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Best Thunderbolt professional hardware (February 2013 edition)

While USB is good enough for the regular user, high-end power users will benefit greatly from the performance and flexibility offered by the Thunderbolt. Here are eight of the best Thunderbolt devices available.
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1 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Introduction

While USB 2.0 or 3.0 is good enough for the regular user, high-end power users will benefit greatly from the performance and flexibility offered by the Thunderbolt interface technology. Developed by Intel with technical input from Apple, the interface combines PCI Express and DisplayPort into one serial signal stream, and even throws DC power into the same cable for added convienience.

Thunderbolt offers a whopping 10 Gbit/s per device bitrate--up to  total of 20 Gbit/s--and allows for up to six devices to be daisy-chained together.

The biggest user of Thunderbolt is Apple, having added the port to many iMacs and MacBook Pro computers.

Let's take a look at a selection of Thunderbolt compatible hardware aimed at professionals.

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2 of 9 Promise

Promise Pegasus R6 18TB

The Promise Pegasus R6 is the first six-bay high-performance hardware RAID box designed to leverage Thunderbolt. It comes equipped with six 3TB 7200-rpm hard drives offering a total of 18TB of storage when configured for RAID 5. RAID 0, 1, 6, 10, 50, and 60 also supported.

The performance of this device has to be experienced to be believed, and it allows you to move a massive amount of data quickly and easily.

Price: $2,999.

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3 of 9 Blackmagic

Blackmagic UltraStudio 3D

The Blackmagic UltraStudio 3D is the world's first video product to feature Thunderbolt technology for smooth capture and playback of SDI, HDMI, and analog video.

Thanks to Thunderbolt's amazing bitrate, the UltraStudio 3D has the power to support full-resolution real-time dual-stream 3D capture and playback with no compression.

Whether you're filming a television show, a live event, or the next Hollywood blockbuster, the performance offered by UltraStudio 3D will allow you to effortlessly handle the masses of data involved.

Price: $995.

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4 of 9 Apple

Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt display

One of the nicest displays on the market is Apple's 27-inch Thunderbolt display. But this is so much more than just a display. Not only does it feature a high-resolution 2560-by-1440 LED-backlit display, it also incorporates a FaceTime HD camera, high-quality audio, three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a spare Thunderbolt port for daisy-chaining additional devices.

All this is driven over the single Thunderbolt cable to your Mac.

There's also a MagSafe connector for keeping your MacBook charged up.

Price: $999.

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5 of 9 Promise

Promise Pegasus J2 256GB SSD Thunderbolt Storage Solution

Want a Thunderbolt-based storage solution that is portable enough to carry around with you? Take a look at Promise Pegasus J2 256GB SSD Thunderbolt Storage Solution.

The 256GB model packs two 128GB solid state drives into an ultraportable packable not much bigger than an iPhone. This offers blazing fast storage that you can carry with you.

The drive can either be powered via the Thunderbolt port or via a separate AC adapter. When drawing power from the Thunderbolt port, it can hit speeds of 110 MB/s for writes and 270 MB/s for reads. Hook it up to an external power source and this increases to 550 MB/s for writes, and an incredible 750 MB/s for reads.

Price: $499.

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6 of 9 Promise

Promise SANLink Thunderbolt to 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel adapter

Connecting a Thunderbolt-enabled desktop or notebook to a high-speed Fibre Channel has never been easier. The Promise SANLink Thunderbolt to 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel adapter works out of the box with absolutely no software required.

The SANLink has two 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports offering up to 800MB/s of bandwidth. It also features two Thunderbolt ports connecting to more Thunderbolt enabled devices.

Price: $799.

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7 of 9 Buffalo

Buffalo 1TB MiniStation Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 portable hard drive

Want a portable storage solution that won't need a second mortgage? Check out the Buffalo 1TB MiniStation Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 portable hard drive.

Given that this contains a 5,400-rpm hard drive, this portable drive is nowhere near as fast as the SSD or RAID storage solutions listed, but the Thunderbolt port not only means that you'll be able to push the drive to the max, it also supplies power to the device, eliminating the need for an external power source.

Price: $250.

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8 of 9 Apple

Apple Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter

Thunderbolt hardware doesn't have to cost the earth.

In an effort to make its notebooks as thin as possible, Apple has done away with the gigabit Ethernet port on its MacBooks. While Wi-Fi is more that adequate for most people, sometimes you'll need the speed offered by Ethernet if you plan on moving big files.

This is where Apple's Thunderbolt to gigabit Ethernet adapter comes in handy. I can throw it into a notebook bag and it's there waiting for me when I need it.

Price: $29.

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9 of 9 Apple

Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter

Professional graphics designers, and those who work with photos and video seem to have a lot of legacy FireWire hardware. By using the Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter, the old hardware can be used with new Thunderbolt-equipped Macs.

Price: $29.

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