Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD drive review

Time Machine® support offers scheduled backups for protecting Mac computers

Buffalo MiniStation Review: Thunderbolt portable SSD drive

Ever since portable drives first started bombarding the market, consumers have played the guessing game. Does this drive have a fast enough interface that connects with the laptop you have or did you just waste $400 dollars or more of your hard earned money?
The first generation of Thunderbolt-technology driven storage drives and peripherals had been targeting the higher end laptop markets because of its large thermal design point and its size traditionally made their controllers more appropriate for luxury laptops like robust MacBook Pros.
But now that there are smaller, more affordable controllers that also have a larger selection of Apple laptops it’s now compatible with as well as now being compatible with Windows, there’s a larger market of laptop users who might be open to purchasing solid state drives with a Thunderbolt interface.
Enter the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt Portable SSD, one that can accommodate both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connections, making it an attractive option at an affordable price point.

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Specifications

Solid state drives are preferable to conventional hard drives in that they are faster, more durable and run cooler than their internal disk drive counterparts. With a storage capacity of 128/256 GB and an interface transfer rate of up to 10 Gbps and PC compatibility, the Buffalo MiniStation really is one of the best SSD drives for Mac and PC currently on the market.
For Mac users, it comes with OSX Mountain Lion software and the 10Gbps speed for its Thunderbolt interface. The USB 3.0 interface allows it to work with Windows PC using a 5Gbps interface speed. The results of this 2.5 in. SATA solid state drive’s performance is an average read speed close to 400 MB/s and a write speed close to 200 MB/s for USB 3.0 PC laptops.
Using the Thunderbolt ports with Mac laptops, it averages a read speed 382 MB/s and a write speed of 200 MB/s. This is not as fast as some other portable drives on the market, but it does exceed laptop read and write speeds, nonetheless.
Buffalo MiniStation Speed Test


Thunderbolt connection

But this is ideal for supporting and backing-up your Mac laptop if you have one. The fact that it’s been optimized to work with Time Machine makes is much for appropriate as an Apple peripheral as a result.
You may have to reformat this unit to work with PC laptops as it traditionally has been formatted as HFS+ file system. Luckily, the manufacturer has shipped a small booklet with it that can guide you through this process.
There are more compact portable drives on the market, but few look as sleek and come with a considerably durable aluminum build like this one. It runs on 1 lithium ion battery, weights only about 9 ounces, and comes with both USB cables and Thunderbolt cables. Small enough to fit alongside your laptop in the side pocket of your carrying case.

Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt

Worth noticing

The problem comes with its read and write speeds. For such a price point, though much more affordable and within the range of most household budgets than first generation solid-state drive, it sure would be nice if the Thunderbolt speed capability was more competitive with its USB counterpart on this unit that with other models. The reason for this may be that Buffalo uses unspecified supporting electronics, which limits power consumption available from the Thunderbolt bus to lower than what’s required by current electronic components for achieving higher speeds.
What this means, in layman’s terms, is that there is no real advantage to getting this SSD even if you do have a powerful Mac laptop that uses Thunderbolt because it’s still going to write at the same speed as a PC that uses a USB connection.
The casing tends to get hotter the longer you use it. This limits the amount of time you can keep it running. If you are saving data and want to ensure automatic back-ups it, it might be best to only connect this drive during these times you’re working and not run it constantly and burn it up. This unit requires a little more care and vigilance in terms of upkeep because of this.

Check out also Buffalo MiniStation Review: HDD vs SSD

Final Thoughts

For those who have USB compatible-only laptop, there are plenty of cheaper and faster portable drives on the market that would be much preferable for this use. If you fall in this category, this SSD is most definitely not for you.
But for laptop users who work across platforms and need both Mac/Thunderbolt and PC/USB cross-compatibility, then this drive is something you might want to look into, but in this case you need to re-format it for ExFAT file system, so keep this in mind.
7.1 Total Score
Good choice

Versatile, good-looking, and fast enough for most applications. Makes a good choice for those looking for a portable Thunderbolt storage device.

Durability
8
Performance
7
Features
6.5
Price
7
PROS
  • Compatible with Thunderbolt and USB 3.0
  • Pre-formatted for HFS+
  • Time Machine Support
  • Excellent build quality
  • Can be connected and set up as fusion drive
  • 3 years warranty
CONS
  • Can get hot during use
  • No speed difference between usb 3.0 and Thunderbolt
  • SSD writing speed isn’t the best
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