Thunderbolt is a successor to the ever-rolling-out high-speed USB 3.0 interface. USB 3 is 100 times faster than the widely available USB 2, tests have shown, and Thunderbolt is double the speed of USB 3, with maximum throughput of 10GB per second.
And Western Digital at Macworld|iWorld 2012 announced the first drives to support the standard — the WD My Book Thunderbolt duo, scheduled to ship later this first quarter.
These drives plug into the high-speed ports Apple has added to most of its computers over the past year. On the Macintosh, using RAID Level 0, the Western Digital drive should nearly reach maximum speed. According to a CNET benchmark:
From the demo I saw with four My Book Thunderbolt Duo units, the drive seems capable of offering sustained data speeds of around 520MBps for writing and 770MBps for reading. These are about as good as it can get for a storage device.
MyBook Thunderbolt Duo houses a pair of 3.5-inch drives — two 2TB or two 3TB drives, resulting in factory configurations of 4TB or 6TB total storage, respectively.
The drives feature two Thunderbolt ports but no other port types. Both ports are capable of bidirectional 10MBps transfers. And up to six drives can be daisy chained off one interconnect. The drives support RAID 0 and will offer fast transfers of approx. 500MB per second writing and approx. 700MB per second reading. According to Western Digital, the drive is so fast you could transfer a DVD movie in 30 seconds.
Additionally, like similar MyBook models, an easy-access door on the top of each drive will allow end users to replace a drive if needed. Pricing is as yet unset.
The Thunderbolt digital interface was designed by Intel. Apple is providing support in its MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, and MacBook Air computers, all which support Thunderbox out of the gate. Apple’s displays do, too. Some if not most Microsoft Windows 8 systems will likely include support for Thunderbolt later this year, too, observers say.