Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted from Digital Arts.
At the Final Cut Pro Supermeet in Kensington, London, we got a chance to test LaCie’s Little Big Disk, an external hard drive with Thunderbolt, and the results are as impressive as you’d expect.
LaCie showcased a prototype Little Big Disk connected to an Apple MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt. We snuck in a few tests using one of our usual storage test applications, System Test by AJA. The results were incredible. Using AJA System Test set to use 16GB of 4K frames (to really push the drive), the Little Big Disks delivered an average read speed of 835.5MBps and an average write speed of 353.1MBps—faster than many fibre channel systems and equivalent to quite a few streams of uncompressed HD respectively.
AJA System Test evaluates the read and write performance of a drive by simulating how a video application (such as Final Cut Pro) accesses and writes video files while editing. It’s designed so video editors can see if their storage system is up to the task of editing multiple streams of video in real-time without losing playback quality.
For a comparison, we tested LaCie’s 4Big Quadra on the same MacBook Pro over FireWire 800, and could manage only a relatively paltry 83.9MBps (read) and 77.2MBps (write). That’s a performance leap of over 4.5X for writing and 10.8X for reading data—a huge leap that will mean many users will want to get their hands on Thunderbolt-compatible storage, though of course your mileage will vary depending on the performance of the drives inside whatever device you have.
LaCie had a set-up designed to showcase the drive at maximum performance. The Little Big Disk we tested includes two 160GB solid-state drives, which were striped (RAID 0) to increase read/write speed. The Little Big Disk was part of a daisy chained, connected to a MacBook Pro on one end, and a separate monitor connected to the drive. This is the first time we’ve seen a display attached over Thunderbolt and it worked seamlessly.
The biggest problem with Thunderbolt storage currently is availability. The Thunderbolt drive we saw was a prototype, and final drives aren’t due til next month at the earliest. Other manufacturers (including Sonnet, Seagate, and Western Digital) have said they will ship Thunderbolt-enabled drives, but have made no concrete announcements. Right now, you can’t even get a Thunderbolt cable.