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Thunderbolt hard drive enclosures

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I've seen the LaCie Little Big Disk and the Promise RAID, but those are out of my price range. In addition, I want to choose my own disk(s) to use. Any idea when third party Thunderbolt enclosures will be coming up? Until then I'm stuck with "only" Firewire 800, which is saturated with my 2TB Barracuda XT. A Thunderbolt enclosure could nearly double performance.

I emailed MacAlly, which makes my current enclosure, about this-- no response. LaCie wrote back that they have "no information on future product offerings in this area" but that their R&D department "continues to investigate new product options." Thoughts?
post #2 of 20
LaCie isn't appropriate for heavy use, and their offering isn't that great anyway. Intel hasn't promised thunderbolt for the masses until 2012. It's been relatively limited on development this year. I wouldn't expect it to be cheap before 2013.
post #3 of 20
The SSD version of the Little Big Disk uses two Intel 320s. Not the best they could possibly use.
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Winter View Post

The SSD version of the Little Big Disk uses two Intel 320s. Not the best they could possibly use.

Exactly; I want to "grow my own." Re my original post, even with regular disks the Firewire bus is saturated with one drive, so doing a two-drive RAID on Firewire would be pointless. I only hope Apple gave my new iMac one Firewire 800 port for a reason, that reason being wide availability of Thunderbolt peripherals. Epic fail at this point.
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by andytothemax View Post

I've seen the LaCie Little Big Disk and the Promise RAID, but those are out of my price range.

Yep way too expensive.

Sadly I don't see this changing anytime soon. The problem is that building controllers for TB devices is expensive. It will likely reain so as long as Intel has such a tight grip on system.
Quote:
In addition, I want to choose my own disk(s) to use.

Why?
Quote:
Any idea when third party Thunderbolt enclosures will be coming up?

You ean reasonably priced enclosures? If that is the case it might be a very long time.
Quote:
Until then I'm stuck with "only" Firewire 800, which is saturated with my 2TB Barracuda XT. A Thunderbolt enclosure could nearly double performance.

It might more than double performance but such an enclosure needs to exist first. As alluded to above I don't think you will see such enclosures at reasonable prices anytime soon. What is reasonable, in my case within $100 of a USB case.
Quote:
I emailed MacAlly, which makes my current enclosure, about this-- no response. LaCie wrote back that they have "no information on future product offerings in this area" but that their R&D department "continues to investigate new product options." Thoughts?

For the most part you are wasting time e-mailing companies asking about products not yet on the market. Most are just as secretive as Apple. Here and there a company might practice more open hardware development but frankly they all seem to run into unreasonable customer expectations. So if you are expecting answers to the question of when a product will come out you are expecting too much. However communicating with a company is always a good thing. If nothing else it puts a company on notice as far as new consumer desires go. Think of it as voting, you don't always get what you want but you can put people on notice.
post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by andytothemax View Post

Exactly; I want to "grow my own." Re my original post, even with regular disks the Firewire bus is saturated with one drive, so doing a two-drive RAID on Firewire would be pointless.

It isn't pointless if you are using RAID for a bit more reliability.
Quote:
I only hope Apple gave my new iMac one Firewire 800 port for a reason, that reason being wide availability of Thunderbolt peripherals. Epic fail at this point.

FireWire is there to support existing users. It will go away shortly.

What is bothersome about your post though is this ides that Thunderbolt is some how a failure. I think it is sitting right where Apple and intel want it to sit. That is as a high end high performance port. It was never -NEVER- designed to be a low cost USB replacement. People need to get over this idea. People need to realize that a whole USB based system can go on a tiny card and ship as a product for a quarter of the cost of a TB cable. The two ports aren't even remotely in the same class.
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

It isn't pointless if you are using RAID for a bit more reliability.

FireWire is there to support existing users. It will go away shortly.

What is bothersome about your post though is this ides that Thunderbolt is some how a failure. I think it is sitting right where Apple and intel want it to sit. That is as a high end high performance port. It was never -NEVER- designed to be a low cost USB replacement. People need to get over this idea. People need to realize that a whole USB based system can go on a tiny card and ship as a product for a quarter of the cost of a TB cable. The two ports aren't even remotely in the same class.

