The GoFlex Desk is a versatile-interface storage product that should already be familiar to long-time AnandTech readers. Anand reviewed the 3 TByte version in August 2010, following up with a 4 TByte product review last September. PC-targeted variants ship pre-formatted for NTFS and optionally come in drive-only (i.e. dock-less, therefore interface-less) models, along with versions including both USB 2 and USB 3 docks. Available accessories include dock adapters for both USB 3.0 and for the combo of FireWire 800 and USB 2.0.

The particular GoFlex Desk model I used in this review, however, is the 2 TByte version of the GoFlex Desk for Mac. It differs from its PC brethren in three main areas:

  • A mixed black-and-silver color motif, more attractive IMHO than the all-silver prototype Anand saw at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show
  • HFS+ formatting out-of-box, and
  • A bundled USB 2.0-plus-FireWire 800 dock, matching the external interface allotment available in Macs over the past several years

Other items bundled with the GoFlex Desk for Mac include USB 2 and FireWire 800 cables (a nice touch), a Quick Start guide, and a 12V/3A AC-to-DC power adapter. My particular unit contains the Seagate (no surprise) ST2000DL003, a 2 TByte 5900 RPM Barracuda Green HDD with 64 MByte cache and 6 Gbps SATA interface. Since the enclosure is fanless, the Barracuda Green design decision is perhaps understandable.

More recently, Seagate has made available a Thunderbolt Adapter for the GoFlex Desk line, containing dual Thunderbolt ports and which Anand previewed at January's CES:

At $189.99 MSRP, the Thunderbolt Adapter is certainly not cheap, nor does it include a Thunderbolt cable. Seagate's USB 3.0 adapter's MSRP, by comparison, is $79.99 and includes not only the dock but also a PCI Express add-in card. But the pricing is at least somewhat understandable given Thunderbolt's currently scant market footprint; right now the interface is mostly only in Macs, as previously noted, and specifically only in the following models:

  • iMacs since May 3, 2011
  • Mac minis since July 20, 2011
  • MacBook Pros since February 24, 2011, and
  • MacBook Airs since July 20, 2011

In lieu of high volume, Seagate needs to charge higher-than-usual prices on its Thunderbolt-based products in order to ensure sufficient revenue and profit return-on-investment. Unknown, too, is the bill-of-materials cost, specifically of the Intel-sourced Thunderbolt controller. Interestingly, the AC-to-DC power unit bundled with the Thunderbolt Adapter is also 12V but is only specified to output 1.5A, half that of the "wall wart" included with the USB 2/FireWire 800 dock. Perhaps the latter power unit is over-specified for the need; perhaps, alternatively, the HDD is getting a portion of its power allocation supplied directly over the Thunderbolt link from the connected computer system.

Overview Western Digital's Thunderbolt Duo
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  • rruscio - Sunday, May 13, 2012 - link

    I don't care much for speeds and feeds, but I care a lot about reliability and subsystem dis-integration.

    When I get a cpu / memory 'box', that requires a Thunderbolt connection to a 'video card / cards' box, and a connection to a mass storage 'box', so that I can mix and match and replace/upgrade as needed, I'll care about Thunderbolt.

    Till then, thanks, but really ...

    rr
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Sunday, May 13, 2012 - link

    Yeah I'm with you. I honestly couldn't give a rats about thunderbolt.
    The only devices that I would personally see benefit from is External Hard Drives, and lets face it... USB 3 isn't exactly holding back mechanical drives much. (Except for exotic raid solutions.)
    Reply
  • peterfares - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    And eSATA is superior to USB 3.0 and equivalent to Thunderbolt in speed. It's also EXTREMELY cheap to implement, just costing the price of one USB/eSATA receptacle. Every chipset has at least 4 SATA ports, only 2 are usually used in most laptops (HDD, ODD). All you need to do for eSATA is route one of the SATA ports to the receptacle and you're done.

