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thunderbolt drive vs regular usb drives #1
ajvilar@me.com's picture
by ajvilar@me.com
July 30, 2012 - 3:50am

hi, just wondering if it was sufficient to work straight from an external usb drive compared to a thunderbolt or firewire drive? I know it would be a mistake working with FCP using USB compared to the faster drives. just wanted to get a take on this. Thanks!

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
August 13, 2012 - 6:44pm

Greg,

thanks for the info. USB3 is very attractive indeed.

-Joseph

@PhotoJoseph
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Stuart's picture
by Stuart
July 30, 2012 - 1:43pm

Hi Angelo,

Now I go back and forth between Aperture 3.3 and Lightroom 4.1. I do not store any images with either of these programs on my computer. I used external drives.

Since I upgraded to the new MacBook Pro Retina in June, last week I moved my Aperture Library to a WD Thunderbolt Duo. This drive has two 3TB 7200rpm drive. I tested it in both Raid 0 and Raid 1. With Raid 0 the Read/Write was about 245MB/s. With Raid 1 it was about 125MB/s. Now you do get a better speed with Raid 0 however it looks at it as one drive. So if one of the two drives fails you could be dead.

So I decided to go with Raid 1. Doing it this way it mirrors the two drives (backs ups). Meaning if one drive dies you are not dead.
You just have to replace the bad drive. Now I still am backing up Aperture to a couple of USB 3 portable hard drive using SuperDuper. I am averaging about 92MB/s with those drives. Much faster then USB 2 drives. Now USB 3 drives are way less costly then the Thunderbolt Drives. I feel in time you will see the Thunderbolt drives will drop in price.

Overall Aperture 3.3 runs very well and extremely fast via the WD Thunderbolt Duo.

Best,

Stu

Michael Ball's picture
by Michael Ball
July 30, 2012 - 6:08pm

Interesting to hear your experience, and it’s good to see some decent speeds over USB3. Are those RAID 0s or not? 92MB/s is not bad at all, though that’s technically not quite hitting the theoretical FW800 limit…

I think my main problem with TB drives is that right now I really need something like a RAID 0, or SSD or even SSD RAID to make the speed difference more worth it. Personally, I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to see a TB to eSATA + USB (for power) adapter since eSATA is readily available and is about as good as it gets for a single drive situation.

As far as the main question: Yes, I think a decent USB drive is fine, unless you’re going through tons of ultra-high-res images really quickly. I use a Drobo for my Archived images, and it’s not the fastest (especially when other apps are accessing it) and Aperture seems to hold up fine.

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
July 30, 2012 - 6:36pm

Michael,

There is a TB to eSATA hub form LaCie eSATA Hub. It is just hard to get at this time. I have a couple of G-Tech eSATA drives sitting here waiting for me to get my hands on this hub. Now I did find this hub at OWC that looks to be in stock. You still have to purchase the TB cable which runs about $50.

By the way Drobo just came out with the Drobo Mini and the Drobo 5D. They are both TB and USB 3 connectivity. However very costly at this time.

Now what I currently have my eye on is the new Thunderbolt Express Dock from Belkin coming in September 2012. This hub gives you connections for Ethernet, eSATA, Firewire and USB 3. I think the price will be around $399.

Stu

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
July 30, 2012 - 10:19pm

To be clear to anyone reading, these are speeds over USB 3, not USB 2. I believe at this time the MacBook Pro Retina is the only Mac with USB 3, correct? USB 2 is definitely NOT fast enough for image editing.

Thunderbolt of course is great, if you can afford it. Drive are still expensive unfortunately.

@PhotoJoseph
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Stuart's picture
by Stuart
July 30, 2012 - 10:54pm

Hi Joseph,

Yes it is true as I have been talking about USB 3. The MacBook Pro Retina does have the USB 3 connection, however so does the new MacBook’s and the MacBook Air. The TB is very costly but I wanted to give it a try. I have also added the new Seagate Backup Plus 3TB USB 3 drive. To my surprise I am getting about 177MB/s for Read/Write with the Seagate. So this USB 3 drive is very fast. Did have to reformat to run on the MacBook Pro Retina. There is definitely a huge advantage using USB 3 drives over USB 2.

Stu

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
July 31, 2012 - 12:07am

Stuart,

Oh good, I didn’t realize USB 3 was on more Macs already — that’s great!!

Holy crap, 3TB of fast storage for $150, that’s insane. What utility are you using to test the speed? Now I want to go test my Promise and compare ;-) I’ll use the same utility you did, just to keep things even.

@PhotoJoseph
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Stuart's picture
by Stuart
July 31, 2012 - 12:18am

Joseph,

I found it via the App Store (Free) Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. It works pretty good.

