Every Mac user who wants to own an external hard drive often wishes to buy one that is Thunderbolt enabled. There’s only one reason for this. Thunderbolt hard drives have very fast data transfer speeds. When Apple and Intel first released the Thunderbolt technology in 2011 on some Apple MacBook models, they created a technology that could “transfer data at speeds up to 10Gbps while providing the devices with as much as 10 Watts of electrical power on a single port without any hubs”. It’s a new year, and apparently, the market is going to witness an influx of new drives this year. It’s only natural for an individual to try to find out The Best Thunderbolt external hard drive 2017 has to offer.
Best Thunderbolt External Hard Drive 2017
It is possible to infer at this juncture that the main reason you’re reading this article is because you intend to get a Thunderbolt external hard drive that would serve your needs given the fact that most Macs, especially the MacBook laptops, come with an average 256GB storage. This table below shows you a list of some of the best thunderbolt external hard drives that will give you a value for your money. It includes their features such as storage size, weight and the OS they are compatible with, all at a glance.
|Transcend StoreJet 500||SSD||256GB, |
|LaCie Rugged RAID||HDD||4TB||Thunderbolt,|
|G-Technology G-Drive Pro||HDD||2TB, 4TB||Thunderbolt,|
|Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt drive||HDD||1TB, 2TB||Thunderbolt, USB 3.0||No||Check price|
|G-Technology G-RAID||HDD||4TB, 6TB|
|Thunderbolt 2, USB 3.0||No||Check price|
|WD My Passport Pro||HDD||2TB,|
|Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+||SSD||512GB||Thunderbolt, USB 3.0||No||Check price|
|LaCie Little Big Disk||SSD||1TB||Thunderbolt 2||Yes||Check price|
|LaCie D2||HDD||3TB, 4TB,6TB||Thunderbolt, USB 3.0||Yes||Check price|
|WD My Book Duo||HDD||4TB,6TB 8TB||Thunderbolt||No||Check price|
Here’s a proper review of these external Thunderbolt drives listed in the table above.
Transcend Storejet 500 – Designed for Mac
The few people that have had the chance to use the Transcend Storejet 500 Thunderbolt drive on their Mac have come to the conclusion that the Transcend Storejet 500 is one drive that doesn’t fall short of expectations – numerous five-star reviews on the product’s Amazon page bolsters that fact.
The Storejet 500 certainly has an aluminum casing with a silver finish that makes it look fantastic when it sits beside your Mac on your desk. But that’s not the only thing, as the drive weighs just about 0.5 pounds and measures about 2.5 inches in its casing which itself measures 0.68 x 3.0 x 5.0 inches. The Storejet 500 packs the power of the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 and as such is compatible both with a Mac and a Windows PC. However, the drive is more “Mac friendly” and works out of the box formatted for Mac in HFS+.
Read and write speeds are good on the drive, even though they are quite lower than the numbers advertised by Transcend. The Storejet 500 comes in 3 different storage capacities; the 256GB, 500GB, and 1TB and it is worthy to note that all of them come equipped with Transcends’ Elite Software, as well as the 256-bit AES encryption feature. There’s a 3-year warranty covering the products.
- Compatible with Mac and Windows PC.
- USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports ensure fast transfer speeds.
- 3-year warranty.
- LED indicator showing drive activity
- The drive sometimes gets hot under heavy usage.
- USB 3.0 is surprisingly faster than the Thunderbolt during transfer operations.
Conclusion: The Transcend Storejet 500 is ever ready to handle your storage without any problems other than the fact that it disappoints Thunderbolt fanatics when it comes to transferring speeds of data.Transcend Storejet 500 – Check Price
LaCie Rugged RAID – Portable Rugged RAID
This drive was designed by the internationally renowned industrial designer Neil Poulton and it looks similar to its siblings in the LaCie Rugged drives family. The drive has a brushed aluminum enclosure with an orange rubber bumper running the edges. There’s a removable cap that covers the USB 3.0 (backward compatible with USB 2.0) port which unfortunately requires power supplied to the AC adapter for it to work.
