Category Archives: Thunderbolt

Review: Sonnet Fusion PCIe 1TB and G-Drive Mobile Pro 500GB

By Brady Betzel

There are a lot of external Thunderbolt 3 SSD drives out in the wild these days, and they aren’t cheap. However, with a high price comes blazingly fast speeds. I was asked to review two very similar Thunderbolt 3 external SSD drives, so why not pit them against each other? Surprisingly (at least surprising to me), there are a couple of questions that you will want the answers to: Is there thermal throttling that will lower the read/write speeds when transferring large files for a sustained amount of time? Does it run so hot that it may burn you when touched?

I’ll answer these questions and a few others over the next few paragraphs, but in the end would I recommend buying a Thunderbolt 3 SSD? Yes, they are very, very fast. Especially when working with higher resolution multimedia files in apps like Premiere, Resolve, Pro Tools and many other data-intensive applications.

Sonnet Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive
Up first (only because I received it first) is the Sonnet Fusion external SSD. I was sent the drive in a non-retail box, so I can’t attest to how it will arrive when you buy it in a retail setting, but the drive itself feels great. Like many other Sonnet products, the Fusion drive is hefty — and not in an overweight way. It feels like you are getting your money’s worth. Unlike the rubberized exterior of the popular LaCie Rugged drives, the Sonnet Fusion is essentially an aluminum heat sink wrapped around a powerful 1TB, Gen 3 M.2 PCIe, Toshiba RVD400-M22280 solid state drive. It’s sturdy and feels like you could drop it without receiving more damage than a little dent.

Attached to the drive is Sonnet’s “captive” Thunderbolt 3 cable, which I assume means the cable is attached to the external drive casing but can be removed without disassembling the case. I think more cable integrations should be called captive, it’s a great description. Anyway… the Thunderbolt 3 cable can be replaced/removed by removing the small four screws underneath the Fusion. It’s attached to a female Thunderbolt 3 port inside of the casing. I really wish Sonnet had integrated the wrapping of the cable around the drive, much like the LaCie Rugged drives in addition to the “captive” attachment. This would really help with transporting the drive and not worrying about the cable. It’s only a small annoyance, but since I’ve been spoiled by nice cable attachment I kind of expect it, especially with drives with a price tag like this. The Sonnet Fusion retails for $899 through stores like B&H, although I found it on Amazon.com for $799. Not cheap for an external drive, but in my opinion it is worth it.

The Sonnet Fusion is fast, like really fast, as in the fastest external drive I have tested. Sonnet claims a read speed of up to 2600MB/s and a write speed of up to 1600MB/s. The only caveat is that you must make sure your computer’s Thunderbolt 3 port is running x4 PCIe Gen 3 (four PCIe lanes) as opposed to x2 PCIe Gen 3 (only two PCIe lanes). If this is the case, your speed will be limited to around 1400MB/s as opposed to the proposed 1600MB/s write speed. You can find out more tech specs on Sonnet’s site. In addition you can find out if your computer has the PCIe lanes to run the Fusion at full speed here.

When testing the Sonnet Fusion I was lucky enough to have a few systems at my disposal: a 2018 iMac Pro, a 2018 Intel i9 MacBook Pro and an Intel i9 Puget Systems Genesis I with Thunderbolt 3 ports. All the systems provided similar results, which was nice to see. Using the AJA System Test, I adjusted the settings to 3840×2160, 4GB and ProRes 4444. I used one reading for an example image for this review, but they were generally the same every time I ran the test. I was getting around 1372MB/s write speed and 2200MB/s read speed. When transferring files on the Finder level I was consistently getting about 1GB/s write speeds, but it’s possible I was being limited by the write speed from the internal SSD! Incredible. For real-world numbers, I was able to transfer about 750GBs in under five minutes. Again, incredible speeds.

The key to the Sonnet Fusion SSD and what makes it a step above the competition is its enclosure acting as a heat sink in its 2.8×4.1×1.25-inch form factor. While this means there are no fans to increase the volume, it does mean that the drive can get extremely hot to touch, which can be an issue if you need to pack it up and go, or if you put it in your pocket (be careful!). This also means that with great heat dissipation comes less thermal throttling, which can slow down transfer speeds when using the drive over longer periods of time. This can be a real problem in some drives. Also keep in mind that this drive is bus powered and Sonnet’s instruction manual specifically states that it will not work with a Thunderbolt 2 adapter. The Sonnet Fusion comes with a one-year warranty that you can read about at this link.

