Which is faster? Thunderbolt bus-powered 2.5′ or USB 3.0 bus-powered 2.5′ storage?

“What prompted this article was the announcement this week that the FirmTek miniSwap/U3 is shipping,” rob-ART morgan reports for Bare Feats. “You might recall our review of it back in January where it impressed us with new found USB 3.0 speed. How does a USB 3.0 bus powered notebook size storage like the miniSwap/U3 compare to Thunderbolt bus powered notebook size storage devices?”

“Other than performance, what features distinguish them? But since we at Bare Feats Test Lab are all about performance, that’s where we will start,” morgan reports. “To squeeze the most out of each device, each was equipped with an SSD — and where possible, one or more 6Gbps ‘pro’ synchronous SSDs.”

morgan reports, “There’s something for everyone in this shootout of USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt notebook size storage devices. Most are compact and bus powered. It’s good to know that the newest USB 3.0 storage units are as fast as comparable Thunderbolt units.”

Check out all of the benchmarks in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]


    1. They’re more or less the same, which is expected. The SSD drives have a limit, so it doesn’t matter how much faster Thunderbolt actually is if USB 3 reaches that limit.

  1. Quote:
    ”Turns out that the newest, latest USB 3.0 bus powered notebook storage devices are as fast or faster than their Thunderbolt counterparts. How is this possible when Thunderbolt is rated at 10Gbps (theoretical) and USB 3.0 is rated at 5Gbps (theoretical)? Two reasons: a) no single 6Gbps SSD can go faster than about 500MB/s (or 5Gbps) and b) improved USB 3.0 controllers squeeze the full potential from USB 3.0.”

    1. And, Quote:

      “What about the dual drive scenario? How could the dual USB 3.0 RAID 0 keep up with the Little Big Disk Thunderbolt (10Gbps) RAID 0 unit? That’s because the two miniSwap/U3s were being fed by dual 5Gbps USB 3.0 ports (or 2 x 5 = 10Gbps). Though the emphasis in this article is on “fastest BUS POWERED notebook storage,” we overlooked the fact that the Little Big Disk Thunderbolt RAID unit required an AC adapter.”

      So you can stick two USB3 buses together and equal or best TB under conditions in which the load, itself, is the limiting factor in terms of bandwidth.

      This article makes things seem bad for TB. But there are a wide variety of factors which must be considered beyond sheer performance, such as maximum cable length, full duplex capability, requirement for a bus host, etc.

    2. Correct. Also this test says nothing about what will happen when multiple devices with multiple protocols are daisy chained together on the two buses. Here’d be a fun test: run the usb 3 drive *over* the Thunderbolt bus along with the a couple of Thunderbolt drives connected as well. Now *that* would be a Bare Feat. Prediction: Thunderbolt will eat USB 3’s lunch.

      Which unfortunately doesn’t say which technology will “win.” See USB vs FW for example.

    3. this article is garbage…there are 8-bits to a byte…sorry but 500MB/s is not 5Gb/s. And as someone referenced already of course nothing can even fees or receive anything faster than 6Gb/s as of today given SATA III specifications. Can USB 3 carry a 500MB/s data stream simultaneously along with a 1Gb/s Ethernet connection, as well as 2 1080p digital video connections AND still have head-room left over??? NOPE! That is why Thunderbolt is better. invest in it now…in a year every peripheral and device will have one, if not 2 thunderbolt ports.

            1. I’m finding this exchange with Limbaugh to be amusing as he is brilliant at illustrating his own hateful, self-destructive nature, to the point where he cannot escape it and be rational. It is simply too easy to push that big button on his forehead and watch the same old hateful, self-destructive drivel spew out.

              I’ve been marking these things ‘idiot alert’. You can now use that as a search term for analysis of this phenomenon.

              And yes, I do enjoy making misery mongers as miserable as possible. I expect they enjoy it too, part of their sadomasochistic illness.

              Meanwhile, enjoy the positive aspects of living while I keep its enemies at bay.

            2. This is the Thunderbolt article, Mr brilliant, not Limbaugh.

              I don’t know who you think is reading your drivel other than me, as most see your ‘idiot alert’ and assume you are talking about yourself.

              I can only imagine how lonely you are in your little world where you think people are starved for your opinion. You can’t even make a comment about something and then go on to back it up with anything other than your self described ‘idiot alert’ which, in your world, you see as some brilliant note that others will thank you for.

              Face it Derek, nobody cares….

  2. It’s good to know that the newest USB 3.0 storage units are as fast as comparable Thunderbolt units.

    …When the USB 3 units have some HELP. It’s not actually fair to call these USB 3 storage units ‘as fast as’ Thunderbolt units. But if you use them as directed, with that HELP ADDED, one is as good as another for speed at this point in time.

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