Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt Portable Drive Review

The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt is the first portable hard drive to sport both USB 3.0 and Thundrerbolt connectivity, also making it the first Thunderbolt hard drive that is ready to take on the masses.

But before we get into the design of the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt drive, it’s worth mentioning Seagate also makes a USB 3.0 portable hard drive with Thunderbolt support. But the Thunderbolt support is only available if you buy a bulky add-on adapter. The MiniStation Thunderbolt on the other hand, manages to pack in both highspeed ports. It’s also sporting a beautiful design with a sandblasted aluminum finish, that makes it look like it walked straight out of Cupertino. The device itself weighs 9.28 and measures 3.17 x 5.12 x 0.91 inches. That makes it quite compact, but not nearly the lightest or most compact portable drive around. Both a white Thunderbolt cable and a USB 3.0 cable are included in the box as well. This is a great value, considering how expensive Thunderbolt cables are, and that many other manufacturers don’t include one in the box.

If you’re not familiar with Thunderbolt technology, than here is a refresher. Thunderbolt technology offers transfer speeds that are even faster than Firewire 800’s transfer speeds. Apple first introduced Thunderbolt on their products a while back, but products with Thunderbolt have been slow to come to market and they have been very pricey too. But now that portable drives with Thunderbolt are starting to trickle out, it seems like 2012 might finally be the year for Thunderbolt to take off.

Buffalo has opted not to include any backup software with the MiniStation Thunderbolt. And that is because it’s really designed to be a device that primarily works with Apple computers and Time Machine. As a matter of fact, the MiniStation Thunderbolt is pre-formatted for use with a Mac right out of the box. But PC users do not fret, a set of instructions on how to format the drive for Windows is included in the box.

We tested the MiniStation Thunderbolt using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test with both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connected. The results pretty much blew us away. When connected via USB 3.0, the drive peeked at 109MB/s write speeds and 108MB/s read speeds. We also observed nearly identical write speeds via Thunderbolt, but slightly slower read speeds.

All in all, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt is finally a Thunderbolt drive that Mac users can write home about. It manages to match our Mac to a T, and it’s portable enough to throw easily in a bag, and fast too! But the fact that it comes with both highspeed USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports on-board in such a small package, is what really makes it desirable. This is one future-proof portable hard drive.

The MiniStation Thunderbolt can be found online for as low as $204.95 for the 500GB model, and $229 for the 1TB model.

The Good: Fast read and write speeds in a portable package, Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 support, look Ma- no bulky adapters required!, comes with both a Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cable included, 3 year warranty, matches the Apple aesthetic to a T.

The Bad: A bit pricey

One Comment

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  1. Helena, Thanks for the great review.  I think there is a typo in one part:
    When connected via USB 3.0, the drive peeked at 109MB/s write speeds and
    108MB/s read speeds. We also observed nearly identical write speeds via
    USB 3.0, but slightly slower read speeds.

    You mentioned USB 3.0 for both test numbers.


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