Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Lexar is Micron’s brand covering SD Cards, microSD Cards, USB flash drives, and card readers. Their card readers are known for being able to push high in the various speed grades, typically allowing transfers (for capable SD cards) much faster than what a typical built-in laptop or PC SD card reader is capable of. Today we will take a look at the Lexar ‘Professional Workflow’ line of flash memory connectivity options from Lexar.
This is essentially a four-bay hub device that can accept various card readers or other types of devices (a USB flash storage device as opposed to just a reader, for example). The available readers range from SD to CF to Professional Grade CFast cards capable of over 500 MB/sec.
We will be looking at the following items today:
- Professional Workflow HR2
- Four-bay Thunderbolt™ 2/USB 3.0 reader and storage drive hub
- Professional Workflow UR1
- Three-slot microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-I USB 3.0 reader
- Professional Workflow SR1
- SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-I USB 3.0 reader
- Professional Workflow CFR1
- CompactFlash® USB 3.0 reader
- Professional Workflow DD256
- 256GB USB 3.0 Storage Drive
Note that since we were sampled these items, Lexar has begun shipping a newer version of the SR1. The SR2 is a SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II USB 3.0 reader. Since we had no UHS-II SD cards available to test, this difference would not impact any of our testing speed results. There is also an HR1 model which has only USB 3.0 support and no Thunderbolt, coming in at a significantly lower cost when compared with the HR2 (more on that later).
A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt
Today at Computex, Intel took the wraps off of the latest iteration of Thunderbolt, a technology that I am guessing many of you thought was dead in the water. It turns out that's not the case, and this new set of features that Thunderbolt 3 offers may in fact push it over the crest and give it the momentum needed to become a useable and widespread standard.
First, Thunderbolt 3 starts with a new piece of silicon, code named Alpine Ridge. Not only does Alpine Ridge increase the available Thunderbolt bandwidth to 40 Gbps but it also adds a native USB 3.1 host controller on the chip itself. And, as mobile users will be glad to see, Intel is going to start utilizing the new USB Type-C (USB-C) connector as the standard port rather than mini DisplayPort.
This new connector type, that was already a favorite among PC Perspective staff because of its size and its reversibility, will now be the way connectivity and speed increases this generation with Thunderbolt. This slide does a good job of summarizing the key take away from the TB3 announcement: 40 Gbps, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, 100 watt (bi-directional) charging capability, 15 watt device power and support for four protocols including Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB and PCI Express.
Protocol support is important and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C will be able to connect directly to a DisplayPort monitor, to an external USB 3.1 storage drive, an old thumb drive or a new Thunderbolt 3 docking station. This is truly unrivaled flexibility from a single connector. The USB 3.1 controller is backward compatible as well: feel free to connect any USB device to it that you can adapt to the Type-C connection.
From a raw performance perspective Thunderbolt 3 offers a total of 40 Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth, twice that of Thunderbolt 2 and 4x what we get with USB 3.1. That offers users the ability to combine many different devices, multiple displays and network connections and have plenty of headroom.
With Thunderbolt 3 you get twice as much raw video bandwidth, two DP 1.2 streams, allowing you to run not just a single 4K display at 60 Hz but two of them, all over a single TB3 cable. If you want to connect a 5K display though, you will be limited to just one of them.
For mobile users, which I think is the area where Thunderbolt 3 will be the most effective, the addition of USB 3.1 allows for charging capability up to 100 watts. This is in addition to the 15 watts of power that Thunderbolt provides to devices directly - think external storage, small hubs/docks, etc.
Subject: Storage | January 2, 2015 - 03:09 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Startech, thunderbolt, S252SMTB3, ssd
The StarTech Thunderbolt Dual SSD Enclosure S252SMTB3 is fairly expensive at just over $200 empty but thankfully they included a Thunderbolt cable; you will need to provide the second cable if you intend to daisy chain devices. This model uses the first generation 10Gbps interface and allows you to install two SSDs in either RAID 0 or RAID 1. In RAID 1 the drives performed as you would expect with the reads hitting close to theoretical maximum and write sitting just below half of that speed. In RAID 0 the reads and writes on the 128 GB Corsair Force GS SSDs used by Bjorn3D for testing hit their maximum theoretical speeds; it will be very interesting to see the results of faster SSDs on a new 20Gbps model of enclosure. If you want external storage that is as fast as your internal drives then this is worth looking at.
