Fast, External NVMe SSD Drive

Review by Erik Vlietinck

The OWC ThunderBlade external Thunderbolt 3 SSD drive has a data transfer speed of up to 2800 MB/s, and you can have it in capacities of up to 8 TB that you can expand further by daisy-chaining up to six devices. It has a sleek design with a nice, industrial look, and it comes in a custom-fit, ballistic hardshell case. 

On my low-end, 2017 iMac Retina 5K, 27″, the AJA’s disk test showed that the 4-TB unit had a transfer speed of a hefty 2350 MB/s, which is high enough to process the heaviest 400-megapixel images that a Hasselblad H6D Multi-Shot is capable of. As it’s not cheap, most users of this beast will probably be the ones who process large files on a high-end workstation like the iMac Pro or Mac Pro, but even my 2017 iMac benefited from the ThunderBlade’s crazy performance. And if you put two of these in RAID 0, you’ll potentially reach a transfer speed of up to 3800 MB/s. 

This aluminum unit, with the top designed as a heatsink and the front bezel as a huge LED, is home to four OWC Aura P12 1-TB NVMe SSDs set up (with SoftRAID) in a RAID 0 configuration. Copying files to-and-from the ThunderBlade is much faster than with any other external SSD I’ve tested so far. Reading 260 GB of folders and files—video, RAW images, and audio—and transferring them to an APFS NVMe SSD took less than 6 minutes. 

Transcoding a 4K Final Cut Pro X project with Gaussian blur masks to ProRes 4444 XQ with the project located on the ThunderBlade took 29 minutes. When the project was located on the internal Fusion disk, it took 41 minutes. Using the OWC ThunderBlade 4 TB, I saw similar results with projects from Aurora HDR, Avid Pro Tools, and Apple Logic Pro X—a great timesaver! ■