I should say at the outset that this is not cheap. Very not cheap. What you’re looking at is $890’s worth of external drive in the 512GB version I have here, or $500 for the 256GB model.

This is not a drive aimed at a consumer wanting a bit of external storage for their movies, but rather a high-performance drive aimed at audiovisual professionals who need an external drive that delivers the kind of speeds in a mobile environment that they are used to from their office setup … 

The casing

This is an aluminum-cased drive certified to IP64. The 6 means it is totally dustproof, with no ingress of dust at all, while the 4 means splash-proof – or, more specifically, that you can spray water at it from all directions with only limited ingress which should not effect functionality.

Elgato_Thunderbolt_Drive+_Device_01

The drive is pretty averagely sized for a portable external drive. It feels solid, and as I mentioned in the video has a pleasant feel to the touch, and the non-slip pads on the bottom work really well. It also looks elegant. This is a drive I’d happily use anywhere, from a client meeting room to a building site.

The supplied Thunderbolt and USB cables are around 20 inches long, and also feel well-made. I was of course using the Thunderbolt cable.

There’s only one Thunderbolt port, so you can’t daisy-chain them together for greater capacity, even if the price didn’t already rule that out.

Performance

Elgato describes the drive as using Marvell server-grade control chips and ‘high quality’ flash chips with the lowest average annualized failure rate (AFR) in the industry. There’s no fan, so the drive is totally silent in use.

The company claims transfer speeds of up to 420MB/s, a claim I tested on a MacBook Air 11 using Black Magic Disk Speed software. While I didn’t quite achieve the claimed maximum, performance was indeed impressive:

DiskSpeedTest

As you can see, the only boxes this drive fails to tick are high frame-rate 4:4:4 video. 4:4:4 is the very highest standard of color video output typically only used on very high-budget productions. This is a standard that the human eye can’t even distinguish from the 4:2:2 standard used by almost everyone – the only real reason to use it is for chromakey work, where 4:4:4 gives more accurate results.

This drive will cope with anything short of that – which is to say, almost everything.

Conclusions

This is a very high-performance drive with a price-tag to match. In particular, you’re paying a lot for the bus-powered portability: you can get much better deals in mains-powered drives. But if you need one, you’ll know it, and are unlikely to be paying for it out of your own pocket.

The one note of caution I’d offer is to think about whether you need it now. The price:capacity ratio of large SSDs has finally started moving in the last few months, so the longer you wait, the better the deal you’re likely to get – be that larger capacity for the same price, or a lower price for the same capacity. Another way to potentially save hundreds is to make your own external SSD by purchasing the drive and Thunderbolt enclosure separately.

But if you do need it now, the Elgato drive – very nearly – delivers what it promises.

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8 Responses to “Mini review: Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ (512GB external SSD)”

  1. As long as people keep paying these ridiculous prices on bloated hardware, they’ll keep setting them at ridiculous heights. Nonsense.

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    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      It would indeed be nonsensical to pay for that kind of performance if you have no need for it; rather less so for a video professional …

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      • todd says:

        Even uncompressed video will write just fine to a USB 3 external with a spinning disk. Video professionals don’t need access to the raw video that quickly. There is literally no scenario in which a drive like this is beneficial at that price point. If you are shooting raw, uncompressed video 512GB is way too small. If it’s compressed then the transfer speed of USB 3 to a spinning drive is way more than needed.

        That price is horrendous and inexcusable.

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  2. Buy a seagate go pro adapter (thunderbolt or USB) and a normal 2.5 inch SATA SSD drive. Alot cheaper, and just as fast.

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  3. 3 words:

    1. too
    2. bloody
    3. expensive

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  4. I paid that much for my first 45MB HD back in the mid ’80s. This is not for me, but will be a pretty sweet answer for some.

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