"Even though it is popular to use a network attached storage sometimes it is nice to have storage closer to the computer, for example for Timemachine backup on a Mac or just as a way to add more storage space on a laptop with a small SSD. The Startech enclosure we are reviewing today, the StarTech Thunderbolt Dual SSD Enclosure S252SMTB3, comes with a Thunderbolt interface that not only lets you daisy-chain it with several other peripherals but also offers a lot of bandwidth making it a perfect option for increasing the storage space on a Mac Book Air or other computer with little initial storage. After testing it turns out that it performs just as well as expected with just a few minor complaints."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Synology DiskStation DS415+ @ techPowerUp
- ASUSTOR AS7004T NAS Server Review @ NikKTech
- Asustor AS7004T @ Legion Hardware
- Seagate NAS Pro DP-6 Network Attached Storage @ Modders-Inc
- WD Red 6TB NAS Hard Drive Review @ Techgage
- Western Digital Red Pro (WD4001FFSX) 4 TB Hard Disk Drive @ TechARP
- Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 V4 6TB SAS 12Gb/s HDD Review @ NikKTech
- Lexar Workflow DD512 USB 3.0 Solid State Drive @ eTeknix
- Samsung brings out new longer-lived 1TB Flash podule for PCs, notebooks @ The Register
- The OCZ challenge: kill 5 ARC 100 SSD's @ Kitguru
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 17, 2014 - 03:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, mac mini, mac, Intel, haswell, apple
I was not planning to report on Apple's announcement but, well, this just struck me as odd.
So Apple has relaunched the Mac Mini with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, after two years of waiting. It is the same height as the Intel NUC, but it also almost twice the length and twice the width (Apple's 20cm x 20cm versus the NUC's ~11cm x 11cm when the case is included). So, after waiting through the entire Haswell architecture launch cycle, right up until the imminent release of Broadwell, they are going with the soon-to-be outdated architecture, to update their two-year-old platform?
((Note: The editorial originally said "two-year-old architecture". I thought that Haswell launched about six months earlier than it did. The mistake was corrected.))
I wonder if, following the iTunes U2 deal, this device will come bundled with Limp Bizkit's "Nookie"...
The price has been reduced to $499, which is a welcome $100 price reduction especially for PC developers who want a Mac to test cross-platform applications on. It also has Thunderbolt 2. These are welcome additions. I just have two, related questions: why today and why Haswell?
The new Mac Mini started shipping yesterday. 15-watt Broadwell-U is expected to launch at CES in January with 28W parts anticipated a few months later, for the following quarter.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 7, 2014 - 02:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, nvidia, GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Externally-attached GPUs have been a topic for many years now. Numerous companies have tried, including AMD and Lucid, but no solution has ever been a widely known and available product. Even as interfaces increase in bandwidth and compatibility with internal buses, it has never been something that a laptop salesperson could suggest to users who want to dock into a high-performance station at home. At best, we are seeing it in weird "coin mining" racks to hang way more GPUs above a system than could physically mount on the motherboard.
Apparently that has not stopped the DIY community, according to chatter on Tech Inferno forums. While the above video does not really show the monitor, MacBook Pro, and GPU enclosure at the same time, let alone all wired together and on, it seems reasonable enough. The video claims to give the MacBook Pro (running Windows 8.1) access to a GeForce GTX 780 Ti with fairly high performance, despite the reduced bandwidth. Quite cool.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 07:07 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: thunderbolt, NAB 14, NAB, Elgato
Hmm, this is more Thunderbolt than I think we heard all year. Is there like, a video production event going on right now? No matter, because news is news (and so are product announcements). The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock connects to Thunderbolt, go figure, and provides three USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one HDMI 1.4 output, one 3.5mm headphone jack, and one 3.5mm microphone jack. It also has a second Thunderbolt port to daisy chain with other devices, which is a common trait in Thunderbolt devices. It will retail for $229.95.
Yup, it is a Thunderbolt accessory.
Why does it seem like every Mac user in commercials have a studio apartment???
It makes sense to see devices like this. Thunderbolt is really an extension of PCIe which allows anything that was once an add-in board to be connected externally, albeit with significantly reduced bandwidth compared to PCIe 3.0 16x. This looks very clean, tidy, and much more desirable than crawling under the desk and swapping wires and thumb drives in the darkness behind your PC.
I would like to see some benchmarks on this device, however. Clearly, the sum of these outputs should be higher than the bandwidth allowed by Thunderbolt (especially if daisy-chaining another Thunderbolt device). I wonder how efficient it will be at keeping high quality signals when several devices are connected and running simultaneously.
The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock is available now for computers with a Thunderbolt port and either Mac OSX 10.9 or Windows 8.1. I guess us Windows 7 fans need to get used to the dust bunnies behind our PCs for a little longer...
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 03:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: NAB, NAB 14, Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt
Video professionals are still interested in Thunderbolt in probably much the same way as Firewire needed to be pried from their cold, dead hands. It is a very high bandwidth connector, useful for sending and receiving 4K video. Also, it was originally exclusive to Apple so you can guess which industries were first-adopters. Intel has focused their Thunderbolt announcements on the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. This year, Thunderbolt Networking will be available for Windows via a driver. This will allow any combination of Macs and Windows PCs to be paired together by a 10 Gigabit network.
