Performance Evaluation - 2big Thunderbolt 2

The 2big Thunderbolt 2 unit ships by default in RAID 0 with a HFS+ file system. On Windows, connecting through the Thunderbolt port made it necessary for the device to be approved in the OS (Intel's Thunderbolt utility, which gets installed with the Thunderbolt drivers, pops up). We left the hardware selection in RAID 0 initially and used the Windows Disk Management utility to format the volume. The results of our performance evaluation of the RAID 0 volume through both Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 are provided in the table below.

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 2 - RAID 0 Performance (MBps)
  USB 3.0 Thunderbolt 2
  Read Write Read Write
         
Photos 209.98 252.74 207.23 204.3
Videos 249.68 243.98 233.75 217.68
Blu-ray Folder 257.86 229.7 216.65 202.19
         
Adobe Photoshop (Light) 4.6 175.56 4.63 158.54
Adobe Photoshop (Heavy) 5.68 101.66 5.78 99.76
Adobe After Effects 4.55 53.34 4.54 27.53
Adobe Illustrator 4.77 142.19 4.8 87.58

Formatting the volume in RAID 1 involves powering down the unit and keeping the Selection button pressed while powering up. The RAID selection itself could be made with the lights in a blinking state and confirmed within 5 seconds of the start of the blinking. On the whole, it was not a very intuitive process, but nothing too difficult to handle once the instruction manual was perused. We repeated our performance evaluation with the RAID 1 volume.

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 2 - RAID 1 Performance (MBps)
  USB 3.0 Thunderbolt 2
  Read Write Read Write
         
Photos 116.18 158.17 115.34 135
Videos 145.32 137.45 140.14 114.61
Blu-ray Folder 144.35 141.72 132.05 113.79
         
Adobe Photoshop (Light) 5.81 144.98 5.44 131.63
Adobe Photoshop (Heavy) 7.06 93.51 6.61 90.92
Adobe After Effects 6.36 41.27 5.87 24.51
Adobe Illustrator 6.06 101.36 5.62 75.43

On the whole, at least on our Windows system, we found the device to perform better over USB 3.0 compared to Thunderbolt. RAID 0 has obvious performance benefits over RAID 1 for certain workloads.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology Performance Evaluation - Rugged Thunderbolt
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  • Kevin G - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Thunderbolt has its niche of being a means to host PCIe devices externally. For laptops, this is a pretty nice feature but for systems like the Mac Pro, it doesn't make sense when internal PCIe could have been an option. The other catch is that the one specific devices users would like to connect via Thunderbolt is not officially supported: GPUs. Reply
  • AlValentyn - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    What it tells me is that TB over an add-on card with Windows is slow. Not that TB is slower than USB. That's false statement as TB2 is 20Gb/s, while USB3.0 is 5Gb/s.

    You don't see USB3 driving 60Hz 4K displays, or getting over 800MB/s on RAIDs, and SSDs.

    I'm surprised they didn't even bother with OSX, and Mac with built in Thunderbolt as well.
    Reply
  • Shadowself - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Exactly.

    Even with the multi-hop (and hacked BIOS) TB2 is only 3% slower in RAID 0 mode. I suspect the greater *apparent* advantage USB 3.0 has over TB2 in RAID 1 mode has to do much, much more with LaCie's implementation of the hardware raid and translation from USB to RAID 1 versus translation from TB2 to RAID 1. Since RAID 0 is definitely more bandwidth hungry (given *zero* other bottlenecks through the entire system) then there should be no reason why TB2 is significantly slower at RAID 1 versus RAID 0. Ganesh should have caught this.

    To really test TB2 versus USB 3.0 for any external device, the test setup must include native implementations of both TB2 and USB 3.0 or else the results are hopelessly tainted.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    This review is meant to address what a Windows user looking to get on the Thunderbolt bandwagon should expect.

    I stand by my conclusions: For 2-bay devices with no daisy chaining requirements, USB 3.0 is better than Thunderbolt for Windows users. When it comes to 5 bays, things may be different.
    Reply
  • casperes1996 - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    With all due respect, the review was of the drives though. Not the drives (for Windows). I read the review as a Mac user, wanting to know the performance over TB. TRIM over TB on the Mac is also something I am now quite curious about.

