Performance Evaluation - Rugged Thunderbolt

The Rugged Thunderbolt comes in various capacities (two SKUs come with hard drives, while the other two come with SSDs). One of the important aspects to remember is that the connectivity is with first generation Thunderbolt (as well as USB 3.0). This is completely acceptable, as the device is meant to be used standalone (or as the end device in a daisy chain setup). No SSD exists right now with the capability to saturate a 10 Gbps Thunderbolt link, so there is really no need to go the Thunderbolt 2 route (with the 20 Gbps links that may be helpful in daisy chained setups with a display being driven).

Unlike the 2big Thunderbolt 2, there is no RAID involved. The stress is on portability (bus-powered nature), ruggedness and performance.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt - Performance (MBps)
  USB 3.0 Thunderbolt 2
  Read Write Read Write
Photos 285.04 418.78 259.46 366.77
Videos 332.42 441.27 288.96 374.25
Blu-ray Folder 313.13 452.18 273.55 382.33
Adobe Photoshop (Light) 120.59 387.48 131.41 42.18
Adobe Photoshop (Heavy) 104.38 355.89 105.58 45.56
Adobe After Effects 147.84 78.17 137.9 13.35
Adobe Illustrator 142.66 299.61 139.69 36.3

One of the problems with SSDs is that performance may degrade over time, unless garbage collection / TRIM is activated on the SSDs. Availability of TRIM for external drives is a hit or miss. We checked for TRIM activation on the Rugged over both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connections using Vladimir Panteleev's TrimCheck tool.

On our particular testbed, we found that TRIM wasn't activated over Thunderbolt, but worked over the USB port directly off the PCH. These results are definitely dependent on the OS / nature of the end system and readers' mileage may vary.

Performance Evaluation - 2big Thunderbolt 2 Miscellaneous Aspects - RAID Rebuild and Daisy Chaining


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  • ssj3gohan - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    So... thunderbolt is slower, more power hungry and more expensive than USB 3.0. And it's effectively unavailable. I can see why Intel integrates USB 3.0 into their chipsets and not Thunderbolt.

    Of course, I understand that this is a function of volume; Thunderbolt doesn't really sell and is an Intel exclusive whereas USB 3.0 controllers are made by every man and his dog, so it's much more optimized both in cost and data stream efficiency, not to mention driver compatibility. But this still begs the question: why even include Thunderbolt? It's objectively worse than USB 3.0 and just needlessly increases the price of both Apple and peripheral products.
  • mmrezaie - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    I would like to see the benchmarks under Mac OS too. They don't rely on bios drivers for thunderbolt and use their own. I think Linux will have the same driver later this year but I think on Mac thunderbolt driver is more optimised. Reply
  • Essence_of_War - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Agreed. I'd really like to see a USB 3.0-Thunderbolt shoot-out under OS X and Linux as well!

    I don't know if this is possible Ganesh, but if you could get access to a mac with thunderbolt, it would be pretty neat to see! :)
  • techwiz2100 - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Yea I'm a little concerned by these numbers, I mean... Isn't the Mac Pro supposed to be able to drive a 4K display over TB2? I would imagine that's a much more bandwidth heavy application than file transfer. Also maybe the devices themselves or the add-on card are the limitations? Reply
  • Essence_of_War - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Yeah, I think it's pretty clear that in no case is the theoretical limit of TB being saturated.

    It's possible that the speed differences are within the margin of error, but my first guess would be some sort of driver/controller issue for TB on Windows.
  • M/2 - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    I'm a Big Mac Mini fan... I've been trying to rationalize TB, and just can't quite get there. I use external drive over the network for media and backups. I wound up buying a 4-bay USB 3.0 box for $250; with 4-4Tb drives, I have 12Tb of RAID 5 storage for under $1000. So I really don't get the price tag on a 2-bay TB drive.

    I get 230 MB/s on Blackmagic. That's not that much slower than my buddy's Promise 2 RAID, the reason being the spinning drive are the main limiting factor. And, 30+ % cheaper. And 230 is fast enough for anything I need . You really need 6 bays or SSDs to take advantage of TB.

    If I had to do it over, I'd consider the OWC thunderbay box. $450 vs. $250 for the Dyconn Quartz4 box I bought. Just depends what you're using if for. I'm almost there!
  • M/2 - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    I may be off on the TB speeds. ..just looked at a review on owc , it's twice the speed of USB 3 on RAID 5 ... Like I said, I might decide different today Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    As I mentioned in the concluding remarks, for these particular devices, TB is useful only in the daisy chaining scenario. Otherwise, USB 3.0 is going to deliver better performance.

    Apologies for not testing with Macs. I should have probably noted in the very beginning that we are going to start monitoring Thunderbolt performance on Windows from my side. For Mac-based coverage, Anand is the best bet (for example, the LaCie Little Big Disk review that he put out earlier this year -- which I have also linked in the article).
  • M/2 - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    Agreed! USB 3.0 beats any 1 or 2 drive configuration (IMO), simply because because the drives can 't fill the TB bandwidth (unless you're using SSDs). Sure, TB is cool, but adding USB3 would make a more versatile package.

    FYI, I see the OWC thunderbay price is now $500, up $50, people must be buying them. Still too much of a premium IMO (unless you're using SSDs and/or really need 500+ Mb/s)
  • ciparis - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    You really need to include the Mac numbers; otherwise, nobody will be holding PC manufacturers to task in making these devices perform remotely near their potential. The current situation is abysmal, and with zero reason other than near total incompetence. Reply

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