Of course, this is not going to be something that you can plug into a router. This is a point-to-point network for sharing files between two devices... really fast. Perhaps one use case would be a workstation with a Mac and a Windows PC on a KVM switch. If both are connected with Thunderbolt 2, they could share the same storage pool.
While this feature already exists on Apple devices, the PC driver will be available... "soon".
Subject: Storage | February 20, 2014 - 02:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: LaCie, external drive, 5TB, thunderbolt
That didn't take very long, Toshiba just announced their 5TB drive and now LaCie has announced an external drive with 5TB of storage. You will need Thunderbolt to properly interface with it, perhaps a good thing for users since transferring 5TB over USB 2.0 is not the most enjoyable experience. This also means you can pick up the 5 bay model called 5big and have 25TB of external storage available for you.
CUPERTINO, CA – Today, LaCie announced the availability of 5TB, 7200 rpm hard–drive capacities in its 5big Thunderbolt Series, 2big Thunderbolt Series and d2 Thunderbolt Series. Delivering external storage products that range from 5TB single drive systems to 25TB RAID solutions boosts storage capacity by 20 percent. This increase showcases the company's commitment to provide the fastest, highest capacity storage solutions on the market.
Increasingly larger file formats for film and photography have driven the demand for more storage capacity. The availability of 5TB hard drives enables LaCie to deliver significantly more storage capacity in its same compact desktop designs. This saves professionals valuable desktop space.
LaCie's 5big Thunderbolt now features a capacity of up to 25TB, which makes it the largest 5–bay storage solution on the market. Combined with industry–leading speeds up to 785 MB/s*, it is the ideal product for video professionals to pair with a Thunderbolt–enabled computer, like the new Mac Pro, to drive 4K workflows. Photography professionals will appreciate the larger capacities of the d2 Thunderbolt and 2big Thunderbolt, with the same fast transfer speeds and responsive photo browsing that they depend on from these products.
The new capacities are also available on the LaCie 2big Quadra and d2 Quadra storage solutions. All products can be purchased at the LaCie Online Store and LaCie Resellers.
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | August 18, 2013 - 12:22 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: thunderboltex, thunderbolt
Thunderbolt has not exactly caught on for mainstream devices. Outside of media production, USB has a strong brand and carries less of a premium than Thunderbolt. Motherboard vendors and system builders can also more easily implement USB 3.0. Intel, according to VR-Zone, addresses this problem with a reference PCI Express x4 add-in card to be produced and marketed by select Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) partners.
The select partners are, according to current plans, ODMs with existing Thunderbolt motherboard designs.
ASUS TB_Header Add-in Card, about 19 months ago
Thunderbolt is, basically, the marriage between PCIe and DisplayPort as an external interface. Motherboards can either ship with Thunderbolt ports or a header for non-existent add-in cards. These TB_Headers, on ASUS motherboards, are General Purpose I/O (GPIO) connections used for a fairly unclear task. Officially, they help facilitate a DisplayPort connection to the integrated GPU although they are required even if using DisplayPort pass-through. The card has been stuck in certification woes.
In the Intel's reference design plans, both a GPIO header and internal DisplayPort connection are required on motherboards wishing to support this add-in card. This ends the hope of current system owners wishing to upgrade most existing rigs.
This initiative more seems like an attempt to defer most of the cost of Thunderbolt implementation to a down-the-line upgrade option. I do feel bad for ASUS. They appear to have the problem solved over a year ago with a solution very similar to the one Intel is working on now. If certification were not an issue, they could have very well been first to market. Now it appears they will be in the first wave.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 5, 2013 - 08:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex, thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2, Light Peak
We received Thunderbolt, on the PC at least, a year ago. While not yet ubiquitous, we will be receiving an update to the interface sooner than you would expect. The main advantages of Thunderbolt is the ridiculous bandwidth and ability to daisy-chain with displays. Thunderbolt 2 looks to advance both of those features.
Thunderbolt is based around a PCI Express signal for data and DisplayPort for video, both combined down a single cable. The cable, in fact, is compatible with Mini DisplayPort adapters and devices if used exclusively for video. The upgrade to Thunderbolt 2 advances the video standard to DisplayPort 1.2; as a result, Thunderbolt 2 devices will be capable of driving a 4K monitor (supposedly with sound) without requiring multiple cables to be connected.
In terms of strict bandwidth, Thunderbolt 2 will provide double the data rate of the original Thunderbolt. Instead of 10Gbps, new devices will be able to transfer at 20Gbps. This is especially useful for video content creators looking to manage, in real time, 4K or 120Hz data transferring between cameras and video gear. Struggling with large video capture bandwidth is something we know about...
As expected, there is not really any talk about specific prices yet (I would expect that depends on implementation) but you should look forward to it landing either really late this year or early next year. As for the original Thunderbolt? Well, the new standard is backwards compatible but there is concern whether new devices would be fairly crippled without the new standard.