external drive.

Any help is appreciated.
Thunderbolt drive or RAID would be a big plus, however if you have MBP with new USB3 connection, you can use a very fast USB3 RAID from CalDigit. We have many CalDigit VR2 RAIDs and have been very pleased with the speed from USB3 connecting to rMBP. It's cheaper too.
 

VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
114
Vancouver, BC
Don't be fooled by the marketing around Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt's main advantage (and Apple's primary interest) is reducing cable clutter. USB 3 offers 5Gbps of bandwidth while Thunderbolt is 10Gbps per channel, but both far exceed the sustained transfer rates of traditional Hard Drives and even single SSD's.

For example, buying a single 4TB HD that maxes out at 120MB/s (~1Gbps) and connecting it with a Thunderbolt interface, isn't going to buy you anything over USB3.

There are three things you need to consider in optimizing the speed of your external storage...
1. The speed of the interface (Thunderbolt vs. USB)
2. The type of drive(s) (HD vs SSD)
3. The drive configuration (Single/JBOD vs RAID)

The ultimate high-performance external storage solution is probably a multi-drive SSD RAID0 Array connected via Thunderbolt... but that doesn't yet exist. However, if you're looking at just single or even dual HD enclosures, USB3 offers plenty of bandwidth to ensure it's not the bottleneck and won't cost you an arm and a leg for enclosures and cables. :)

In short... Just don't go buying a Thunderbolt enclosure expecting miracles. It's just one of the factors in the performance of your external storage.
 
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Prodo123

macrumors 68020
Nov 18, 2010
2,326
9
Don't be fooled by the marketing around Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt's main advantage (and Apple's primary interest) is reducing cable clutter. USB 3 offers 5Gbps of bandwidth while Thunderbolt is 10Gbps per channel, but both far exceed the sustained transfer rates of traditional Hard Drives and even single SSD's.

For example, buying a single 4TB HD that maxes out at 120MB/s (~1Gbps) and connecting it with a Thunderbolt interface, isn't going to buy you anything over USB3.

There are three things you need to consider in optimizing the speed of your external storage...
1. The speed of the interface (Thunderbolt vs. USB)
2. The type of drive(s) (HD vs SSD)
3. The drive configuration (Single/JBOD vs RAID)

The ultimate high-performance external storage solution is probably a multi-drive SSD RAID0 Array connected via Thunderbolt... but that doesn't yet exist. However, if you're looking at just single or even dual HD enclosures, USB3 offers plenty of bandwidth to ensure it's not the bottleneck and won't cost you an arm and a leg for enclosures and cables. :)

In short... Just don't go buying a Thunderbolt enclosure expecting miracles. It's just one of the factors in the performance of your external storage.
Technically Thunderbolt has less latency since it is a direct extension of a PCIe port whereas the USB 3 controller takes up one of the PCIe ports themselves to transmit data, so there's one less layer of communication in Thunderbolt, right?
Of course the difference would be nominal, but I guess the advantage is that you would be able to access features related to drive management that cannot be handled through USB (e.g. SMART status).
 

mackmgg

macrumors 65816
Nov 2, 2007
1,396
6
While Thunderbolt is probably better, it's probably not worth the extra expense at this time. I use USB 3.0 with my drive, and it's more than fast enough for editing the RAWs from a 550D. Most of the actual editing takes place in the RAM anyway, so the only difference you'll notice is in the loading and saving times. Even then, the disk is probably going to be the limiting factor.
 

LongSticks

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2012
301
0
Kent, UK
While Thunderbolt is probably better, it's probably not worth the extra expense at this time. I use USB 3.0 with my drive, and it's more than fast enough for editing the RAWs from a 550D. Most of the actual editing takes place in the RAM anyway, so the only difference you'll notice is in the loading and saving times. Even then, the disk is probably going to be the limiting factor.
I have just set up a 1TB Seagate Go flex drive which uses a bus connector to FW800, USB or via Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter for Portable Hard Drives to TB! This is holding my 7000 shot entire Aperture library in a mix of raw and jpeg. And all for £220 + TB Cable.

The speed difference over USB is amazing! The other beauty of this is there are various forum posts on the net about using an SSD on this rig, which I will be trying. The best of all worlds!

Lastly, remember TB drives are daisy chain able unlike USB which gives even more flexibility, especially on MBP! This one isn't, it was a test, but have a look on Apple Store, it has a big brother! Also have a look at the Drobo Mini up for pre order now and will use TB and USB3 in the same box!
 
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Sarmiento

macrumors member
Mar 31, 2011
45
0
Here's another factor to consider. If you plug your laptop into an external monitor (non-thunderbolt), thunderbolt to gigabit Ethernet adapter or thunderbolt to FireWire adapter you end up using your single thunderbolt plug unless the thunderbolt drive you buy has 2 thunderbolt plugs which then means it likely needs an external power source.

I purchased a small Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drive (1tb) and I'm getting almost 110 MB/s on read and writes. Just bought it last night but seems fast enough for my Nikon D7000 raw images.

And by the way I'm using the new MBA.
 

carestudio

macrumors 6502
Aug 6, 2008
457
56
There are three things you need to consider in optimizing the speed of your external storage...
1. The speed of the interface (Thunderbolt vs. USB)
2. The type of drive(s) (HD vs SSD)
3. The drive configuration (Single/JBOD vs RAID)

The ultimate high-performance external storage solution is probably a multi-drive SSD RAID0 Array connected via Thunderbolt... but that doesn't yet exist.
Excellent points!!!
What about caldigit T2 Thunderbolt SSD RAID? :) speed can reach 630MB/s and it use 2x thunderbolt ports.
http://www.caldigit.com/Thunderbolt/T1T2.html#T2

meets your requirement.
 

VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
114
Vancouver, BC
Excellent points!!!
What about caldigit T2 Thunderbolt SSD RAID? :) speed can reach 630MB/s and it use 2x thunderbolt ports.
http://www.caldigit.com/Thunderbolt/T1T2.html#T2

meets your requirement.
Nice, but a pair of current gen SSD's with SATA3 interfaces should hit 1TB/s in RAID0... so there's something holding this back... probably their choice of SATA/PCIe interface. Although currently, I'd say this is one of the top performers out there for external storage.
 

Laird Knox

macrumors 68000
Jun 18, 2010
1,767
938
I'm waiting for my rMBP and am in need of an external drive for the beauty that is coming to me soon.

I'm kind of at a stand-still. Should I go with the expensive thunderbolt drive WD MyBook 4TB or are the USB3 speeds just fine for editing photos directly from the drive? I'm shooting a D800 with uncompressed raw files at around 70 - 80Mb/ea. I'm not too interested in being slowed down by the drive as I want to keep the lightroom library on the external drive.

Any help is appreciated.
For actual editing RAM will be your best friend. For opening files and reading catalogs then they both interfaces will likely give you similar performance.
 

mackmgg

macrumors 65816
Nov 2, 2007
1,396
6
I have just set up a 1TB Seagate Go flex drive which uses a bus connector to FW800, USB or via Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter for Portable Hard Drives to TB! This is holding my 7000 shot entire Aperture library in a mix of raw and jpeg. And all for £220 + TB Cable.
I was looking at that, but in the end decided it was too expensive. I ended up going with a WD Passport 1TB which was only $100 (~£64). And although it's much faster than USB 2.0, it's still only getting the speed of the drive itself, which is nowhere near either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt speeds. In the end, although Thunderbolt is a nicer technology, it's not worth the 3.5x price tag.