By Jonathan Charles | Jun 22, 2012 10:39 AM EDT
Thunderbolt is still the cutting edge of connectivity, but hasn't widely replaced USB. So combining the technology with USB 2.0/3.0 may be a better solution, and that's what the Buffalo MiniStation does.
Announced June 5, 2012, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt is a 2.5-inch drive in a sleek Apple TV-esque white-and-silver form factor. There's a USB 3.0/2.0 backwards compatible port along with Thunderbolt, and consequently brings PC and Mac support. That means the device offers itself to the majority of consumers immediately by offering both ports, but then there's the question of why not just support USB if that market isn't worth building a device for.
Looking at devices that support Thunderbolt, there's the 2011 MacBook Pros and onwards. Outside of that Windows machines are much cheaper and support USB 2.0 and 3.0, especially if the machine is being built.
The MiniStation also works without a power supply, so no potential mid-file transfer power-out unlike the Drobo drives. For Macs, Time Machine is also supported.
There are real-world advantages to the MiniStation though: the Thunderbolt port achieved 108.66MB/sec and 102.59MB/sec read and write speeds respectively. USB was almost the same, around 10MB/sec less. Whether that's enough of an advantage depends on if Thunderbolt needs to be used.
Arguably it doesn't, because USB devices are cheaper than the $199.99 500GB device and the $229.99 1TB variant. A quick search on Amazon brings up 500GB USB 3.0 devices for $134.26, while the same search for a 1TB drive costs just $108.99. Even the 2TB version is available for under $200 along with Thunderbolt-enabled devices that costs under $100 through the retailer. If the device is at a premium because of the design, external storage is probably a case of form over function.
For those in the market for an external USB drive, prices get even cheaper: 64GB USB sticks are available for under $40. Clearly, USB is still the widely used method of transferring media.
Both devices will be retailing from June 25, and of course include a Thunderbolt and USB cable.
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