G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD 500GB
Like the Sonnet Fusion, the G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD is a Thunderbolt 3 connected external hard drive that touts very high sustained transfer speeds of up to 2800MB/s (read speed). The G-Drive is physically lighter than the Sonnet, and is cheaper coming in at about 79 cents per GB or 68 cents if you purchase the 1TB version of the G-Drive — as compared to the Sonnet Fusion’s 88 cents per GB. So is this a “get what you pay for” scenario? I think so. The 500GB version costs $399.95 while the 1TB version retails for $699.95. A full $100 cheaper than the Sonnet Fusion.

The G-Drive Mobile Pro has a slender profile that matches what you think an external hard drive would look like. It measures 4.41x 3.15x.67 inches and weighs just .45 lbs. The exterior is attractive — the drive is surrounded by a blackish/dark grey rubberized plastic with silver plastic end caps. There are slits in the top and bottom of the case to dissipate heat, or maybe just to show off the internal electric blue aluminum heatsink. The Thunderbolt 3 connection is on the rear of the housing for easy connection with a status LED on the front. The cord is not attached to the drive, so there is a large chance of being misplaced. Again, I really wish manufacturers would think about cable storage and placement on these drives — LaCie Rugged drives have this nailed, and I hope others follow suite.

Included with the G-Drive Mobile Pro is .5 meter Thunderbolt 3 cable. It comes with a five-year limited warranty described on the included pamphlet that just may feature the tiniest font possible. The warranty ensures that the product is free from defects in materials and workmanship, with some exclusions including non-commercial use. In addition, the retail box shows off a couple of key specifics including “durable, shock resistant SSD” while the G-Technology website boasts of three-meter drop protection (on a carpeted concrete floor), as well as 1,000-pound crush-proof rating. Not sure if this is covered by the warranty or not, but since there really aren’t moving parts in an SSD, I don’t see why this wouldn’t hold up. An additional proclamation is that you can edit multi-stream 8K footage at full frame rate. This may technically be true in a read-only state but you would need a super-computer with multiple high-end GPUs to actually work with this size media. So take that with a grain of salt — not just on this drive but with any.

So on to the actual nuts and bolts of the G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD. The drive looks good on the outside and is immediately recognized by any Mac OS with direct Thunderbolt 3 connection (like all bus-powered drives). If you are using Windows you will have to format the drive before you can use it. G-Technology has an app to make that easy.

When doing real-world file transfers I was getting around the 1GB/s transfer speed consistently. So, theG-Drive Mobile Pro SSD is blazing fast. I was transferring 200GB of files in under two minutes.

Summing Up
In the end, if you haven’t seen the speed difference coming from a USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 2 drive, you must try Thunderbolt 3. If you have Thunderbolt 3 ports and are using old Thunderbolt 2 drives, now is the time to upgrade. Not only can you use either of these drives like an internal drive, but if you are a Resolve colorist or a Premiere editor you can use these as your render cache or render drive. Not only will this speed up your coloring and editing, but you may even start to notice less errors and crashes since the pipes are open.

Personally, I love the Sonnet Fusion drive and the G-Drive Mobile Pro. If price is your main focus then obviously the G-Drive Mobile Pro is where you need to look. However, if a high-end look with some heft is your main interest, I think the Sonnet Fusion is an art piece you can have on your desktop.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

AJA and Avid intro Avid Artist | DNxIP hardware interface

AJA has collaborated with Avid to develop Avid Artist | DNxIP, a new hardware interface option for Avid Media Composer users that supports high frame rate, deep color and HDR IP workflows. It is a Thunderbolt 3-equipped I/O device that enables the transfer of SMPTE standard HD video over 10 GigE IP networks, with high-quality local monitoring over 3G-SDI and HDMI 2.0.

Based on the new AJA Io IP, Avid Artist | DNxIP is custom engineered to Avid’s specifications and includes an XLR audio input on the front of the device for microphone or line-level sources. Avid Artist | DNxIP uses Thunderbolt 3 to enable simple, fast HD/SD video and audio ingest/output from/to IP networks. It features dual Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy chaining and two SFP+ cages for video and audio routing over 10 GigE IP networks. The portable, aluminum encased device also supports SMPTE 2022-6 uncompressed video, audio and VANC data over IP, as well as SMPTE 2022-7 for redundancy protection.

“The increased agility and efficiency of IP workflows is a must-have for content creators and broadcasters in today’s competitive climate,” says Alan Hoff, VP of market solutions for Avid. “We’ve collaborated with AJA on the newest addition to our Avid Artist product line, Avid Artist DNxIP, which offers broadcasters and post production facilities a portable, yet powerful, video interface for IP workflows.”

