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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  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - link

    This sentence is a bit misleading:
    "a specific RPM at any particular time is dependent on both access requirements and sensed operating temperature." - This would suggest that this HDD runs with varying RPMs. This is not true. One HDD runs with one RPM. However, between the various HDDs among one charge there can be different RPM settings. So one Caviar Green "IntelliPower" runs with 5400 while the next runs with 5900. You will not see one 5400 unit suddenly run at 5900 because the temperatures are particularly low.
  • bdipert - Saturday, May 19, 2012 - link

    Dear Death666Angel, I don't think you're correct. WD has told me on many occasions that the IntelliPower algorithm varies a drive's rotational speed over time as a function of performance demand and operating temperature. And past AnandTech writeups make similar statements:

    for example
  • wolfgang123usa - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    The real advantage of Thunderbolt should be that it carries power, but special this feature is very limited, as the power pin on the connector is very small and shall carry 10Watts, Sata connectors, USB and other have bigger contact surfaces and/or multiple pins to carry power. The display port adapter was designed for a lot less power then 10watts, that's the current issue with Thunderbolt today. Some details can be found here:
    When a self powered thunderbolt device is used it works fine and uses only about 22% overhead to encapsulate the PCIe bus, so the speed with fast SSD's like Samsung 830 series is really not bad.
  • marmot_animal - Friday, July 13, 2012 - link

    Two months after this article was written, I find Thunderbolt options at the same phase, quite limited. So I bought the Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter for $$$ from B&H, plus the cable. Although expensive, it seems for the time being the least expensive approach, albeit a DIY approach, to use raw hard drives, of which I have an expanding collection for my video and audio projects.

    If my research is correct, there are no official generic Tbolt docks, unlike the common USB3 (and earlier interfaces) docks on Tiger Direct. Although LaCie 2big bays appear to physically allow users to swap raw hard drives, LaCie voids the warranty in doing so. Obviously LaCie discourages a DIY approach and of course favors consumers to procure LaCie's aftermarket harddrive-installed bays. This is less of a diehard obstacle as opposed to WD's Caviar requirement. Conversely, I'm not into opening up enclosures to swap drives. It requires tools, is time-consuming, and is semi-permanent. My preference is to swap raw drives on-the-fly.

    At least the GoFlex DIY hacker method works, and I secure the drive on the dock via rubber band technology. I report 'so far so good' with raw drives. I don't know precise speed details as long as I'm able to put the Tbolt bus to use, and it appears faster than any other bus I've used with FCPX. Too many companies try to hijack Tbolt by instilling proprietary constraints. Nevertheless, I find the GoFlex design with its generic SATA interface to be an extremely niche approach because most consumers won't want to seat a raw hard drive somewhat precariously in a dock not designed for such use.
  • spanading - Saturday, October 6, 2012 - link

    Honestly peps,

    Why are people compairing the two. Yes USB is great if you are conneting things like HHD, Mice, Tablets, and the like, but remember you only have 5Gb in a single channel, one way maximum to play with, while thunderbolt has 20Gb when using both channels. True neither USB 3 nor Thunderbolt would be maxed out by a single HDD, but when connecting several data hungry devices at once, (which with thunderbolt can include monitors, and possible legacy port hubs, if they ever arrive) then USB will show the strain a lot quicker than thunderbolt.

    Hence why you need a thunderbolt port? Well if all you are doing is plugging in one HHD over it it is probably overkill, BUT, if you like to have one of those new shiny Ultra books to use on the run but then want a fully fledged PC when you get home, Thunderbolt gives you this potential, but only having to connect 1 cable, rather than 3 or 4. Plus with it being compatible with PCi then you can have expansion cards to further enhance performance with out the need for a completely separate PC. Now before you complain ultra books have low spec CPUs, go and play with one that uses a SSD and see how much speed a traditional HDD sucks up while the system waits for data. As an example, my 2011 Mac book air has a 1.7 GHz dual core i5 with integrated graphic and only 4GB of memory, and on day to day tasks, is faster than my 2011 mac min server with a 2.0Ghz Quad core i7 with the same integrated graphics but 16 GB of RAM. In fact my macbook only struggles when the RAM is all used up, which is not very often .

    I guess this is exactly what Dan Neely meant. Good on you Dan, I guess the USB people have not quite grasped the fundamental difference yet.
  • biswa60 - Saturday, October 19, 2019 - link

    Each Thunderbolt port handles 40 Gbps of aggregate bandwidth, consisting of two pairs' worth of distinct 10 Gbps transmit and receive lanes

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