Finding a good Thunderbolt disk

Wow, the 5K iMac is a beauty! Like so many Mac users I’ve been dreaming about a retina iMac since around the iPhone 4 days (man, was that only 2011?) expecting my 2011 Sandy Bridge iMac to be ancient history for long. Now that it’s here, I’m not getting it. My iMac is still great, and I want to hold out for the Skylake architecture (thus even giving Broadwell a pass).

My iMac has an SSD that I used to build a custom Fusion Drive, but I still am not happy with the performance. So I want a more modern SSD, more precisely I want a Samsung 840 EVO0. I was holding out until after the October event to make any decisions, but now it’s time.

I could open my iMac and replace the spinning disk altogether. However, that will make the temperature sensors go nuts and spin up my fans that I then will have to override in software. That’s viable for me, I guess, but would impact resales opportunities if I wanted to trade it in at some point. (not sure I will want to)

I could get an internal enclosure, remove my Superdrive and replace it with the disk enclosure. Again I’d have to open my iMac and do modifications that will impact resale opportunities. I don’t use the superdrive much, so it’s a tempting solution.

More tempting, though, is to have a Thunderbolt enclosure with the SSD and boot of it. Thunderbolt should be able to reach the ~540MB/sec I/O of the SSD and have capacity to spare. If I popped it into a Thunderbolt 2 cabinet, I’d have a lot of future options. Yes, I expect this solution to be pricyer, but I can then take ’my machine’ with me and hook it up to other computers to boot of if I’m travelling and prefer to have my own setup. Not a bad idea. And when I get my new iMac in 2016 or so, I can use the disk there.

Problem is, where are those Thunderbolt 2 enclosures? I’d like one that’s BUS powered, since that should be able to drive the SSD just fine, and preferably I’d like two ports for daisy-chaining if possible. And a USB3 port just in case would be neat, although I don’t expect to be needing it.

I have found a couple of enclosures that look tempting: Buffalo Ministation3, Lacie Rugged2 and Seagate GoFlex1. What they all have in common, though, is that when set up with the Samsung 840 EVO, they run at ~340 MB/sec. This is what I expect for Serial ATA 300, not Serial ATA 600, which the disc is. Can it really be the case that all three adapters run with Serial ATA 300 instead of Serial ATA 600? If so, where is the Thunderbolt 2 case with Serial ATA 600 I am looking for? Is no-one making that? For a reasonable buck, anyway?

So I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

Categories: Tech