    Would it be possible to perhaps get another review, or an addendum to this one, testing the drive on a Mac?

    The review was fine for what it was, but I think we are many curious about the Mac side, as it is where Thunderbolt is more proliferated.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Thunderbolt in Windows isn't any different from Thunderbolt in a Mac. It's the same protocol with the same performance. The only difference is that in a Mac Thunderbolt is "invisible" to the end-user because Apple's EFI is locked and the drivers come with the OS, whereas in Windows you can play with some settings in BIOS and the drivers need to be installed manually.

    Testing these drives in a Mac wouldn't give any different results. Like I mentioned earlier, I have the same add-on card and have been able to reach speeds of over 700MB/s with a TB1 device, so the bottleneck in these LaCie drives is elsewhere.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I'm not going to argue that you should have tested with a Mac, and I can fully understand why Anandtech would stick with a Windows based testbed for DAS devices to make results comparable (and Ganesh doesn't currently have a Mac). But saying that Thunderbolt device performance is the same under both Mac OS X and Windows is like saying that games should perform the same on both OSes, or that you get the same performance and battery life from a Mac whether you run Windows or Mac OS X.

    At just a very base level, Apple's EFI implementation may offer performance benefits over Microsoft's hybrid UEFI / Windows software stack model. Also, each OEM's hardware implementation can have performance implications. Most Macs use PCIe lanes provided by the CPU, not the PCH. Since there's apparently a requirement for add-in cards to use the PCH lanes, they're inherently at a disadvantage. Even more so in real-world scenarios when using a board that has 5 PCIe switches on the PCH lanes alone resulting in a brutally oversubscribed DMI connection.

    Thunderbolt essentially looks like nothing more than a PCIe switch to the OS, which doesn't require any special drivers at all. The Thunderbolt "driver" is all about supporting PCIe hot-plugging, tolerating up to 9 µs of round-trip latency, and enforcing Intel's licensing agreements. What you do need to worry about is the drivers for the PCIe based controllers in any device you connect. This is obviously the same whether it is a PCIe add-in card or external Thunderbolt device, and no different under Windows or Mac OS X. The most glaring omission in this article is not reporting which host controllers are in the devices and what drivers were being used for testing. As readers we have no idea whether the Thunderbolt tests were performed using Microsoft or Marvell (or whoever's) SATA host controller drivers, whether AHCI was enabled, or whether the TRIM support issue was a result of the drivers being used. On the USB side, we can only infer that a native Intel USB 3.0 port was used (since the Asmedia controller was disabled in order to provide a PCIe x4 connection for the Thunderbolt add-in card) with whatever the current version is of the Microsoft driver under Windows 8.1 Pro, and UASP was supported by both drives. These types of details really need to be presented along with the other data to live up to the Anandtech ethos. I don't just want a quick benchmark; I want to understand the underlying limitations and how they factor into the results, and to see the hardware pushed as far as it can go.
    Reply
  • Teo_ - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    The first review I can find on a quick search based on a Mac reports sequential read and write speed in RAID 0 412.7MB/s and 353.3MB/s, so I’m curious too to see the same sample folders and tasks tested on a Mac. Reply
  • GTVic - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Thunderbolt is misunderstood, there is no "translation to TB2" it is an extension of the PCI Express Bus and also supports Display Port. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    I think the performance is limited by the ASMedia chips (SATA & SATA to PCIe/TB bridge). I have the same add-on card as Ganesh and have been able to achieve speeds of around 700MB/s (this is with TB1). I'm getting a proper TB2 device soon, so stay tuned for a more thorough review of the add-on card (as well as more Thunderbolt stuff).

    As for OS X, as far as I know Ganesh does not have a Mac with Thunderbolt (and neither do I). Just because we don't test with something doesn't mean that it's due to our laziness -- Apple doesn't send review samples around like e.g. ASUS does so we would have to spend our own money to get one for testing.
    Reply

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