By Brady Betzel
LaCie is a familiar name to anyone who works with external hard drives…. drives that look a bit different than most. The company hires top-shelf architects and designers, such as Philippe Starck, Porsche Design Group and Neil Poulton, to help their product stand out.
That said, design is maybe 10-15% of what I’m looking for in a quality external drive. The rest is about portability, stability and speed. Can I drop it while running around a shoot or running between edit bays with all data staying intact? Can it interface with the fastest and most widely used connections? The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt SSD can.
For this review I focused on the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 512GB SSD external drive. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with SSD drives and how fast they are. Over 12 years ago I worked at Best Buy fixing computers, and all of them had spinning platters, so when I first booted up a computer with an SSD boot drive I fell in love. It was like my whole computing world had taken a giant step forward, more than a RAM, GPU or even a processor upgrade could accomplish.
The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 can be purchased with a 5400RPM, 64MB Cache, 2.5-inch hard drive in either 1TB or 2TB flavors. But let’s be real — who wants to be average? So for those of us who want to blaze trails, take a look at the 256GB or 512GB SSD, SATA 6Gb/s flavors.
A Closer Look
I tested the 512GB SSD model, which turned out to be a Samsung PM851 series 2.5-inch 512GB SSD after I unscrewed the case. I’ve been watching reviews of different SSDs and Samsung seem to have mostly positive reviews so it seems like this is a great choice by LaCie.
On the outside, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt drive is similar to past Rugged versions with its bright orange rubberized bumper and silver drive container. If you’ve never picked up a LaCie Rugged drive, it immediately gives you the feeling that this is a drive that will last. For some reason (credit to Neil Poulton on its design), these seem to be my favorite when looking for drives that I can hand off to other people easily and without worry. Some drives feel fragile, but the LaCie drives feel like they can withstand some rough handling.
From my past experience as an assistant editor, these drives can be thrown around (a little) without worry. Technically, they can withstand a two-meter drop when not powered on. I can tell you I’ve dropped a few while being connected and they worked just fine afterwards, but obviously that’s not recommended.
You will find the connections on one end of the drive. The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 comes with a built-in Thunderbolt (Thunderbolt “V1″ for those interested) cable and a detachable USB 3.0 cable. The Thunderbolt cable is neatly attached to the drive and wraps around the outside inconspicuously — basically it’s hidden and always attached — and it even folds away nicely on one of the ends. One thing I don’t care for is that the rubber piece that covers the Thunderbolt cable is detachable and could potentially be lost. The USB 3.0 cable must be attached when you need it and will not fold away neatly like the Thunderbolt cable, so if you use USB 3.0 more often you will have to carry around the cable separately.
I tested the LaCie Rugged with some superficial speed tests using the AJA System Test as well as Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test and here are the results:
When using the Thunderbolt connection I was averaging a Write Speed between 330-335MB/s, which is real fast for an external drive. Read speeds averaged between 360-370MB/s, which is a little under the 387MB/s that LaCie touts on their website, but still a win in my book.
When using the USB 3.0 connection, to my surprise, I was getting almost too fast of results. The Read speed was averaging 415MB/s. It could have been an error but I was consistently getting this speed. The Write speed was all over the place too, I was getting speeds around 180MB/s and 220MB/s. Phenomenal read speeds for an external drive if they stay that high.
As a little bit of a side note, I was running this drive purely inside of a Windows environment with Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. You must install the Thunderbolt drivers onto your computer before you plug in the drive for it to install properly. You can plug the drive in via USB 3.0 first and find the set-up there or download it from www.lacie.com.
Personally, I find that 512GB isn’t a lot of space these days. A workflow I recommend is purchasing a traditional external drive to put your dailies or full library of backup media on and do mission critical work directly from the SSD drive, if you can. Always remember to back up! It takes a little practice at remembering to backup your projects and media daily to other external drives, but the more you do it the more it becomes second nature and one day you will thank me.
LaCie’s warranty isn’t shabby either. You get a three-year limited warranty on the hardware. In short, if the manufacturing or the hardware fail they will repair, replace or give you current market value for your product (hopefully they will replace, because drive prices can drop rapidly). If you do need to use the warranty, don’t forget to back up ALL because they will most likely erase or replace and will not be responsible for the loss of data.
I love the LaCie Rugged line of drives, especially when packed with a Samsung SSD drive running SATA 6Gb/s and connected via Thunderbolt. The design by Neil Poulton is simple yet effective for production and most post scenarios where drives get dropped sometimes (or maybe even thrown, but don’t tell LaCie or your boss!).
When working straight from this drive in Adobe After Effects and Adobe Creative Cloud 2014, I was flying. There were no lags and no errors. I was even working on some over-cranked 4K R3Ds in After Effects without a hiccup. If you have the extra money to spend, buy the SSD-based LaCie Rugged with Thunderbolt. If you haven’t worked with an SSD and/or Thunderbolt external drive, the speed will blow your mind.
I leave you with these highlights: a proven rugged exterior that can withstand typical production abuse; Windows- and Mac-compatible via USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connection; and ultraportable — it weighs less than 10 ounces!
Brady Betzel is an editor at Bunim Murray Productions, a reality television production company. He is one of the editors on Bad Girls Club. His typical tools at work are Avid Symphony, Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Photoshop CC. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.