Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt full review

Thunderbolt drives are still pretty expensive but they are starting to become more common now, so hopefully the arrival of drives such as Buffalo’s new MiniStation Thunderbolt will help to bring prices down.

The MiniStation Thunderbolt is a neatly designed little unit, with an aluminium body and a frosted white plastic top that looks pretty smart. It’s not the most compact drive we’ve come across, but at just 22.5mm thick, 80.5mm wide and 130mm long it’s still small enough to slip into a jacket pocket or a backpack when you want to head out with your laptop. Our only minor complaint about the design is that the white status indicator light is set under the front edge of the drive and isn’t very visible – in fact, with the sun shining through our office window we couldn’t see it at all.

We tested the 500GB version, which costs about £170, but there’s a 1TB model also available for around £200. That’s a lot more than conventional USB 3.0 hard drives – which typically cost around £100 for 1TB these days – but, of course, Thunderbolt provides significantly greater performance than USB 3.0. 

In fact, the MiniStation Thunderbolt is equipped with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces. That’s handy, as it means that you can use it with older Macs and PCs that don’t have Thunderbolt. It comes pre-formatted in the Mac’s HFS+ format, and can be used for Time Machine backups straight away, but the manual provided with the drive also includes instructions for reformatting for use with PCs if required. 

As expected, performance with the Thunderbolt interface was very good, taking a speedy 50 seconds to back-up our 5GB batch of test files. That time dropped to 125 seconds when using the USB 3.0 interface, so Thunderbolt was clearly more than twice as fast.

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