There’s a LED power indicator that shows drive activity. The Thunderbolt port, on the other hand, is bus-powered and can handle transfer speeds of up to 240MB/s according to LaCie’s claims. There’s more than enough storage space on the drive as it ships in 2TB or 4TB storage capacities and offers users the option of choosing either the RAID 0 or RAID 1 options for the drive.
In terms of ruggedness, the LaCie Rugged RAID drive lives up to its name. It can survive a fall from a 1.5-meter height and can withstand weights of about 1 ton placed on it as well as being water and dust proof with its cap on. It’s compatible with Windows PC though it requires reformatting.
Here’s a video of a Range Rover running over the drive. There was a crack sound, and the drive got damaged. However, the owners were still able to retrieve their data from the drive.
The Thunderbolt cable on the drive is housed in a groove on the drive’s body. The LaCie Rugged RAID drive also ensures your data is protected with its 256-bit AES encryption feature.
- Thunderbolt cable is housed in the casing.
- Fast transfer speeds.
- Encryption feature.
- It’s quite rugged
- Compatible with Windows and Mac
- The drive can’t withstand weights of 1 Ton as claimed by LaCie.
- USB 3.0 port should have been bus powered like the Thunderbolt port.
- Quite pricey
Conclusion: Weighing just 1.2 pounds and measuring about 1.3 x 3.8 x 6 inches, the LaCie Rugged RAID 4TB is a must have Thunderbolt external hard drive for Mac users who are always on the go. For individuals who are often on the move especially to rough terrains prone to noises, vibrations and other elements like water and dust, this drive will certainly take care of itself and your data.LaCie Rugged RAID – Check price
G-Technology G-Drive Pro – Dual Thunderbolt ports
G-Tech’s G-Drive has a way of showing other external Thunderbolt drives for Mac how a drive should rotate when it comes to RPMs with its 7200 RPM. That doesn’t make up, however, for some of its deficiencies which include refusing to work when plugged in the first time – it happens occasionally on some of the drives. That aside, the G-Drive comes available in two storage options: 2TB and 4TB which is more than enough to store your data for as long as three years or more, as it has a three-year warranty attached to it.
The drive which measures 1.8 x 9.3 x 5.1 inches and weighs 2.94 pounds comes in an aluminum casing and complements the Mac on your desktop as it sits like a mini CPU beside it. On the front side of the drive is a LED indicator just below the G logo that shows drive activity. The G-Technology G-Drive Pro encloses four 2.5 inch drives in a RAID 0 configuration not forgetting that it houses a USB 3.0 port as well as a Kensington lock slot.
Perhaps, if the drive was smaller, it would have probably been bus powered. G-Technology ships the drive along with a 24W adapter. Out of the box, the drive works flawlessly with a Mac but it can be easily formatted to work with a Windows PC too.
- Fast transfer speeds through Thunderbolt and USB 3.0
- Large 4TB storage space
- 3-year warranty
- Aluminum enclosure against the elements.
- Could get hot during heavy load
- No encryption feature
- Quite pricey
Conclusion: G-Tech G-Drive Pro is a wonderful choice for anyone seeking large storage solutions for their Mac without necessarily breaking the bank.G-DRIVE-PRO – Check price
Buffalo MiniStation – Time Machine compatible
Even though the drive is named a Buffalo, it surely isn’t as large as that. For an average user, Buffalo Technology’s Ministation indeed houses a mini 2.5-inch HDD and weighs just about 0.5 pounds. The drive measures 3.2 x 0.9 x 5.1 inches and is enclosed in a simple and sleek aluminum casing and is certainly going to catch the eye of anyone seated right beside you.
We can describe the drive as being able to give someone the three S’s people love in hard drives: storage, style and speed. It actually provides the first two without any complaints from us, but certainly not speed as the transfer speeds are quite slower than some of the aforementioned drives in our list. That notwithstanding, it still does great transferring files through its USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports, which of course can be daisy chained – at the end of the chain since there’s no second Thunderbolt port.
