Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD HD-PATU3 Review

Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD Review

Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt HD-PATU3 (with USB 3.0) SSD Review

In the world of portable storage generally drives use USB 2.0, some use USB 3.0 and although they are an option products which use either eSATA and Firewire are much rarer. It is easy to understand why though, with USB being the most available interconnect on modern systems and with USB 3.0 being present on most new systems and motherboards for the past couple of years. That said taking advantage of the newer standard isn’t always something a storage drive does. Those which contain mechanical drives for example are limited by the drive rather than the connector.

So it is always great when we see a portable drive that contains an SSD and uses USB 3.0, both of which should remove the USB 2.0 connector and mechanical drive bottlenecks which we regularly see. That’s where the MiniStation SSD Edition enters, but Buffalo haven’t stopped there, they also provide a Thunderbolt interface for Mac users (and those who have an appropriate motherboard for PC).

Packaging and Bundle

Packaging Bundled items

Buffalos familiar red and white branding is present on the packaging for this product and as well as providing a nice clear image of the drive they also note the presence of an SSD very clearly as well as many of the key features. Inside we find a USB 3.0 cable and a Thunderbolt cable.

The MiniStation Thunderbolt

Top down view MiniStation base

This MiniStation uses an aluminium chassis with white plastic top and two curved rubber feet are present on the base to stop it slipping on our desk. There is a discrete LED on the bottom front edge which lets us know the drive is on/working and Buffalo branding, in white, can be found on one side.

Turning round to the back of the drive there are two connectors. One for USB 3.0 and the other for Thunderbolt. There is no requirement for a separate power cable and the dimensions of the product are 130x81x23mm weighing approximately 260g.

The internal hard drive

Inside the MiniStation we find a Crucial M4 SSD, the 128GB version and it is capable of around 415MB/s read, 175MB/s write based on Crucials own figures. At the factory the drive had firmware 0009 and it seems this has been tweaked at Buffalo to 0309. Also worthy of note is that the drive arrives formatted for Mac, we need to reformat for Windows use.

Benchmark

Looking at our test results the read speeds are decent for a USB 3.0 device and it is interesting to see Thunderbolt enhancing performance over the more widely used interface. Write performance hits 168-174MB/s depending on the connector used and as this is the drives rated speed it seems our SSD rather than the connector or chassis is the limiting factor here… which makes the m4 SSD a strange choice by Buffalo. Yes it is a solid drive with good reliability but other alternatives such as those using Samsung’s controller offer a better read/write ratio which could be used by this enclosure.

We also need to make note of the pricing. At £199 the MiniStation Thunderbolt seems a bit too high in cost. For consumers, inc VAT, the SSD within retails for less than £100, the Thunderbolt cable for £25 (Apple direct, cheaper elsewhere), USB cable is a few pounds and various enclosures can be bought for low cost too. So it is disappointing that Buffalo seem to overcharge. That said there is no doubting that the MiniStation Thunderbolt manages to outperform many external storage solutions with ease while looking great and being built robustly.

Where to buy…
UK Store Misco.co.uk – £199.19

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