by Josh Linden

Seagate GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter Review

The GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter stakes a Thunderbolt claim for Seagate in the external desktop storage market. Intel and Apple are betting that consumers will adopt Thunderbolt technology for rapid external storage, and the GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter shows that other manufacturers are playing along. Seagate's GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter is an option for those who want Thunderbolt access to large external hard drives.

GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter Specs

  • Model STAE122
  • Compatible with all GoFlex Desk drives
  • Dual ports with daisy-chaining up to 6 devices
  • Thunderbolt cable not included

Design

Much like its portable sibling the STAE121, which we also recently reviewed, the GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter will allow Thunderbolt adopters to begin working with the interface while also allowing mobile Mac users without USB 3.0 to access high-speed external storage. The bulky interface adapter and the heft of Apple's Thunderbolt cable, two of the drawbacks of Seagate's mobile Thunderbolt implementation, are not as much of an issue with the desktop form factor.

The Seagate GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter is compatible with the entire GoFlex Desk storage line, which at the moment offers 7200RPM hard drives as its fastest storage solution. The intriguing thing about the GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt adapter is that, as with the portable version, it can be used with standard 2.5-inch hard drives and SSDs (the Desk also supports 3.5" drives). This use is certainly contrary to warranty, and does not allow the secure physical connection you get when using a GoFlex drive, but does hint at the possibilities Thunderbolt can offer those who want to hack a Thunderbolt solution together as we saw with our test of an Intel SSD 520 with the mobile Thunderbolt adapter.

Performance

Thunderbolt has a theoretical maximum speed of up to 20 times that of USB 2.0, the ubiquitous interface which both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 are hoping to obsolete. But since the GoFlex line uses hard drive storage which has physical limitations far below the theoretical bandwidth of Thunberbolt, any measure of GoFlex's Thunderbolt speed in the meantime is by necessity in terms of how close it comes to reaching the physical limitations of the storage media.

For our benchmark, we used our 4TB Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk attached to StorageReview's Mac Mini and tested with Xbench. During uncached sequential write tests, the unit reached 194 MB/sec with 4K blocks and 159 MB/sec with 256K blocks. Uncached sequential read tests showed 30 MB/sec with 4K blocks and 179 MB/sec with 256k blocks. This compared to the sequential speeds measured over USB 3.0 in Windows of 184.8MB/s read and 152.8MB/s write.

Conclusion

With Seagate's portable GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter, the limitations of the product lie in the hard drives available in the GoFlex line. Seagate's Thunderbolt adapters give every indication of providing affordable access to high speed external storage but until faster SSD storage becomes available, GoFlex will not have anything compelling to offer in the Thunderbolt arena except for DIY owners who are willing to pair other drives with the adapter out of warranty or those like Macbook Air uses who Apple has left port constrained. While the desktop Thunderbolt solution is certainly faster, near twice as much, as the FireWire 800 interface, it offers no performance benefits over USB 3.0 or eSATA when used with hard drives. 

Pros

  • High-speed access to large external hard drives on systems without USB 3.0/eSATA
  • Compatible with entire GoFlex portable line
  • Potential as a platform for DIY Thunderbolt hacks

Cons

  • No performance gain over USB 3.0 when used with GoFlex portable hard drives
  • Limited by hard drive performance

Bottom Line

The GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt adapter demonstrates that Thunderbolt technology has the potential for broad adoption, but without faster storage or competitve pricing, its primary market will continue to be people who are locked into using Thunderbolt for hardware reasons. 

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