Whats faster on a 2012, TB or USB?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by qtrim, Jun 8, 2019.

  1. qtrim macrumors 6502


    Oct 7, 2011
    I have a 2012 Mac Mini. I want to install MacOS for testing to an external SSD drive using either a Thunderbolt to SSD, or a USB 3.0 to SSD, enclosure. Which one would yield better performance?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2009
    United States
    It of course can depend on the actual specific hardware you're looking at (check the specs), but on paper, TB1 is 10gb/s while USB 3 is 5gb/s, so TB1 is faster.

    In practice, unless the SSD can take advantage of that increased throughput of TB1, the observable speeds will be similar.

    If you google "Thunderbolt 1 vs USB3 speed", you'll find various articles on comparing the two.

    Good luck!
  3. Boyd01 macrumors 601


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I boot my 2012 quad Mini from a 1tb Samsung t3 USB 3.0 drive, it's quite fast and I use it extensively with Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. I also have a couple 500gb t3's and they are the same speed. The t3 has been replaced by the t5 now and it's a bit faster although I don't know if that would matter with a 2012 mini.


    FWIW, my 2012 quad also has the original internal Apple 256gb SSD and this is how it compares.


    When I was shopping for external SSD's a couple years ago, the thunderbolt disks were much more expensive and weren't any faster. Don't know if that has changed today.
  4. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    USB3 offers the best choice in terms of speed AND pricing.
  5. Cheapassmac macrumors regular

    Nov 5, 2018
    Thunderbolt will be equal or faster then the USB counterpart, but probably not worth the price premium. If money wasn't a factor, then you wouldn't be using the 2012 in the first place though.
  6. Hessel89 macrumors regular


    Sep 27, 2017
    If you have a 2012 you can add up to two internal HDDs SSDs did you know that? Don't bother with Thunderbolt 2 unless you're planning to use PCIe SSDs. Normal SSDs only reach around 500 MB/s so USB 3.0 which reaches up to 1000 MB/s is fine.
  7. Cheapassmac macrumors regular

    Nov 5, 2018
    Way easier to use a sata to usb cable and plug a ssd externally. It requires some technical skills to install internally. Did you know that unless your 2012 already had two hard drives installed, you'd need to get the mounting parts? Wouldn't be a great time if you decided to go internal, only to find out that you are missing parts during the install.

    Although doesn't matter too much, usb 3.0 spec isn't 1000mb/s. The 2012 used gen 1, which in theory could go up to 625mb, but in practice it's about 400mb/s. This is still good enough for most people for most applicable uses.

    You can absolutely go to 1000+ with thunderbolt on a 2012 mac mini, but the real question is, why would you bother.
  8. Hessel89 macrumors regular


    Sep 27, 2017
    If he/she decides to go internal you can simply buy a kit on iFixit that contains all parts.

    About USB, that's my point. USB 3.0 will be enough for a Normal SSD. No point in bothering with Thunderbolt in most cases.
  9. Ifti macrumors 68020


    Dec 14, 2010
    Only use Thunderbolt depending upon whether the SSD you are connecting to is bottlenecked by USB3, or if you are looking to daisy chain devices.
    Otherwise USB3.0 will see you through fine.

    I only use ThunderBolt drives as I have several SSDs that are set up in a RAID array for FCPX editing. Hence I need the faster throughput to reap the benefit.
    I also have a X5, which is TB3 only, again due to speeds etc.
    Otherwise with most standard SSDs, USB3 would be fine.
  10. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    Speed is one thing, but there is also the other side of the coin, that being disk data transfer quirks and reliability. TB being sata through and through were USB has several stack layers that can have one quirk or another, TB is much more reliable (less chance of corrupt data or drives, better seek performance support and caches), which becomes more apparent in high intensity disk usage environments. The more wild west USB environment is fine for the more casual user with budget constraints and lots of spare troubleshooting time although there are USB fan boys that will argue. In my desktops we avoid USB as much as possible and we are much happier campers than those neighbors that rely on USB for more than backups or portable applications.
  11. McScooby macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2005
    The Paps of Glenn Close, Scotland.
    I could be wrong, but i seem to remember from somewhere that the difference was usb was burst speed and TB was constant, then again, might be FW I'm getting mixed up with.

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10 June 8, 2019