The Buffalo Ministation is bus-powered, unlike the G-Tech G-Drive that requires an AC power source for it to work. Buffalo Technology, has generously included a Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables in the box, so you don’t have to go running around for any of those. Simply, open the box, connect your Thunderbolt cable to the Thunderbolt port and connect to your Mac, and begin transferring your files. It’s that simple.
However, if you are using a Windows PC, you’d need to reformat the drive first before it starts working on your PC since it is formatted for Mac by default.
- Both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables are shipped with the drive
- It is bus powered
- 1-year warranty
- Having just one Thunderbolt port places it at the end of a chain in a daisy chain setup
Conclusion: The bad sides of the drive notwithstanding, there is absolutely no reason why no one shouldn’t purchase such a super cool drive which doesn’t require any other peripherals.Buffalo MiniStation – Check price
G-Technology G-RAID – Thunderbolt 2, RAID up to 8TB
If you aren’t keen on taking your external hard drives about, and storage is very important to you, then you need to get yourself the G-Technology G-RAID drive which has enough space to store as much as 8TB worth of data (available in 4TB and 6TB versions).
That large storage size, however, contributes to the massive size of the drive which measures 5.1 x 3.6 x 9.9 inches and weighs 5 pounds. It is strictly built for Mac and comes with two Thunderbolt 2 ports and USB 3.0 port as listed on G-Technology’s website – some other websites omit this important information about the drive.
The G-RAID drive spins at 7200 rpm and believe it or not, the transfer rates are something else; reaching transfer speeds of up to 300MB/s as against the 480MB/s listed on the company’s product website. The drive actually, which was initially built to work on only Mac, now runs on Windows PCs and it is not surprising to note that the USB 3.0 is downward compatible with USB 2.0.
There’s a 3-year warranty on the product. It is absolutely normal to expect a drive of this size to use an AC power source, and the G-Drive does require an AC power source. Out of the box, it works with a Mac, but you need to pay an extra $50 to purchase the Thunderbolt cable which isn’t shipped with the drive. For use on any Windows PC, reformatting is required.
The drive is configured in RAID 0 and handles data storage pretty well. Oh, and lest we skipped that, the drive offers Thunderbolt 2 connection; that is twice the speed of Thunderbolt!!! Unbelievable, right?
- 3 year warranty period
- USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 2 connection ensures fast transfer speeds.
- Supports daisy chaining
- Time Machine ready and Windows compatible
- Large storage memory
- Extremely large
- Premium price
- Thunderbolt cable not included
Conclusion: G-Technology did a great job producing such a wonderful storage device for people who have a penchant for large storage devices.G-Technology G-RAID – Check price
WD My Passport Pro – Portable RAID, up to 4TB
Although not the size of a passport as the name suggests, the WD My Passport Pro hard drive is a Thunderbolt portable hard drive for Mac users. It’s bus powered and has storage capacities of 2TB and 4TB. There’s no Thunderbolt port on the drive, rather, it has a Thunderbolt cable permanently attached to the drive and can easily be drawn out from the sides.
The fan on the bus-powered drive is automatically switched on when the drive gets hot, which it rarely does. The drive is basically described as a portable RAID by many who have tested the drive’s ability to be configured in different RAID setups. It weighs about 1.6 pounds and 1.2 pounds for the 4TB and 2TB models respectively and measures 5.6 x 3.5 x 1.7 inches and 5.6 x 3.5 x 1.1 inches respectively.
There’s no USB 3.0 port so it certainly isn’t going to work on your Windows PC. The drive rotates at 5400rpm and ensures good transfer speeds with its Thunderbolt ports. It works out of the box with Mac and Western Digital gives you a value for your money with the drive’s 3-year warranty.
