Does the Thunderbolt dock provide 'uncompromising' performance? (August 25th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Highpoint
- - Blistering speed - Good build quality - Speed only limited by drive performance
- - No pack-in Thunderbolt cable - Single Thunderbolt port
Highpoint has a wide series of hardware for every aspect of drive connectivity. Its only logical that the company would churn out a Thunderbolt version of its 5000-series dual-drive dock. Sure enough, earlier this year, the RocketStor 5212 Dual-Bay Thunderbolt Storage Dock for both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives shipped a bit earlier this year, to take advantage of Intel's and Apple's new connectivity standard.
We reproduced every test we tried with the previous review of the RocketRaid 642L PCI-E SATA/eSATA card with this dock plugged into a Thunderbolt port on a 2012 15-inch MacBook Pro. A pair of SATA-3 120GB SSDs were used for testing, capable of saturating the Thunderbolt connection when in RAID format. For comparison's sake, the pair of drives on the dual USB 3.0 dock managed 612MB per second.
At peak, the drive pair transferred just over a gigabyte per second, much faster than the USB 3.0 version. With the Thunderbolt dock and hard drives, the speed of the transfer will generally be limited to the media, and not the bridge board as is common with lesser devices. The Thunderbolt version of the dock trumps both the USB 3.0 and, surprisingly, edges out the SATA-3 version of the dock, which, in theory, is capable of 12Mbit per second transfers.
Thunderbolt is daisychainable interface, much like Firewire before it. The 5212 dock has a solitary Thunderbolt port, making it either the last device on the chain, or only one. This may, or may not, be a hindrance to users, as we've found that wide integration of Thunderbolt peripherals really hasn't begun yet, so this would likely be the user's only device with the new protocol.
We've said it before, but it bears repeating for a third time-- the need for overwhelming speed in a dual-drive dock is not for everyone. This is an excellent tool for system managers, who need to clone disks for uniform operability between machines, or who need a very quick way to archive or secure large amounts of data using high-capacity hard drives as the backup target, rather than glacially slow tape or other high-density removable media.
Just like Highpoint's SATA-3 version, and the USB 3.0 model, we overall liked the Thunderbolt-equipped dock. As with the other two high-performance 5000-series RocketStor docks, If you're just looking for a dock for rudimentary home operations and periodic backup, this is probably not it. Our normal complaints with docks: cheap plastic, flimsy connectors, weak power supplies, slower than expected data transfer -- are just not an issue with this series of dock.
What are issues with the 5212 are the single Thunderbolt port, and the lack of a pack-in cable with the dock -- for the $269 retail price, we feel that a Thunderbolt cable included with the purchase would be appropriate. As with most Thunderbolt devices, we really don't care much for the price. However, the functionality the 5212 provides for the price is a bit better than most other Thunderbolt alternatives.