Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Easy to use; No external power supply; Twice as fast as USB 2.0

The Cons

Only compatible with Macs; Somewhat expensive;

Verdict

The Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter delivers high speeds for Mac owners.

The Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter, compatible with Macs running OSX 10.6.8 or higher, is designed to quickly transform a Seagate GoFlex portable hard drive into a high-speed file-transferring powerhouse, with transfer rates up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0. Moreover, the unique technology of Thunderbolt allows your portable GoFlex drive, when attached to the adapter, to function as part of a daisy chain of Thunderbolt devices. But are the high speeds promised by Thunderbolt really enough to justify the GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter's $99 price tag?

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Design

Designed specifically for GoFlex portable hard drives, the Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter looks very much like a GoFlex drive that's been neatly halved. A flat, matte black plastic cradle supports the removable hard drive, while the lower end of the adapter has a docking connector specifically designed to connect to a GoFlex drive. A Thunderbolt port can be found at the bottom of the adapter, just below the proprietary docking connector. Vents run along the sides to dissipate heat. 

The adapter is incredibly easy to use -- just attach the GoFlex drive, plug the adapter into the Thunderbolt port on your Mac, and start transferring files. What's more, you don't have to worry about lugging around an obnoxious external power supply (such as with LaCie's Little Big Disk), as the adapter draws its power from the bus.

Performance

When Intel unveiled its high-speed connection technology in early 2011, we wondered if Thunderbolt heralded the demise of USB 3.0. Now that Thunderbolt has officially hit the market, we can put our apocalyptic theories to the test. As advertised, the GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter significantly improves the transfer speeds of GoFlex drives - although we didn't see an improvement of 20 times magnitude, as Seagate claims.

Using a 500GB Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex drive with its USB attachment, we first tried reading and writing files from the drive onto our MacBook Air. It took the FreeAgent GoFlex 2 minutes and 35 seconds to read 5GB of mixed files, a rate of 36.1 MBps. Writing to the drive was slower, taking 3 minutes and 9 seconds to copy the same files to the drive (a rate of 29.6 MBps).

After attaching the drive to the Thunderbolt Adapter, we saw a twofold increase in transfer speeds. It took the drive just 1 minute and 11 seconds to read 5GB of files, a blisteringly fast rate of 78.9 MBps. Copying files to the drive was similarly fast - we clocked a write speed of just 1 minute and 18 seconds, or 71.8 MBps. These times are a bit slower than the LaCie Little Big Disk (96/92.5 MBps), but to be fair, that drive has dual SSDs.

We also saw a large jump in performance when reading and writing a single large file. It took just 32 seconds to copy a 2.45GB movie off the drive, a rate of 81.3 MBps. Writing the movie onto the drive took just 2 seconds longer, clocking in at a rate of 76.5 MBps. These transfer rates are a significant improvement over read/write speeds with USB 2.0 (36.6/28.9 MBps).

Verdict

If you own a Mac with a Thunderbolt port and want to transfer files fast, get the GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter, an easy-to-use accessory that will double your drive's read/write speeds. While the adapter is a relatively expensive $99, the savings in your time could well be worth it.

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