Stu

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
July 31, 2012 - 10:22pm

Stuart,

Well that was interesting… my Promise RAID is showing absolutely terrible performance. 25 MB/s write and 8 MB/sec read! I also ran XBench and it’s not much better. I have shot an email to Promise tech support to ask WTF.

Speed test on my internal drive (on XBench, can’t run the Blackmagic) shows far, far faster results of 85 to 107 MB/sec write and 29 to 94 MB/sec read.

Something is wrong…

-Joseph

@PhotoJoseph
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Stuart's picture
by Stuart
July 31, 2012 - 11:18pm

Joseph,

Wow that is strange how slow the Promise drive is. Is that a Thunderbolt drive?

Now I did find out after testing that if I run in Raid 0 I get much better speeds.
However I wanted the mirror option (backup) so I went with the Raid 1 with the WD Thunderbolt Duo. So I only get about 125MB/s on average in Raid 1.

Now the Seagate Backup Plus 3TB USB 3 as mention gets nearly 174MB/s on average.
I posted a screen capture of the test with the Seagate using Blackmagic.

Just to refresh everyone I am running on the new MacBook Pro Retina I7 2.6 Ghz with 16GB DDR3 Ram.

Stu

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
July 31, 2012 - 11:21pm

Stuart,

FireWire 800 for me. Something is definitely wrong, so I’ll report back once I talked to Promise. Thing is I’ve never had a performance issue with this drive, so maybe the tester app just doesn’t like the drive itself. Who knows.

@PhotoJoseph
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Stuart's picture
by Stuart
August 8, 2012 - 5:38pm

Just wanted to give a followup on the Thunderbolt.

After testing the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo 6TB running Aperture I decided to return it before my 14 day window for return policy ended from the place I purchased it. I had a couple of reasons for the return. The other day I noticed it became very hot to the touch. Even the power cord seemed hot to the touch. This of course got me very concerned. Another reason I did not feel the speeds where that great if you take in to consideration the cost factor of $649 that did not even include the Thunderbolt cable. With Raid 0 I was getting an average of 225MB/s for read/write and about 105MB/s read/write in Raid 1. Now the Seagate Backup Plus 3TB at a cost of $149 has a average of 176MB/s r/w. So for the cost of under $300.00 I could have two of these Seagate drives.

Apple the other day put back on the marker (Apple Store) the Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter for a cost of $29.00 that I can use via the MBPR. For those those who may not be aware of the new MacBook Pro Retina does not have a Firewire connection. So I ordered one on Monday and it arrive this morning. Now testing it with the NitroAv 8 Port Hub. So fare I have 4 Firewire 800 drives mounted with it and all seem to be working fine. Have tested some of these drives and they average around 59MB/s for r/w. Of course it is not near as good as the USB 3 but sure better then the USB 2. But at lease it gives me the option for putting back in play these Firewire drives. They will do great for backup drives. And of course now I can use the Firewire 800 card reader again.

Stu

greg owe's picture
by greg owe
August 10, 2012 - 7:57am

Hi Stu,

I’ve had terrible trouble with Seagate discs unmounting on Macs in the past so I swore I would never touch another. Interesting that you could only get 105MBs in Raid 1 on the WD as I was chatting to someone a few days ago who said they were getting +160MBs from theirs. Maybe you had a faulty one if it was getting so hot?

I ordered a 1.5TB OWC Mercury Elite Pro which is USB 3.0 and has a eSATA connection so it’s perfect for swapping between my Retina and Mac Pro (which has eSATA card). Should arrive today so will report back with speeds. I also got the 1TB Mercury On-The-Go USB 3.0 for backups on the road.

I needed another drive with FW800 so picked up a 1TB G-Drive mobile (FW800) from the Apple store yesterday, unfortunately they still don’t have the Thunderbolt to FW adapter in stock but from my old 2009 Mac Pro it was registering just over 80MBs.

The next decision is whether to keep my recently maxed out 2009 MacBook pro or give it to the wife.

Greg

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
August 10, 2012 - 1:08pm

Hi Greg,

I have a number of OWC Firewire On-The-G0 Pro drives that I converted to USB 3 using their enclosures. By the way they use Seagate for those On-The-Go.

You may want to check the Apple Store again as they have the Thunderbolt to Firewire Adapter in stock. I ordered one on Monday and received it on Wednesday. I have the NitroAV 8 port hub connected to it via the MacBook Pro Retina.

I also have a few G-Tech drives (Firewire/eSata). I guess you could say I maybe over kill on external hard drives, however I believe in backing up the backups. You can’t have to many backups.

It is possible that I had a bad WD Thunderbolt Duo. But the more I thought about the cost of that drive just was not worth it. Can pick up a number of USB 3 drives for that price. In time I am sure the Thunderbolts will drop in price.

