Thunderbolt versus USB 3 external hard drive

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by afellowlinguist, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. afellowlinguist macrumors newbie

    Mar 10, 2011
    Hey folks,

    I'm in desperate need of an external hard drive to store my movies/music on, and plan on picking one up today.

    Can someone let me know whether it would be a better idea to purchase a Thunderbolt external hard drive or a USB 3 one? What are the pros and cons of each?

    I have an rMBP, and as such, have 2 TBP and 2 USB3 ports. One of my TBP is usually occupied by a TBP/ethernet adapter.

    Thanks for any thoughts!
  2. barredfreak macrumors 6502

    Jan 9, 2012
    I would assume that the Thunderbolt external HDD would have faster transfer speeds. I own one, and it's pretty darn quick.
  3. waw74 macrumors 68030

    May 27, 2008
    if all you're doing is putting music and movies on it, USB3 will be fine, much cheaper, and easier to find.
    even USB 2 can handle a raw blu-ray rip.
    for speed comparison- numbers are approximate, and from my own experience, don't have thunderbolt numbers.

    blu-ray - 4-5 MB/s
    USB2 - 20-25 MB/s
    USB3 - 100 MB/s

    both USB3 and 7200RPM drives have about the same top speed, so if all you're doing is external storage, unless you get a RAID or SSD, the limit on your speed will be the drive itself and not the interface.
  4. afellowlinguist thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 10, 2011
    Thanks, guys. USB 3 it is, then. Any recommendations on a quality USB 3 drive? Anything between 500 GB and 1 TB will be good for me.
  5. jcpb macrumors 6502a

    Jun 5, 2012
    If you're buying external hard drives, you need multiples of them before you'll run into the USB3 speed limit, so get the highest capacity drive you can afford from a brand that has historically screwed you the least.
  6. Rmafive macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2008
    Richmond, Virginia
    Seagate makes great USB 3.0 drives for reasonable prices. I have one and it works great.
  7. flo-o-rama macrumors newbie


    Nov 6, 2007
    but has anyone made real world speed comparisons yet? something like a lacie 2big thunderbolt compared to a lacie 2big quadra usb 3.0?

    I'm wondering if a 7200 rpm hard drive can output the 10 Gbps at all or if the hard drive tops out at the 5 Gbps which USB 3.0 gives us.
  8. peeaanuut macrumors 65816

    Sep 10, 2007
    Southern California
    the issue is that USB3 like USB2 wouldnt reach is max potential even if only 1 device.

    For your purposes the USB3 drive will be more than adequate. You can also go with a bare USB3 enclosure and than add a drive so that you dont have to get a locked in unit.

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