Ul­ti­mately, how well do these drives per­form?

Mac Format - - RATED | KIT -

Two things could im­me­di­ately strike you when you look at the re­sults of our bench­mark­ing tests. The first is how much hard disks strug­gle with ran­dom read­ing and writ­ing (com­pared to se­quen­tial read/write; SSDs are com­pa­ra­bly good at both), which makes them fine for file stor­age, but sub­op­ti­mal as main sys­tem drives.

Hap­pily, it’s prob­a­bly as the for­mer that these drives will be used, so the fact that even those drives that per­formed much faster for large, se­quen­tial file sizes barely distin­guished them­selves with ran­dom read/write for small file sizes isn’t much of a dif­fer­en­tia­tor here.

The other thing that should strike you, how­ever, is that poor old FireWire – even FireWire 800 – is as com­par­a­tively slug­gish as Thun­der­bolt is im­pres­sive.

Only one drive in this group has Thun­der­bolt, but its very clear spikes in the graph of data trans­fer rates make it in­stantly ap­peal­ing if you need or just want very fast trans­fers.

The fastest speed we got out of it was 410MB/sec which, while not quite SSD speeds, is push­ing to­wards it. Of course, this is a best­case sce­nario, which you’re un­likely to see repli­cated much once you start fill­ing it. And be­cause the RAID drive is striped to get you that ca­pac­ity and speed, it’s a slightly risky strat­egy, but it’s nev­er­the­less im­pres­sive. This drive uses Thun­der­bolt 2; be clear that you’re not even sat­u­rat­ing Thun­der­bolt 1 speeds here, but since it has dual Thun­der­bolt 2 ports it’s great for daisy-chain­ing.

If you’re stuck with USB 2.0 but have FireWire 800, the La­Cie 2big Quadra just edges the G|RAID in speed, but there’s not much to it.

The good news is you don’t need Thun­der­bolt to get good speeds; even USB 3.0 can pro­duce great re­sults. Here too the 2big Thun­der­bolt 2 records the best speeds, but the G|RAID isn’t far be­hind. The Sea­gate and La­Cie Porsche De­sign are slower, but you’re still look­ing at 160– 180MB/sec or so when deal­ing with big, con­tigu­ous files.

The Western Dig­i­tal My Book for Mac proved to be most con­sis­tently the slow­est (bar­ring drives that con­nected over FireWire), but even here it’s not as if it’s un­us­able; its speeds of around 125MB/sec are per­fectly prac­ti­cal.

4 La­Cie 2big Thun­der­bolt 2


£799 la­ La­Cie Porsche De­sign

5 Desk­top Drive

£200 la­ Western Dig­i­tal

6 My Book for Mac




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