Best,

Stu

greg owe's picture
by greg owe
August 10, 2012 - 4:08pm

The drives arrived. The OWC On-The_Go drive uses a Hitachi drive now and oddly enough it is faster than the more expensive Mercury Elite Pro.

Thru USB 3.0 I am getting 100MBs using the On-The_Go drive but only 88MBs with the Mercury Elite Pro. I will test the eSATA speed on this when I get home as I really want to use it for my main Aperture and Lightroom working library as I switch a lot between home and office so the idea of carrying my library with me and having access to it from my different Macs appeals very much. Just need to figure out a decent backup strategy.

I am hoping 90MBs R/W speed is enough for Aperture and LR to run smoothly. Wonder if there’s an optimum disc speed requirement for these programs?

Regards
Greg

greg owe's picture
by greg owe
August 11, 2012 - 9:47am

I have tested the OWC Mercury Elite Pro via eSATA and find the R/W speeds exactly the same as USB 3.0 at 88-90MBs so no benefit with eSATA there.

I copied my Aperture Library (700GB) onto the drive and find Aperture runs perfectly from it. I threw as many edits as I could at a few 5DII RAW files as everything was instant. There’s a little lag with D800 raw files but they are montsers.

At least now I know I can keep my main Aperture library on an external disc without it having to be Thunderbolt or RAID 0 and it works perfectly.

greg owe's picture
by greg owe
August 1, 2012 - 1:37pm

Stu - What camera files are you editing in Aperture?

Until now I have been using my Mac Pro to edit both pics and video however it struggles with video read/write speeds so I bought a G-Tech 2TB drive and e-sata pci card and get R/W speeds of over 200MB/s now. However it can still be a pain once you apply effects etc.

So like you I have bought a MacBook Pro Retina and want to use that as my main editing computer now (hooked up to my NEC 30” Multisync) and need an external drive solution. A bus powered USB drive would be ideal for on the road but I don’t think it would be fast enough as I’m using a a D800 nowadays so want the best speeds possible.

I’ve just tested the 500MB internal SSD on the retina and I’m getting over 400MB/s so I could use that for video editing projects and transfer the projects when complete but for Aperture I’d like a solid solution with a permanent library on an external drive. At least that way I could hook it up to different machines when required.

So the question is what is the best/fastest option for an external drive that doesn’t need a power supply, can TB run off the Macs own power?

Cheers
Greg

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
August 1, 2012 - 2:32pm

Hi Greg,

I mainly use the Canon 7D with a 60D as a backup. Had a 5D MIII on order but decided to hold off for now.
Shot mostly in Raw.

A portable (Bus Power) Thunderbolt drive that I have been looking at is the Seagate 1.5TB FreeAgent GoFlex. The cost at HB Photo is $213.00. It is a new item so I have not really seen any reviews.

I also did a speed test with the MBPR and got about the same speed as you did. MBPR is a very impressive system. Just like you I dod not keep any images on the MBPR. I use all external drives.

I had a number of probable Firewire OWC Mercury Drives that I converted to USB 3 with the Portable Case Kit. Using those on the road with not problems.

Still looking forward on getting my hand on the new Express Dock from Belkin coming in September. This hub opens up all sorts of possibilities.

Best,

Stu

greg owe's picture
by greg owe
August 1, 2012 - 3:26pm

Thanks Stu, lots for me to ponder over.

Spoke to OWC before and they recommended their USB 3.0 On-the-go Pro or the Elite Pro Classic, altho that Belkin dock looks worth waiting for.

Cheers.

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
August 3, 2012 - 12:16am

Stuart,

Just FYI, I have started a dialog with the folks at Promise. Sorry to say that I’m thus far pretty unimpressed with their tech support. It’s clearly a call center in India (based on the time of day I get my replies, and the poor english and names of the techs), which in itself would be OK if they actually gave useful advice. The tech accused me of using different sized drives (even though they are all 2.0 TB drives, albeit two manufacturers and three models across the four drives) and then told me that all three of my Seagate drives were “incompatible” with the Promise. Not because they have tested these drives, but because they HAVEN’T tested these drives. Of course the list of compatible drives was so outdated that every drive I looked up is discontinued, and so outdated that it had 320GB drives on it — and only one 2 TB drive!

So yeah… love the product; not so hot on the tech support right now.

I’ve been escalated by my own request to someone who knows what they are talking about.

-Joseph

@PhotoJoseph
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Michael Ball's picture
by Michael Ball
August 3, 2012 - 7:09am

Wow, surprised to hear that about the Promise!

I will say that as far as TB goes, Seagate makes a 2.5” portable dock / SATA bridge which works with any 2.5” drive for $99. It seems nice, but I don’t think the cost makes sense with just a single disk. They sell a $150-199 dock for 3.5” drives, but that’s limited to just Seagate dockable drives for now, though according to the engineer I spoke with you could hack around it if you wanted.