Thanks, that puts things in perspective. I guess my main gripe is having only one Firewire 800 port on the new iMac. I have two Thunderbolt ports so it seems like a natural extension that there would be a flood of products to take advantage of it. To the extent there are not a lot of products yet, epic fail. Otherwise I'm a very happy buyer.
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Yep way too expensive.

Sadly I don't see this changing anytime soon. The problem is that building controllers for TB devices is expensive. It will likely reain so as long as Intel has such a tight grip on system.

Why?

You ean reasonably priced enclosures? If that is the case it might be a very long time.

It might more than double performance but such an enclosure needs to exist first. As alluded to above I don't think you will see such enclosures at reasonable prices anytime soon. What is reasonable, in my case within $100 of a USB case.


For the most part you are wasting time e-mailing companies asking about products not yet on the market. Most are just as secretive as Apple. Here and there a company might practice more open hardware development but frankly they all seem to run into unreasonable customer expectations. So if you are expecting answers to the question of when a product will come out you are expecting too much. However communicating with a company is always a good thing. If nothing else it puts a company on notice as far as new consumer desires go. Think of it as voting, you don't always get what you want but you can put people on notice.

Good points.

I want to use my own drives so I can avoid getting a 5400rpm Caviar. I would be better off buying the cheapest LaCie Little Big Disk ($399 for two 5400rpm drives) and replacing the drives with a faster solution.

I actually found something that may work better. Sonnet makes this adapter which converts ExpressCard to Thunderbolt. I could use the eSATA port on my enclosure and hook that up through an ExpressCard. Frankly, it would be cheaper and simpler just to get the LaCie product. I signed up for the Sonnet mailing list for new Thunderbolt products, so I guess I'll be posting back here when I hear something.
post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by andytothemax View Post

Thanks, that puts things in perspective. I guess my main gripe is having only one Firewire 800 port on the new iMac. I have two Thunderbolt ports so it seems like a natural extension that there would be a flood of products to take advantage of it. To the extent there are not a lot of products yet, epic fail. Otherwise I'm a very happy buyer.

It's a first generation port available only on macs and a couple Sony laptops, both using different connectors.

http://gizmodo.com/5816136/sonys-vai...by-thunderbolt

Then intel has their own idea. Basically Apple's solution can't really deliver power over the cable, so they're using this. Segmented standards are kind of a pain in the ass. None of them are good solutions. People seem to support Apple's solution as simple, but requiring some sort of integrated graphics to route from is a terribly limited design.

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...ltrabooks.html


Quote:
Originally Posted by andytothemax View Post

Good points.

I want to use my own drives so I can avoid getting a 5400rpm Caviar. I would be better off buying the cheapest LaCie Little Big Disk ($399 for two 5400rpm drives) and replacing the drives with a faster solution.

I actually found something that may work better. Sonnet makes this adapter which converts ExpressCard to Thunderbolt. I could use the eSATA port on my enclosure and hook that up through an ExpressCard. Frankly, it would be cheaper and simpler just to get the LaCie product. I signed up for the Sonnet mailing list for new Thunderbolt products, so I guess I'll be posting back here when I hear something.

eSATA is fast enough for most people. Lacie makes terrible enclosures. They aren't something you want for heavy use, as they really aren't designed for it. If you want to replace drives, buy from someone else. eSATA 6Gb/s cards are almost as fast as thunderbolt. You might take a minor speed hit on the conversion, but you can come pretty damn close to the thunderbolt enclosure with fast drives. Also western digital caviar black drives are pretty awesome. It's the green drives that suck.
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

What is bothersome about your post though is this ides that Thunderbolt is some how a failure. I think it is sitting right where Apple and intel want it to sit. That is as a high end high performance port. It was never -NEVER- designed to be a low cost USB replacement. People need to get over this idea. People need to realize that a whole USB based system can go on a tiny card and ship as a product for a quarter of the cost of a TB cable. The two ports aren't even remotely in the same class.

This is why it might end up being seen as a failure, and is what could ultimately sink it unless users simply have no other option than to get mugged for TB peripherals.
post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmm View Post

...
eSATA is fast enough for most people. Lacie makes terrible enclosures. They aren't something you want for heavy use, as they really aren't designed for it. If you want to replace drives, buy from someone else. eSATA 6Gb/s cards are almost as fast as thunderbolt. You might take a minor speed hit on the conversion, but you can come pretty damn close to the thunderbolt enclosure with fast drives. Also western digital caviar black drives are pretty awesome. It's the green drives that suck.