Avid Artist | DNxIP feature highlights include:
– Laptop or desktop HD/SD capture and playback over IP across Thunderbolt 3
– Audio input for analog microphone to record single-channel 16-bit D/A analog audio, 48 kHz sample rate, balanced, using industry standard XLR
– Backwards compatibility with existing Thunderbolt hosts
– SMPTE 2022-6 and 2022-7 I/O
– Dual 10 GigE connectivity via two SFP+ cages compatible with 10 GigE SFP transceiver modules from leading third-party providers
– Two Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy chaining of up to six Thunderbolt devices
– 3G-SDI and HDMI 2.0 video monitoring
– Audio I/O: 16-channel embedded SDI; 8-channel embedded HDMI; 4-channel analog audio In and 4-channel audio out via XLR breakout
– Small, rugged design suited for a variety o production environments
– Downstream keyer
– Standard 12v 4-pin XLR for AC or battery power

DG 7.9, 8.27, 9.26

Sonnet intros Thunderbolt 3 to Dual DisplayPort adapter for Mac, PC

Sonnet has introduced the Thunderbolt 3 to Dual DisplayPort adapter, a compact, bus-powered device that allows users to connect up to two 4K ultra-high-definition (UHD) DisplayPort monitors, or one 5K DisplayPort monitor to a single Thunderbolt 3 port on their computers.

This allows desktop users to work with multiple monitors without having to connect to multiple ports on their computer. For many users of thin and light notebook computers wanting to connect two large UHD monitors, an adapter to connect them is required.

Users can plug in the Sonnet adapter to their computers, connect the monitors with standard DisplayPort cables (sold separately) and then configure the displays through the operating system.

Although the Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 to Dual DisplayPort adapter supports up to two 4K DisplayPort monitors at 60Hz or one 5K DisplayPort monitor at 60Hz, it also supports monitors with lower resolutions, such as full HD 1080p (1920×1080) and 1920×1200, making it well-suited for different home and office workspace applications. Plus, with the Sonnet adapter’s built-in audio support users don’t need to connect additional cables to hear sound from the monitors.

The Sonnet adapter is also compatible with “active” DisplayPort-to-HDMI, DisplayPort-to-DVI, and DisplayPort-to-VGA adapters, enabling the connection of a wider variety of monitors.

The Dual DisplayPort adapter is available now and costs $89.


Doing more with Thunderbolt 3

Streamlined speed on set or in the studio

By Beth Marchant

It was only six years ago that Thunderbolt, the high-speed data transfer and display port standard co-developed by Apple and Intel, first appeared in Apple’s MacBook Pros and iMacs. Since then, the blended PCI Express, DisplayPort and power plug cable has jolted its way toward ubiquity, giving computers and peripherals increased speed and functionality with every iteration.

Content creators were the first to discover its potential, and gamers quickly followed. Intel, which now owns the sole rights to the spec, announced in late May it would put Thunderbolt 3 into all of its future CPUs and release the spec to the industry in 2018. In a related blog post, Intel VP Chris Walker called Thunderbolt 3 “one of the most significant cable I/O updates since the advent of USB.” The company envisions not just a faster port, but “a simpler and more versatile port, available for everyone, coming to approximately 150 different PCs, Macs and peripherals by the end of this year,” said Walker.

So what can it do for you on set or in the studio? First, some thumbnail facts about what it does: with double the video bandwidth of Thunderbolt 2 and eight times faster than USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3 clocks 40Gbps transfer speeds, twice as fast as the previous version. T3 also includes USB-C connectivity, which finally makes it usable with Windows-based workstations as well as with Macs. On top of those gains, a T3 port now lets you daisy-chain up to six devices and two 4K monitors — or one 5K monitor — to a laptop through a single connection. According to Intel’s Walker, “We envision a future where high-performance single-cable docks, stunning photos and 4K video, lifelike VR, and faster-than-ever storage are commonplace.” That’s an important piece of the puzzle for filmmakers who want their VR projects and 4K+ content to reach the widest possible audience.

The specification for Thunderbolt 3, first released in 2015, gave rise to a smattering of products in 2016, most importantly the MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3. At NAB this year, many more flexible RAID storage and improved T3 devices that connect directly to Mac and Windows computers joined their ranks. In June, Apple released iMacs with TB3.