Usually I opt for building my own disks due to cost and right now USB 3 seems just to be a much better deal. So, this is my question: Is anyone using USB 3 with a Mac Pro? I’m contemplating PCI cards and was wondering if anyone has experience, since I know drivers are spotty right now.

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
August 3, 2012 - 2:35pm

Hi Joseph

It is a bummer with the issues you are having with the Promise. Hopefully you will get a solution soon.

When I first purchased the MBPR (June 2012 on the day it was released) I had issues with the USB 3 connection. Only worked as a USB 2. Had posted a report via the Apple Forum and to my surprise Apple picked up on it and I received a call from Apple here at the house. They where real concerned with the issue. The tech that called was very helpful and asked if I would be willing to work with him on finding a solution. They even offered to send out a new system. To make a long story short it took about a week of trying a number of different tasks, but they came up with a solution. He had me rewrite a Terminal Command and bingo problem was resolved. Now all USB 3 drives function as USB 3s. The tech even called me a couple of times more to followup to make sure there where no issues. I was very impressed with Apple support.

Even though I do have the WD Thunderbolt Dou I feel for now USB 3 is the most cost effective way to go. And with the Seagate 3TB USB 3 Backup Plus speeds of about 174MB/s and a price of $149 you really can’t go wrong. In fact I think I may pick up another one.

Now I am also looking at the Thunderbolt to Firewire Adapter that is now back in the Apple Store. They had pulled because of issues. It is only $29.00. Now if I can use the NitroAV 8 Port hub that I still have with it that will be cool. I have a number of Firewire 800 drives sitting here. Of course I am still looking forward to the Belkin Express Port coming next month.

Let me also add I have found that Mac’s hold their value fairly well as I was able to sell my MacBook 15” 2.66 (June 2009) with 8GB DDR3 Ram for $1200.00. It sold in less then 24 hours.

Best,

Stu

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
August 18, 2012 - 11:12pm

Joseph & Greg,

Just to let you know today I was able to pick up a Kingston USB 3.0 Media Reader along with an Iogear USB 3.0 4 Port Hub at a local Tech store this morning. Been doing some testing and both preform well. Was able to connect 4 USB 3 external hard drives. All ran at USB 3 speeds. Did a test with the Kingston Reader importing 55 Raw images into Aperture. It took around 90 seconds to completely upload. Have not tested with LR4 yet. I will say I am pretty amazed with the speed. One note of information is that I had to use the AC power adapter that came with the Iogear Port in order to get the USB 3 to work. I paid $49.99 for the USB 3 Hub and $29.99 for the USB Card reader. I am sure you could do better on the Internet, but I wanted an easy way to return if they did not work. Using these items via the MacBook Pro Retina Display system.

I will say now since I am able to get these USB 3 drives to work with this Hub I have just about lost interest in Thunderbolt drives until the cost comes down.

Best,

Stu

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
August 19, 2012 - 5:47pm

Stuart,

Impressive! Thanks for sharing all that. How does the USB 3 reader compare to your older method (were you on USB 2 or FireWire?).

Only $30, I may have to get one…

-Joseph

@PhotoJoseph
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greg owe's picture
by greg owe
August 29, 2012 - 2:26pm

Stu, me too. Until I need to daisy chain devices then USB 3.0 is perfect. I’ve just bought a card for the Mac Pro so I can use it on there as well.

Incidentally I ended up buying a ToughTech Duo portable drive and 2 Seagate 750GB Momentus (7200rpm Solid State Hybrid Hard Drive) for my portable Aperture library.

http://www.cru-dataport.com/products/ToughTech-Duo-QR.php

Mirrored drives that can be swapped in an instant and bus powered too (altho no USB 3.0 so bought an eSATA to USB 3.0 adapter).

It’s a great bit of kit and those Seagate drives are real fast.

Greg

Carlos Soto's picture
by Carlos Soto
August 30, 2012 - 2:28am

My macbook pro 2011 dosent have usb 3.0. Thunderbolt is expensive. Any ideas for the poor?

Butch Miller's picture
by Butch Miller
August 30, 2012 - 5:17am

Carlos,

I noticed this in my travels on the web: Buffalo Mini Station

It is available in 500GB for $180 and 1TB for $230 … since it only uses 5400RPM 2.5” drives, it likely won’t reach the full potential that Thunderbolt is capable of … but it is USB3 as well … one review I read said it benchmarked about the same using either connection. Best part it comes with both cables … considering the Thunderbolt cables are going for $50 and up … not a bad price … other negative is they only have one Thunderbolt connection so you can’t get pass-thru and would have to make sure it is the last link in the chain if you ever get other devices.

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