A few weeks ago at CES 2012, Seagate showcased their GoFlex Thunderbolt adapters. They come in two flavors: the GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt adapter takes 3.5" drives, requires an external power supply, and has two Thunderbolt ports; the GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter is suitable for 2.5" drives, is bus-powered, and has a single Thunderbolt port (i.e. no daisy-chaining).

The GoFlex Desk adapter won't be available until later this month, but Seagate has now updated their accessory page and started shipping the 2.5" GoFlex adapter. It's available from Seagate's online store for $100 (no cable included, so that's another $50), which is quite a lot more than a $15 USB 3.0 enclosure, but at least this is better pricing than the LaCie and Promise solutions we have seen so far. Unfortunately, you are still limited to using Seagate's GoFlex drives, but fortunately they are reasonably priced. By way of comparison, a solution using the GoFlex TB adapter and 1TB GoFlex external would cost around $230, whereas LaCie charges $400 for a similar setup.

UPDATE: It appears that a GoFlex drive is not needed and any 2.5" SATA drive should work.

MacWorld has already received a review unit and run a few basic tests. As you might have expected, Thunderbolt is noticeably faster than USB 2.0 but not much faster than FireWire 800. In terms of raw numbers, USB 2.0 had a maximum throughput of 33.7MB/s while FireWire and Thunderbolt had 70.3MB/s and 81.3MB/s respectively. Obviously, the 500GB 2.5" 5400rpm drive is the bottleneck here—the gap would be a lot bigger with a 3.5" hard drive, or better yet, an SSD.

To be honest, the GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter isn't really worth it unless you plan on using an SSD, which requires you to open the GoFlex enclosure and change the hard drive to an SSD, which is not supported by Seagate and may void your warranty. In the case of regular 2.5" hard drives, you're better off with the GoFlex FireWire 800 adapter ($50 from Seagate's online store and no $50 cable required), assuming you have a Mac with FireWire 800—otherwise USB 2.0 should be sufficient as well. For those not using Mac hardware, Thunderbolt may have more bandwidth, but right now USB 3.0 is a far more economical solution.

Source: Seagate

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  • zorxd - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link

    For a single drive the best interface is eSATA since it's the native interface of the hard drive.
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link

    Well, not really. eSATA does not carry power like USB and Thunderbolt do. Also, in case of a laptop, I would rather take USB 3.0 which can be used with other devices as well, while eSATA is limited to hard drives.

    There isn't a port that is the best for all uses though, all have their pros and cons.
  • repoman27 - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link

    For hard drives, Thunderbolt has very little advantage over FireWire 800, let alone USB 3.0. These solutions are really just for owners of 2011 Macs, who have Thunderbolt but not USB 3.0. And really only 2011 MBA owners, when you get right down to it, who don't have FireWire 800 either.
  • Impulses - Friday, February 3, 2012 - link

    " The only things thunderbolt could be really useful for are single cable dock stations, external video cards, and multidrive nas. "

    Still need a power cable so more like dual cable docking... Which is only like one less than what a lot of people already do (USB/display/power, possibly ethernet, you could add audio but that can be done over USB), nevermind that most consumers have no interest in docking their laptops to anything, not even larger/superior displays...

    It's really a shame, at this point the only reason TB might survive is that it's being pushed heavily by Intel... But I'm not sure it'll ever be mainstream, so those of us that can take advantage of it might be paying a premium for cables and TB devices for a long long time.
  • KPOM - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link

    This is the least expensive Thunderbolt peripheral so far. I think the price will need to get down to $50 before Thunderbolt adapters (e.g. SATA, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet) get more popular. Hopefully that will come when we start seeing Thunderbolt ports on Ultrabooks later this year. Of course, with Ivy Bridge supporting USB 3.0, I am guessing that 2012 Macs and most Ultrabooks will support USB 3.0 out of the box.

    The obvious use for Thunderbolt would be for universal docking stations. Unfortunately, Belkin's is overpriced at $300 and lacks USB 3.0. Apple's Thunderbolt Display is one possible form factor, as would a rectangular "sheet" (akin to Sony's sheet battery for the Vaio) that could plug into the Thunderbolt port and provide useful ports such as USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, and maybe even PCIe for external video cards and ExpressCard 34. Price one of these at $200 and it could be an attractive option that, unlike current docking stations, could be reused even after updating to a new notebook.
  • hrrmph - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link

    Once enough pieces of the puzzle are actually available, really need to get a couple of GoFlex enclosures and get some blazing fast SSDs in them.

    Then test with the GoFlex USB 3.0 adapter versus the GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter. If there are any significant differences, this should bring them to light.
  • ManicDee - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    One of these with an SSD disk is going to be a heck of a lot cheaper than using a RAID array to get the same throughput. For the work I'm doing — mostly tuning database queries that perform matching on large data sets, with the occasional attempt at editing videos — this will save hours a week.

    Throughput is king.
  • 666an666 - Monday, December 17, 2012 - link

    Has anyone seen any real-life testing of 3.5" HDD through both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt on the same Apple computer?

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