Went to an Apple Retail Store, and bought the cable that I have waited a very long time for.
After over a year with a Thunderbolt-enabled MacBook Air, and the only FireWire options being 1) Target Disk Mode to another Mac or 2) A $999 Thunderbolt
Hub Display… Apple finally started stocking the cable.
Considering the Thunderbolt to SATA adapters are $99 (and up), and massive in size, FireWire 800 hard disks are still a good option for MacBook Air owners on the go, especially those who don’t have USB 3.0 (which is everyone except the newest of Mac buyers). Plus, many are reporting USB 3.0 issues with hard drives, something that is probably a mix of firmware and early-gen USB 3.0 chipsets showing their early adopter issues.
I’ll take FireWire 800 for $29 over all that any day. An Ivy Bridge MacBook Air is only 10-15% more powerful, and it would cost a few hundred to upgrade.
The cable wasn’t easy to find. I went to the Apple Store’s Mac accessory section, and found the Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt adapter quickly. No luck on the FireWire adapter. The store was packed, and it took flagging down multiple people to get some help.
The cable, of course, wasn’t on the store floor. Apple doesn’t seem to have a lot of pride in selling this thing. First thing I noticed when I got the cable, was that the adapter doesn’t have the FireWire logo on it. Only the Thunderbolt logo. Considering Apple created FireWire, I expected to at least see the FireWire logo on the FireWire end of the cable.
I’ll have benchmarks and more later this week, busy right now so I can’t do it immediately. Also, my Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex FW800 adapter cable was one of the early revisions, which overheats. Seagate is sending me a replacement at no charge, but if your FW800 GoFlex adapter cable is hot to the touch, make sure you get yours swapped out before the warranty expires too.
But in testing thus far, it works, acts, and flies just like a built-in FireWire 800 port. The only difference that I can find, is that Target Disk Mode will not work over the FireWire 800 end of things. You can, however, connect to a Mac with built-in FireWire that is running in Target Disk Mode.
Also, it works with the Mac mini. That means you can now have two FireWire 800 ports on the mini. That opens the potential for some potent, cheap RAID-0 options, with one drive on each FireWire port, deployed on a software RAID-0. 6 TB of FireWire storage fun.
The biggest (and only real, major) downside to this cable, is the lack of a Thunderbolt relay port. I’m starting to see this problem pop up on a lot of mobile gear. It’s great that the Retina MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt ports… but it’s the only Mac that does. What if I want to backup my Thunderbolt Seagate portable hard drive to a 3 TB FireWire 800 hard drive? Can’t do it on my MacBook Air, my only option is to downgrade the backup drive to USB 2.0.
Why? Neither the Seagate Thunderbolt portable adapter, nor Apple’s FireWire adapter, have a passthrough port. Desktop gear, like Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, and Seagate’s Desktop (3.5-inch SATA) Thunderbolt adapter, do have the relay ports.
In all, I’m satisfied with the cable. I just wish it would have been available the same day my MacBook Air was when it shipped. I would have paid $99 back then, I thank Apple for not charging the highway robbery prices they could have, for the adapter today.
P.S. I don’t have any PC Thunderbolt gear to test with, so I don’t know if it will run on a PC with Thunderbolt. I suspect it boils down to what FireWire chipset Apple used, and if they used a custom one that would not enumerate with the default drivers. That said, if your PC has Thunderbolt, it probably has USB 3.0 to begin with.