I ended up going with the Sonnet solution. It's going to nearly double my disk performance for $228 ($149 for the adapter plus $79 for an eSATA express card), which I'm guessing is not much more than Thunderbolt enclosures will be priced at. I have two eSATA ports on the express card and two Thunderbolt ports on the computer, so I have some good options for future expansion.
post #12 of 20
How many ports does that Sonnet card have? You have my mind spinning here because a real cheap solution would be to retask an old PC enclosure. By that I mean stuff the adapter and eSATA card in a PC chassis and likewise install your new hard drives.

I always like the idea of recycling and frankly many a chassis gets trashed before it is physically worn out. The biggest problem is with powering up the power supply, you would need to power up the motherboard or rig the supply to turn on without.

As to your cost don't forget about the Apple only cable. In the end it is still a stiff price to pay for a TB drive system. You will be out close to $300 before you even get the drives and an enclosure to put them in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andytothemax View Post

I ended up going with the Sonnet solution. It's going to nearly double my disk performance for $228 ($149 for the adapter plus $79 for an eSATA express card), which I'm guessing is not much more than Thunderbolt enclosures will be priced at. I have two eSATA ports on the express card and two Thunderbolt ports on the computer, so I have some good options for future expansion.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

How many ports does that Sonnet card have? You have my mind spinning here because a real cheap solution would be to retask an old PC enclosure. By that I mean stuff the adapter and eSATA card in a PC chassis and likewise install your new hard drives.

I always like the idea of recycling and frankly many a chassis gets trashed before it is physically worn out. The biggest problem is with powering up the power supply, you would need to power up the motherboard or rig the supply to turn on without.

As to your cost don't forget about the Apple only cable. In the end it is still a stiff price to pay for a TB drive system. You will be out close to $300 before you even get the drives and an enclosure to put them in.

Two eSATA III ports on the Sonnet ExpressCard feeding into one slot in the adapter. I don't know how many Thunderbolt ports it has; hopefully two, but I'm guessing one.

You're right about cost; I'm taking it hard in the wallet for this enclosure, drive, adapter, expresscard, and cable when I could wait a few months for a native Thunderbolt enclosure. That's what I get for being an early adopter.

My old computer might work well as a drive enclosure, thanks for the tip.
post #14 of 20
This point of view is a huge problem in my book. First it assumes there is no value in high performance interfaces, when to the contrary history is full of examples of people paying extra for more performance. Second, it isn't like Apple has removed the option for affordable high performance USB devices. It is not a question of being mugged, rather it is the question of having options. Third, prices will likely come down in time, this I honestly believe. However I don't see the prices dropping as fast or as far as they did with USB. For that to happen somebody would have to market a fully compliant TB SoC at a reasonable price.

By SoC I mean basically everything, the I/O, the processor, TB I/O, power management, and possible even the RAM. When you look at USB supporting Micro Controllers you find chips with entire systems built in and these chips are cheap. The speeds TB operates at implies more expensive components. In the end you get what you pay for.

As to seeing this as a failure, well that is up to the individual. From Apples standpoint I think they see their new monitor as a justification for the port right there. If TB allows them to sell a high price monitor with each notebook sold or even a good fraction of those sold it will not be a failure in their eyes. On the other hand if you start out with unreasonable expectations and really don't understand the technology then TB might look like a failure. It is a failure due to ones crafting such an opinion in their mind though and not a reflection of reality.

Another way to look at this is the expense of Apples active cable. This should tell everyone that Apple sees little point in hooking up $75 hard drives with this port. Instead the value comes in when dealing with higher performance devices. Where higher performance implies more expensive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Conrail View Post

This is why it might end up being seen as a failure, and is what could ultimately sink it unless users simply have no other option than to get mugged for TB peripherals.
post #15 of 20
As to the old PC to, to save on power you will likely want to unplug your motherboard. However most PC power supplies won't power up completely without being plugged in. There is a work around that you can find on the net. PC supplies are often used by experimenters, and hobbiests in this manner as they are a cheap source of several DC voltages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andytothemax View Post

Two eSATA III ports on the Sonnet ExpressCard feeding into one slot in the adapter. I don't know how many Thunderbolt ports it has; hopefully two, but I'm guessing one.