For directors Jason and Josh Diamond, a.k.a. The Diamond Brothers, upgrading to new TB3-enabled laptops is their first priority. “When we look at the data we’re pushing around, be it 24 cameras from a VR shoot, or many TBs of 8K R3Ds from a Red Helium multicam shoot, one of the most important things in the end is data transfer speed. As we move into new computers, drives and peripherals, USB-C and TB3 finally have ubiquity across our Mac and PC systems that we either own or are looking to upgrade to. This makes for much easier integrations and less headaches as we design workflows and pathways for our projects,” says Jason Diamond, The Diamond Bros./Supersphere.

If you are also ready to upgrade, here are a sampling of recently released products that can add Thunderbolt 3 performance to your workflow.

CalDigit docking station

Clean Up the Clutter
CalDigit was one of the first to adopt the Thunderbolt interface when it came out in 2011, so it’s no surprise that the first shipment of the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 (TS3) docking station introduced at NAB 2017 sold out quickly. The preorders taken at the show are expected to ship soon. TS3 is designed to be a streamlined, central charging hub for MacBook Pro, delivering 85W of laptop charging via USB 3.1 Type-A (plus audio in and out), along with two Thunderbolt ports, two eSATA ports, two USB 3.1 Type A ports, Gigabit Ethernet and a DisplayPort. DisplayPort lets users connect to a range of monitors with a DisplayPort to HDMI, DVI or VGA cable.

CalDigit also introduced the TS3 Lite, shipping now, which will work with any Thunderbolt 3 computer from PCs to iMacs or MacBook Pros and features two Thunderbolt 3 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, audio in and out, an AC power adapter and DisplayPort. It includes two USB 3.1 Type-A ports — one on the back and one on its face — that let you charge your iPhone even when the dock isn’t connected to your computer.

The Need for Speed
Like the other new T3 products on the market, LaCie‘s 6big and 12big Thunderbolt 3 RAID arrays feature both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 interfaces for Mac- or Windows-based connections.

LaCie 12Big

But as their names imply, the relatively compact “big” line ramps up to 120TB in the 12big desktop tower. The hardware RAID controller and 7200RPM drives inside the12big will give you speeds of up to 2600MB/s, and even 2400MB/s in RAID 5. This will significantly ramp up how quickly you ingest footage or move through an edit or grade in the course of your day (or late night!). Thanks to Thunderbolt 3, multiple streams of ProRes 422 (HQ), ProRes 4444 XQ and uncompressed HD 10-bit and 12-bit video are now much easier to handle at once. Preview render rates also get a welcome boost.

The new Pegasus3 R4, R6 and R8 RAIDs from Promise debuted at Apple’s WWDC 2017 in early June and were designed to integrate seamlessly with Apple’s latest Thunderbolt 3-enabled offerings, which will include the upcoming iMac Pro coming in December. They will deliver 16TB to 80TB of desktop storage and can also sync with the company’s Apollo Cloud personal storage device, which lets you share small clips or low-res review files with a group via mobile devices while in transit. When used with Promise’s SANLink Series, the new Pegasus3 models can also be shared over a LAN.

Lighten the Load on Set
If you regularly work with large media files on set, more than one G-Technology G-Drive ev series drives are likely on your cart. The latest version of the series so popular with DITs has a Thunderbolt 3-enabled drive for improved transfer speeds and an HDMI input so you can daisy-chain the drive and a monitor through a single connection on a laptop. Users of G-Tech ev series drives who need even more robust Thunderbolt 3 RAID on location — say to support multistream 8K and VR — now have another option: the 8-bay G|Speed Shuttle XL with ev Series Bay Adapters that G-Tech introduced at NAB. Shipping this month, it comes in RAID-0, -1, -5, -6 and -10 configurations, includes two T3 ports and ranges in price from $3,999.95 (24TB) to $6,599.95 (60TB).

Sonnet Cfast 2.0 Pro card reader

Transfer Faster on Location
One of the first card readers with a Thunderbolt interface is the SF3 Series — Cfast 2.0 Pro launched in May by Sonnet Technologies. Dual card slots let the reader ingest files simultaneously from Canon, Arri and Blackmagic cameras at concurrent data transfer speeds up to 1,000 MB/s, twice as fast as you can from a USB 3.0 reader. The lightweight, extruded aluminum shell is made to handle as much abuse as you can throw at it.