- There’s a fan to help cool the drive if it ever gets hot
- The bulky 4TB version is still bus powered
- 3-year warranty for the device
- Lacks support for Windows unlike the LaCie Rugged RAID
- You cannot detach the Thunderbolt cable for use with another drive
Conclusion: Users willing to pay a premium for extra speed and capacity at a time for their Mac are surely going to embrace this drive with both hands. It’s apparently a better option than some of its counterparts like the LaCie Big Disk Thunderbolt drive which only outranks it in terms of transfer speedsMy Passport Pro – Check price
Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ – Faster than it takes to boil eggs
The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is yet an awesome Thunderbolt drive that is worth owning. It offers both USB 3.0 connectivity and Thunderbolt although only one of the ports can work at a time – while using the Thunderbolt port, the USB 3.0 port will shut down and vice versa – a major downside of the drive.
The drive’s SSD is built with the prestigious Plextor True Speed technology and comes in 256GB and 512GB variants, with the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables included. Like some of the aforementioned drives above, the Elgato is compatible with Windows OS if reformatted but it works directly with Mac out of the box.
Weighing just about 270 grams, the drive is housed in a sleek looking aluminum encasing with grainy finishing which helps keep the elements like dust away from the body. The drive measures 5.2 x 0.8 x 3.3 inches and weighs just about 0.5 pounds. The USB 3.0 connection of the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is downward compatible with USB 2.0. Transfer speeds on the drive surpass 330MB/s as against the 420MB/s claimed by the manufacturers.
- Its SSD was built using Plextor technology
- Mac, Windows compatible
- Good transfer speed
- Requires reformatting to work with Windows
- You can’t use both the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports at the same time
- Too expensive
Conclusion: In the words of Gavin Thomas, if you’re looking to backup your MacBook Air’s 128GB memory faster than it takes to boil eggs, then this drive is your best bet.Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ – Check price
LaCie Little Big Disk – The fastest drive
Nicknamed “small but mighty” for its miniature chassis but powerful transfer speeds, this drive is worth mentioning. The fact that is smallish and portable is enough reason for the drive to be bus powered, but the reverse is the case. The drive requires an external AC power supply which is about half its size. The drive, however, makes up for that with its super-fast transfer speeds, thanks to the two Thunderbolt 2 ports at the rear of the device.
On the front of the device which weighs 1.4 pounds and measures 5.5 x 1.6 x 3.3 inches, is the LaCie logo and the LED indicator which shows drive activity. LaCie ships the Little Big Disk with a stand although the drive could be used without the stand. It works out of the box with any Mac computer.
The Thunderbolt 2 ports also work with Thunderbolt laptops, so you should stop wondering if it will work with your MacBook that doesn’t have a Thunderbolt 2 port. The drive also supports RAID configurations.
Your data on the drive is safe, thanks to the 256-bit AES encryption feature. Need I say that backup and managing the drive has been made easy with the Intego Backup Manager Pro? There’s a three-year warranty for the premium price you pay for such a device, and it is certainly worth it given the extremely fast transfer speeds.
- Super-fast Thunderbolt 2 connection
- Two Thunderbolt ports allow for daisy-chaining anywhere
- Encryption included
- It is very expensive
- Minimal 1TB storage option
Conclusion: For $1000, you can experience the ultra-swift power of LaCie’s Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 if you prefer speed over large storage options.LaCie Little Big Disk – Check price
LaCie D2 – Little Big Disk small brother
LaCie has been on top of their game and it’s evident in the kind of user-friendly devices that they have been releasing lately. The LaCie D2 is one of the best Thunderbolt external drives the company has produced after the likes of the Little Big Disk.
Unlike the Little Big Disk, the LaCie D2 sports two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and a USB 3.0 port which is downward compatible with USB 2.0. Enclosing the internal HDD is an aluminum body that still leaves enough space for an optional 128GB SSD upgrade. The drive measures 5.0 x 2.5 x 8.5 inches and weighs 3 pounds. It isn’t bus powered nor does it make any fan noises since it has no fan – it does, however, spin at 7200 rpm.