You're right about cost; I'm taking it hard in the wallet for this enclosure, drive, adapter, expresscard, and cable when I could wait a few months for a native Thunderbolt enclosure. That's what I get for being an early adopter.

My old computer might work well as a drive enclosure, thanks for the tip.
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
Ok well I got my Sonnet adapter today and will be posting performance figures for it with the external drive below.

But first, for kicks, I tested my internal SSD. Holy ####! It peaks around 218 MB/s read and 180 MB/s write. I used the Black Magic Designs speed test tool, available in the app store (free). Sample screenshot below:



Figures for my external Seagate Barracuda XT using the Sonnet adapter with an eSATA ExpressCard:



Well, somewhat underwhelming write performance of 62 MB/s but the read speed is almost double Firewire 800 at 133 MB/s! I'm a satisfied customer. The only negative of the Sonnet adapter is that it has one Thunderbolt port so I can't daisy chain. Fortunately the iMac has two ports. Also, because the ExpressCard has two ports I can get another HDD and do an eSATA RAID and theoretically come closer to the performance of the internal SSD.



Why they didn't make the ExpressCard sit flush with the enclosure escapes me. It looks awkward, but it works and is kind of cool.
post #17 of 20
Reports of hardware successes are always useful!

Quote:
Originally Posted by andytothemax View Post

Ok well I got my Sonnet adapter today and will be posting performance figures for it with the external drive below.

But first, for kicks, I tested my internal SSD. Holy ####! It peaks around 218 MB/s read and 180 MB/s write. I used the Black Magic Designs speed test tool, available in the app store (free). Sample screenshot below:



Figures for my external Seagate Barracuda XT using the Sonnet adapter with an eSATA ExpressCard:



Well, somewhat underwhelming write performance of 62 MB/s but the read speed is almost double Firewire 800 at 133 MB/s! I'm a satisfied customer.

That really isn't that bad for a magnetic drive. I'd be happy too.
Quote:
The only negative of the Sonnet adapter is that it has one Thunderbolt port so I can't daisy chain. Fortunately the iMac has two ports. Also, because the ExpressCard has two ports I can get another HDD and do an eSATA RAID and theoretically come closer to the performance of the internal SSD.


Wow that is one big box! For some reason I was expecting much smaller.
Quote:

Why they didn't make the ExpressCard sit flush with the enclosure escapes me. It looks awkward, but it works and is kind of cool.

There are a lot of different ExpressCards out there.. This is probably a safe approach.

In any event glad that it is working out for you.
post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well folks, a bit of bad news. I RAIDed a second identical Barracuda XT into the second eSATA port on the ExpressCard:





With the Mac OS X built-in RAID driver in a striped configuration, I only achieved a 10 MB/s increase in write speed and a 50 MB/s increase in read speed, still well below the built-in SSD.



It seems to me the throughput should be close to double what a single drive will do. I would say the ExpressCard bus is getting saturated, but that doesn't explain the poor write performance.

I believe this is the first online review of the Sonnet Thunderbolt ExpressCard adapter with eSATA RAIDed drives.

When you gamble, sometimes you lose; I lost performance-wise, but I won another 2 TB of hard disk space for not much more than my sunk costs. Also, the RAID will be portable (I think) so if I get a Thunderbolt-equipped laptop, I'll have access to all my documents and content by simply plugging in one cable. Also, there's the versatility of being able to use other ExpressCard devices with the adapter. I call this one an overall win.
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi All, just a quick update two years since I got my setup.

 

My Sonnet thunderbolt adapter broke, and I had to disconnect one of the drives, leaving the other connected via Firewire 800.  It works as a storage solution but I still get nervous having only one drive with all my priceless documents on it.

 

Thunderbolt enclosures continue to be unavailable.  The cheapest good solution appears to be the DataTale RS-M4T (http://www.amazon.com/DataTale-RS-M4T-Thunderbolt-Storage-Enclosure/dp/B00CC0VRQC/), a 4-bay RAID enclosure with software RAID.  There is also the Drobo 5D (http://www.amazon.com/Drobo-5-bay-Storage-Array-Thunderbolt/dp/B008MH1JRQ/) which is a 5-bay hardware RAID enclosure.  I will probably get one of those and hook up two SSD's in a striped configuration and two HD's in a mirrored configuration.

post #20 of 20
The Drobo 5D has it's own proprietary RAID. you can't do stripes or mirrors.
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