Stereoscopic-Ready
The Thunderbolt 3 version of Blackmagic’s UltraStudio 4K Extreme resolved two critical obstacles when it began shipping last year: it was finally fast enough to support RGB and stereoscopic footage while working in 4K and it could

Blackmagic UltraStudio 4K Extreme

be connected directly to color correction systems like DaVinci Resolve via its new Thunderbolt 3 port. The 40 Gbps transfer speeds are “fast enough for the most extreme, high bit-depth uncompressed RGB 4K and stereoscopic formats,” says Blackmagic’s Grant Petty.

Blackmagic introduced the UltraStudio HD Mini with Thunderbolt 3 at NAB this year. It adds 3G-SDI and HDMI along with analog connections for 10-bit recording up to 1080p60 and 2K DCI, likely making it the first of its kind. It’s aimed at the live broadcast graphics editing and archiving.

Connect Back to PCI-E and Be Eco-Friendly
OWC makes little black boxes that do two very important things: retrieve your PCI-Express card options, while also helping the planet. The zero emissions Mac and PC technology company began shipping the updated OWC Mercury Helios with Thunderbolt 3 expansion chassis in May. The box includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a PCI-E post, and a Mini DisplayPort, which lets you connect to high-bandwidth NIC cards, HBAs and RAID controllers and add video capture and processing cards and audio production PCIe cards. An energy saver mode also powers it on and off with your computer.


JMR shipping RAID desktop and rackmount workstations for Mac mini

JMR, which produces scalable storage solutions for M&E, has made available its latest Thunderbolt 2-certified desktop and rackmount workstation for the Apple Mac mini.

The JMR Lightning model LTNG-XD-8-MMDT is a new desktop/DI cart workstation. The Mac mini installs via a slide-in sled from the rear, and the Lightning desktop provides front-panel USB 3.0, audio I-O and media card reader, while the rear panel provides all other Mac connections.

An internal Thunderbolt 2 controller and two-slot PCIe (x8 full-height slots) expander with an internal 6Gb SAS RAID controller are standard, as well as eight 3.5-inch hot-swappable disk drive bays providing up to 64TB of native disk storage capacity (RAID-0/1/4/5/6/40/50/60).

The desktop/cart unit will have an optional 9-inch LCD flip-up monitor (available in late November), which connects to the Mac mini and may be added or removed in the field without tools — this makes it well suited for ingest and dailies.

The Lightning desktop is portable and quiet, cooled by a low-speed centrifugal blower in a removable module. The unit also has a ventilated and hinged front door, with a Kensington lock slot to prevent accidental disk drive removal or theft.

Measuring 7” H x 11” W x 16” D, the new Lightning desktop for Mac mini starts at $3,999, including the internal ExpressSAS RAID controller.

The JMR Lightning model LTNG-XD-8-MM2U is a new 2U rackmount workstation suited for DI carts or machine room operations. The Mac mini installs after removing the slide-off top cover, and the Lightning rackmount provides front-panel I/O connections for USB 3.0, audio, GigE and HDMI, as well as a media card reader, while the rear panel provides all other Mac mini connections.

The Mac mini’s on/off power switch is remotely operated from the front panel. An internal Thunderbolt controller and two-slot PCIe (x8 full-height slots) expander with an internal 6Gb SAS RAID controller are standard, as well as eight 2.5-inch hot-swappable disk drive bays to provide up to 32TB of native SSD disk storage capacity (RAID 0/1/4/5/6/10/40/50/60).

Five internal cooling fans keep everything cool, with very low noise levels; at only 19-inches deep it fits any mobile or stationary rack providing 20-inch mounting depth. Pricing starts at $3,299, including an internal ExpressSAS RAID controller.

Both products are fully Thunderbolt Certified after exhaustive testing by the Intel-Apple Thunderbolt engineering group.


ATTO ships ThunderLink for 40GigE connectivity to Thunderbolt 3  

ATTO Technology has the introduced ThunderLink 3401 ( $1,595) and 3402 ($1,995) devices, which allow 40GigE connectivity from new Thunderbolt 3 enabled platforms to networks and storage while also providing backwards compatibility to Thunderbolt 2 devices and 10GigE infrastructures.

With single- and dual-output options and speeds that double that of Thunderbolt 2, the new ThunderLink devices provide enough bandwidth for 4K video workflows via a single cable. ATTO’s Thunderbolt 3 devices allow for higher performance and large bandwidth-intensive transfers via all major Ethernet protocols.

ATTO’s ThunderLink features proprietary Advanced Data Streaming (ADS) technology for smooth data transfers, eliminating dropped frames and providing consistent time-to-data for high-performance applications or mobile workstation users.