by Dan Volkens

CalDigit T1 Thunderbolt Drive Review

The CalDigit T1 is an aluminum drive enclosure that comes complete with either a hard drive or SSD inside. The drives are mounted to 3.5" drive sleds that make it easy to swap out drives at will. The Thunderbolt interface actually makes an external SSD viable from a performance standpoint, CalDigit included both a 3TB hard drive and 480GB SSD for testing purposes. What's more, the package includes the $50 Apple Thunderbolt cable, which is a first, none of the Thunderbolt solutions we've reviewed to date have actually included the cable. CalDigit has another trick up their sleeve too, an iOS application called ThunderView that provides drive info and tools geared toward workflows for creative professionals. 

CalDigit T1 Specs

  • Intel Thunderbolt Controller - 2 ports
  • Capacity: Up to 4TB
    • 611020 (3TB HDD)
    • 611015 (4TB HDD)
    • 611002 (480GB SSD)
  • Dimensions: Height: 5.8 inches (147 mm) x Width: 1.8 inches (45.5 mm) x Depth: 9.5 inches (241.5 mm)
  • Weight: SSD Version: 3.00 lb (1.36 kg), HDD Version: 4.15 lb (1.88 kg)
  • Drive Cooling: Aluminum enclosure with heat dissipating design

Design and Build

The T1 enclosure is aluminum, which offers both good looks and rigidity, along with heat sheading when used with a hard drive inside. The entire piece is well made, fitting together cleanly when the drive sled is inserted. The front of the T1 has an access/notification LED light, along with the drive sleds which are secure latches that require a pin to remove. The enclosure comes with a stand so it can be oriented either horizontally or vertically on a desk.

Storage inside the CalDigit T1 is mounted on a quick-release drive sled, that comes out when released with a security pin. With the sled unlatched, it pulled out and the user can swap the internal drive for a replacement. For this particular review, CalDigit included both a hard drive and SSD for testing, which were quickly swapped using their respective trays.

The back of the T1 features the fan, fan on/off switch, dual Thunderbolt ports, power adaptor and a Kenginston lock. 

A unique aspect of the CalDigit T1 Thunderbolt drive is the supplied ThunderView software which allows users to monitor the status of the enclosure from an iOS device. You can monitor the available space, as well as overall SMART status of the drive to make sure everything is in check.

Performance

To test the performance of the Thunderbolt-equipped CalDigit T1, we benchmarked it in both a Windows and Mac hardware environment. For the Windows side, we used a consumer test bed built around the ASUS P8Z77-V Premium motherboard, using Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. On the Mac side we used our Apple Consumer Test Bed, based around an Apple Mac Mini. For the Windows environment we used IOMeter, while in OSX we was AJA System Test.

In Windows, with the high-capacity hard drive, we measured large-block sequential transfer speeds of 206MB/s read and 203MB/s. Switching to the 480GB Intel SSD 520, we measured speeds of 420MB/s read and 303MB/s write.

Through the Mac Mini, testing the high-capacity hard drive, we measured sequential read speeds of 178.3MB/s read and 177.4MB/s write. With the 480GB Intel SSD 520, speeds jumped up to 367MB/s read and 269.3MB/s write.

Conclusion

The CalDigit T1 is built exquisitely well, with plenty of attention paid to fit and finish. The sled mechanism is solid also, locking securely into place and it requires a pinhole insert to avoid accidental drive removal. Couple in the monitoring app and the T1 presents a very complete enclosure offering. The only down side really is we saw reduced performance on the Mac platform vs. the PC, but in truth, there are so many variables between the platforms and testing software that this behavior isn't entirely unexpected. For those who want a full-featured Thunderbolt enclosure, the T1 is an enticing option.

CalDigit T1 Product Page