USB3 speeds on 2011 mini (with thunderbolt dock)?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by elliotn, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hi. I have a 2011 mac mini. If I hook it up to a thunderbolt dock with USB3 ports, will I get USB3 speeds on those ports? Or will I be limited to USB2 speeds, as that is the basic USB architecture of the 2011 mini?
  2. blindside217 macrumors regular

    Mar 16, 2012
    You will get USB 3 or whatever the dock supports. My Belkin one supported up to 2500 MB/s per port which is half of the normal 5000 of USB 3.
  3. elliotn thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Thanks. That's what I thought. I'm having an argument on another forum with a 'digital expert' who insists that the 2011 mini cannot go beyond USB2 speeds, even when using the USB3 ports on a thunderbolt dock. Can anyone out there disprove him (with Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, or similar)? Thanks.
  4. estabya macrumors 6502


    Jun 28, 2014
  5. elliotn thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Thanks. I've already read that test. It's the only one I could find that addresses the question. Unfortunately, when they come to measure the USB3 speeds of the dock, they use a 2012 USB3 MacBook Pro. So now I'm looking for some concrete data (rather than anecdotal reports) of USB transfer speeds when the dock is hooked up to a 2011 USB2 mac.
  6. treekram macrumors 65832

    Nov 9, 2015
    Honolulu HI
    It's not easy to find reviews or other articles of Thunderbolt 2 docks connected to pre USB3 Macs. A lot of the docks came out well after USB3 was added to the Macs. Here's one though:

    (If you're really interested maybe a better place to look is in user reviews at Amazon, etc. of the docks and look for people who have benchmarked the performance.)

    The so-called digital expert doesn't understand how Thunderbolt works. It doesn't rely on the existing hardware of the computer it's connected to. That's why a Thunderbolt dock will allow you to get USB3 on a USB2 computer and Firewire and Ethernet on Macs that don't have those ports. The OS of the computer does have to have knowledge of USB3, Firewire, etc. and how to route it to Thunderbolt - it packages up the data of the specific standard into packets which gets sent down to the dock. The dock (or adapter) is responsible for unpacking the packets and interfacing with specific hardware connector (USB3, Firewire, etc.). That's why I think you'll find that the docks require at least Mountain Lion or higher as that's when Apple first started supporting USB3 (even though Thunderbolt showed up computers earlier than Mountain Lion).

    That being said, there seem to be at least several docks which cap the USB3 speed quite a bit below what is natively supported - however, still significantly faster than USB2.

    I have a external Thunderbolt1 SSD connected to my 2014 Mac Mini and in the system report, it shows up in both the Thunderbolt and SATA sections because apparently that's the protocol it's mimicking to connect up to the SSD.
  7. elliotn thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Many thanks for the link and your detailed explanation.
  8. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    USB3 is 640MB/s.

    To get 5000MB/s you need something exotic and extraordinarily expensive like the Amfeltec carrier in a 16x PCIe slot populated with four flash blades. That has been benched as high as 5920MB/s, which is so fast that most software cannot even make use of it.

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