The LaCie D2 is available in 3 storage options; 3TB, 4TB and 6TB each having the optional 128GB SSD upgrade. Out of the box, the device runs flawlessly on any Mac computer it is connected to. It is Time Machine compatible and comes with LaCie’s Intego Backup Assistant as well as the LaCie Genie Timeline. Encryption is a standard feature of all variants of the D2.
- Super-fast Thunderbolt 2 connection
- Two Thunderbolt ports allow for daisy-chaining anywhere
- Encryption available
- It isn’t bus powered even if so small
- SSD is difficult to install
Conclusion: Sleek and simple, the LaCie D2 is a price worthy package for the lover of good things; Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 in one storage device! That’s seriously awesome, you know.LaCie D2 – Check price
WD My Book Duo Thunderbolt Drive – Support JBOD modes
Last, but certainly not the least in our list of top thunderbolt storage drives for Mac is Western Digital’s My Book Dup Thunderbolt Drive. The large desktop drive with 8TB (4TB and 6TB available) worth of storage is enclosed in a shiny plastic casing.
Weighing 5.2 pounds and measuring 6.5 x 6.2 x 3.9 inches, the Duo Thunderbolt Drive sports two Thunderbolt ports, and is configurable in RAID 0, RAID 1 or JBOD modes. The drive spins at 5400 rpm which should have been upped to 7200 rpm. Nonetheless, the Duo does transfer files at an incredibly fast speed. There are enough openings to ensure proper ventilation and reduce the drive’s chances of heating up during use.
Inside the Duo are removable 3.5 inch SATA drives. The lack of USB 3.0 on this drive makes it imperative for anyone having any old Mac with USB ports to have a rethink. The drive is shipped with a Thunderbolt cable so you don’t have to worry about doling out an extra $50 for that. It works straight out of the box with any it’s connected to.
- Large storage space
- Proper ventilation keeps it cool
- Two Thunderbolt ports are available
- Internal drives are replaceable
- Three-year warranty
- The plastic casing isn’t good
- Lacks USB 3.0 ports
- Quite expensive
- Average transfer speeds
Conclusion: If you solely want a Thunderbolt external drive with enough storage space for your needs and you aren’t really concerned about transfer speeds, then the WD My Book Duo Thunderbolt Drive is would be a great choice for you.My Book Duo – Check price
Selecting the aforementioned Thunderbolt storage devices was based on certain criteria such as speed, storage capacity options, its compatibility with Mac and Windows as well as encryption features. The Thunderbolt External Hard Drive Buyers Guide at the end of this post will enlighten you more. Meanwhile, here are a few things you should know about Thunderbolt storage.
What is a Thunderbolt in terms of storage drives?
Isn’t thunderbolt a flash of lightening with a simultaneous crash of thunder?
No, it isn’t.
Thunderbolt is simply the brand name for Apple and Intel’s technology for connecting external devices to computers. Thunderbolt arrived early 2011 alongside a couple of Apple’s MacBook models. It was designed in such a way that it could support electrical or optical connections on up to 6 devices that could be daisy chained whilst transferring data at speeds up to 10Gbps and also providing the devices with as much as 10 Watts of electrical power on a single port without any hubs.
If the Thunderbolt could be that powerful, what about the Thunderbolt 2?
Intel in 2013 announced the introduction of the Thunderbolt 2 which was an advanced modification of its predecessor. The Thunderbolt 2 had twice the transfer power of the Thunderbolt – 20Gbps as against the latter’s’ 10Gbps. To achieve such a feat, the developers joined 2 existing 10Gbps channels of the Thunderbolt cable to form a single channel with the 20Gbps. The Thunderbolt 2 was released with the 2013 MacBook Pro.
Then came the Thunderbolt 3, which was designed to handle twice what the Thunderbolt 2 could only support. In clearer terms, the Thunderbolt 3 had a transfer rate of 40Gbps while providing devices with as much as 100watts of power. Quite incredible I must say. The USB 3.0 can only be compared to the first Thunderbolt; the difference between it and the other versions are glaring! That notwithstanding, people still prefer the USB 3.0 to the Thunderbolt because it is relatively cheap.