    For eSATA hard drives
    CPU->PCIe->SATA controller->HDD

    For USB hard drives
    CPU->PCIe->USB 3.0 Controller->SATA Controller->HDD

    For Thunderbolt
    CPU->PCIe->SATA controller->HDD

    I believe the thunderbolt multiplexing chips do not affect performance
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    eSATA itself is nearly useless. The two sticking points are that it's a port dedicated to nothing but external HDDs, and that it has no power and so you end up needing to plug your HDD into a wall socket or USB port anyhow. From a consumer standpoint, USB3 wins that by default because consumers don't want to carry around a power brick when they could just use USB3 and plug the drive in right there.

    eSATAp (a combination USB and eSATA) port helps, and provides some power, but has issues the same. The USB standards body refuses to recognize them as valid USB ports, the eSATA part of the expansion is useless for anything but disks, and it doesn't provide enough power for 3.5" mobile drives (since it only does 2.5W). It also doesn't really jive with storage arrays, which want to expose something higher-level than SATA if they're doing hardware RAID.

    USB3 helps: you get enough bandwidth for disks, but also for other high-bandwidth devices, and the 5W it provides is an improvement. It still can't do displays very well (USB displays are limited), but it's an improvement.

    Thunderbolt improves more. 10W of power should be enough to power a desktop drive without external power, the throughput is plenty for anything we might want to do today, it can provide high throughput to more than just HDDs, it can do displays natively, it can daisy-chain which enables single-cable dock type things (like the Apple Cinema Display which you connect one cable and it gives you GigE, USB, display, audio, etc)...

    There are also more than just HDDs that need high bandwidth connectivity too. Video capture for instance. Uncompressed 1080p60 is ~3 gigabit, or if you're doing 10-bit per channel, 3.7 gigabit. Uncompressed 4K at 60FPS like the Red One records at 10-bit is something like 17 gigabit. Thunderbolt can handle that. USB3 can't. There's also an element of forward-thinking here: it's better that you have enough throughput before you need it, rather than waiting for it to catch up.

    Another thing is 10GigE. It needs a good chunk more bandwidth than USB3 can provide, and copper 10GigE PCIe cards have been on the market for years. The prices are still outside of consumer market levels, but they're coming down like anything does. Right now you can find Intel 10GBase-T PCIe cards for $400, and a 100ft Cat6a cable costs only $28 on monoprice. I'm sure other people can come up with more examples of high bandwidth things other than disk drives.
    Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - link

    eSATA is a disgrace. What moron introduced a powerless I/O port in 2004?

    And we keep seeing the same dumb comments about Thunderbolt: "Duh, no drives are this fast, so why do we need this?" Of course, that completely ignores the fact that you can daisy-chain several drives and a display off Thunderbolt at the same time.

    Oh, and run USB and Ethernet over it as well.

    People cheerlead AGAINST better technology now. It's pathetic.
    Reply
  • peterfares - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    "When I get a cpu / memory 'box', that requires a Thunderbolt connection to a 'video card / cards' box, and a connection to a mass storage 'box', so that I can mix and match and replace/upgrade as needed, I'll care about Thunderbolt."

    So kind of like a desktop PC?
    Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    Eh, you should try to get into the Mac user mindset here... it may not be rational, but it is what it is. Reply
  • name99 - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    Oh don't waste everyone's time.
    Out in the real world, massive numbers of laptops are sold every year, and Thunderbolt targets them. Obviously a system that has 6 PCIe slots doesn't need a PCIe-over-cable solution.
    Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    So it would make more sense to haul around a CPU-box, a GPU-box and a storage-box that you can mix and match with $50 cables?

    That's mobile computing?
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    Are you being deliberately obtuse?

    The idea is to converge your gaming computer and your low power om the go ultra-portable system. We've sort of had this for years with business class laptops and docking stations which made connecting your external mouse/keyboard/monitors/power a single action, but we were still stuck with whatever crappy IGP was in the laptop itself.

    Thunderbolt will combine everything except the power cable into a single plug while also giving support for an external GPU. A docking station could use thunderbolt for part of its interconnect combining everything into one item; while the reduced engineering costs needed to design it should be able to push the sticker price down.
    Reply

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