Thunderbolt is Intel’s high-bandwidth, do-everything connector, designed as a potential future path for all things external to a system - displays, USB devices, external storage, PCI Express, and even graphics cards. The first version of Thunderbolt supported up to 10Gb/s bandwidth (uni-directional) for each port (double that of USB 3.0, but at a much higher implementation cost). Thunderbolt 2 doubled the bandwidth to 20 Gbps per port (bi-directional) by combining the four 10Gb/s channels into two 20Gb/s channels, thus enabling support for 4Kp60 raw video transfer (which may need up to 15 Gbps). Motherboards with Thunderbolt 2 certification started rolling out in the second half of 2013, but peripherals capable of taking advantage of Thunderbolt 2 were quite rare.

We were expecting a number of Thunderbolt 2 products at CES, but were able to get hands-on time with only a pre-production sample of the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2. With 4K being one of the main drivers for Thunderbolt 2, manufacturers have used the time around the 2014 NAB Show (the B2B media / broadcast trade show) to add new members to their Thunderbolt portfolio.

One of the interesting aspects to note is that the cutting-edge Thunderbolt products are being marketed through the premium brands/subsidiaries of the two major hard drive manufacturers. Representing Western Digital, we have G-Technology, a division of HGST (a wholly owned subsidiary of WD). Seagate is represented by LaCie. These products are also equipped with the latest high-capacity 6TB enterprise class drives.

G-Technology STUDIO SERIES:

G-Technology introduced two members, the G-SPEED Studio and the G-RAID Studio. The G-SPEED is a four-bay solution with a built-in RAID controller (hardware RAID) and dual Thunderbolt 2 ports (for daisy chaining). RAID 0,1,5 and 10 are supported, and the drives are user-replaceable. Performance tops out at 660 MBps in RAID 0. Pricing ranges from $2200 for the 12TB version to $3600 for the 24TB version.

 

The G-RAID is a 2-bay solution with hardware RAID (user-selectable RAID 0,1 or JBOD). It features two Thunderbolt 2 ports for daisy chaining and performance tops out at 360 MBps in RAID 0. Pricing ranges from $650 for the 4TB version to $1500 for the 12TB version.

Both products claim compatibility with both Mac OS 10.9+ and Windows 7+. They will be available in May and carry a 3-year warranty.

LaCie 2BIG, 5BIG and 8BIG RACK:

LaCie announced three Thunderbolt 2 products at the 2014 NAB. The 2BIG is a two-bay hardware RAID unit similar to the G-RAID, but, in addition to the Thunderbolt 2 interfaces, it also sports a USB 3.0 port. With two 6TB 7200rpm drives in RAID 0, LaCie claims speeds up to 420 MBps.

 

The 5BIG is a 5-bay hardware RAID unit with two Thunderbolt 2 ports (for daisy chaining). Equipped with 6TB Seagate hard drives, it can hit up to 1050 MBps. The 8BIG RACK is a 1U rackmount solution and provides up to 48TB of direct attached storage. LaCie claims speeds of up to 1330 MBps with this unit.

While the 2BIG enjoys Windows compatibility, thanks to the USB 3.0 port, LaCie is still working on Windows support for the other models (They are currently Mac OS 10.8.5+ only). All units have hot-swappable drives. Availability is slated for this quarter, and pricing is yet to be announced.

Before closing up this coverage, mention must also be made of Western Digital's My Passport Pro (launched at MacWorld). This bus-powered model is based on Thunderbolt (the first generation) and sports two 2.5" drives. There are two models, one with 2x 1TB drives and another with 2x 2TB drives. Drives can be configured in RAID 0,1 or JBOD. The units appear to be compatible with Macs only. Pricing comes in at $300 for the 2TB version and $450 for the 4TB version.



 

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  • WinterCharm - Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - link

    WD is selling a really nice 4TB RAID drive that's thunderbolt only for about $400. Not bad at all, since you can fully configure the RAID. Reply
  • CalaverasGrande - Friday, April 11, 2014 - link

    this is why I bought the oft maligned DroboMini.
    It's not the fastest DAS solution. But it is the cheapest one that connects via Thunderbolt. And unlike a lot of other TB products, it has USB 3.0 as well.
    If Drobo can release a TB raid box at $600 (then drop it to $350!)
    There really is no excuse for these $3000 boxes.
    For crying out loud at that price I can fill a dumb (non raid) TB2 box with SSDs.
    EG the OWC Thunderbay IV.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, April 11, 2014 - link

    These $3000 boxes have 6TB HDDs.. Have you found them in the consumer market yet? The last time I searched, the HGST He drive was $800+ per drive. Reply
  • CalaverasGrande - Friday, April 11, 2014 - link

    only the 24tb version is using the 6tb drives.
    So what is the excuse for the high price on the lower capacity models?
    There is no bleeding edge tech to TB2 that makes it more expensive than TB1.
    Even firewire was never this expensive.
    I think these products seek to capitalize on Mac Pro users that use FCP X, Avid or Premiere to edit content. The post and broadcast market is used to overpaying for products.
    Reply
  • Haravikk - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    What irks me are the number of products that are only available with disks included as well; while I'm sure a diskless version would be stupidly expensive too, they're adding pretty huge markups onto the disks they give you as well.

    It's not even as if the performance is all that great; maybe it'd be better with SSDs swapped in, but in reality a lot of these devices are using seriously bad RAID controllers too.

    Things are better in the wider RAID storage world, but even so I've opted to build my own RAID box. I had intended to use a Thunderbolt adapter but annoyingly the company that made them (DATOptic) has stopped selling them. This leaves me stuck with USB3 or an expensive Thunderbolt to eSATA hub ($200 for a piece of crap hub with a cheap external power supply), not a great situation to be in. At least with my choice of RAID controller the disadvantages of USB3 aren't quite so bad, still not ideal though.
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Friday, April 11, 2014 - link

    Thunderbolt 2 is still around? Intel, give it a rest. Just let it die. By the time it might matter to much of anyone, ePCIe will be here. Reply
  • hpglow - Friday, April 11, 2014 - link

    Intel needs to just open the standard up and lower or remove licensing costs. Intel was a part of the original USB spec so they should know how to get products out there. I think intel is trying to keep TB in high end devices or they won't budge on its margins. Reply
  • StevenXMay - Friday, April 11, 2014 - link

    Basically the only people with Thunderbolt functionality are Mac owners, who are accustomed to paying very healthy margins for their hardware. It's extremely high-quality hardware, no doubt, but the margins on it are high. http://s6x.it/l521 Reply
  • CalaverasGrande - Friday, April 11, 2014 - link

    We have several Asus Laptops we use for location shoots that have TB.
    There are also a few PC motherboards out there from Gigabyte and Asus.
    Reply
  • MojaMonkey - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    There's no windows laptops with thunderbolt 2 currently afaik?

    Have you heard of any being announced?
    Reply

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