Why choose Thunderbolt over USB 3.0? Here are three reasons…
- It can power big displays of 4k – we all know anything 4K can’t be run by just any device
- Data transfer speeds are probably faster than the speed of light from 10Gbps to 40Gbps; the Thunderbolt 3 is 8 times faster than USB 3.0 and 4 times faster than USB 3.1
- You can connect more devices using just a single Thunderbolt cable especially when you daisy-chain
That was eye-opening, wasn’t it? Now here’s the real deal.
The Best Thunderbolt External Hard Drive 2017 Buyers Guide
With a wide array of drives to choose from, it is imperative we provide our readers with tips to guide them in making the right choice in choosing the best Thunderbolt storage drives.
For clarity purposes, this buyers’ guide describes important factors to note when purchasing Thunderbolt external hard drives. Some of these factors include but aren’t limited to the following:
- Portability and ruggedness
- Reliability and durability
- Storage size
- Encryption and supported platforms
- Thunderbolt connection type
Here’s a clear elaboration of the factors mentioned above.
Portability and ruggedness: There’s no gainsaying that people prefer portable drives to desktop drives. If the drive will be sitting at your desk all the time, then you should just get a desktop drive – bus powered or not. However, if you intend to carry your Thunderbolt hard drive along with you wherever you are going to, then you’d need to get one that is small, weighs about 0.5 pounds and is bus powered. More so, if you are taking the drive along with you to a rough terrain, you might want to consider a rugged Thunderbolt hard drive. The ruggedness of a drive ensures that they can withstand elements such as dust, water, and bashing or falls from certain heights, as well as certain weights being placed on it.
Reliability and durability: A reliable drive ought to have positive reviews on sites like Amazon where have been many buyers before you. Why would anyone still buy a drive that a handful of users reported exactly the same problem? Reliability matters a lot and as such shouldn’t be overlooked. More so, some drives do claim they can withstand certain conditions when it’s obvious they can’t. That said, durability also comes to mind. Thunderbolt hard drives and general hard drives with just one year warranty aren’t worth owning at all. Hence, there’s need to purchase drives with at least two years warranty. A three-year warranty is much better.
Speed: While it is important to consider the speed of a drive, it doesn’t really matter to people who just need a storage device. Thunderbolt storage drives are fast when it comes to transferring data. As a matter of fact, they are faster than USB 3.0 in most cases especially when they are paired with SSDs. In some cases, however, the USB 3.0 often surpasses the Thunderbolt drive in terms of transfer speeds. It is also pertinent to note the RPM of drives. Drives that spin at 7200rpm are better than those that spin at 5400rpm.
Storage size: The available storage space on a drive is important. Hence, if you require more storage, 4TB drives would be a good option over the 1TB or 2TB drives.
Encryption and supported platforms: Some Thunderbolt drives provide the end user with the option of encrypting their data using 256-bit AES encryption. However, if safeguarding your data from prying eyes isn’t a priority, then you might as well overlook the fact that a drive has no encryption feature. More so, Thunderbolt hard drives are mostly meant for Macs although it can be used on a Windows PC if only it has a USB 3.0 port and is formatted in NTFS or exFAT. D
on’t buy a Thunderbolt drive without USB 3.0 and expect it to work on just any Windows PC. There are some Mac computers without USB 3.0 ports, so if your Thunderbolt external hard drive doesn’t have any USB 3.0 ports, it simply means you’ve just wasted your funds.
Thunderbolt Connection Type: The Thunderbolt technology has grown over the years since 2011, and has given birth to Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3 technologies. Most Macs, however, support only Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2. Ensure that you check which your Mac supports before buying any of the drives.
If for any reason you need clarification on any issue, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. We’d be glad to answer your questions. Choose wisely your Best Thunderbolt external hard drive 2017.