By Brady Betzel
With the flood of internal and external hard drives hitting the market at relatively low prices, it is sometimes hard to wade through the swamp and find the drive that is right for your workflow. In terms of external drives, do you need a RAID? USB-C? Is Thunderbolt 3 the same as USB-C? Should I save money and go with a spinning drive? Are spinning drives even cheaper than SSD drives these days? All of these questions are valid and, hopefully, I will answer them.
For this review, I’m taking a look at the LaCie Mobile SSD which comes in three versions: 500GB, 1TB and 2TB, costing around $129.95, $219.95 and $399.95, respectively. According to LaCie’s website the mobile SSD drives are exclusive to Apple, but with some searching on Amazon you can find all three available as well and at lower prices than I’ve mentioned. The 1TB version I am seeing for $152.95 is being sold on Amazon through LaCie, so I assume the warranty still holds up.
I was sent the 1TB version of the LaCie Mobile SSD for review and testing. Along with the drive itself, you will get two connection cables: a (USB 3.0 speed) USB-A to USB-C cable, as well as a (USB 3.1 Gen2 speed) GenUSB-C to USB-C cable. For clarity, USB-C is the type of connection — the oval-like shape and technology used to transfer data. While USB-C will work on Thunderbolt 3 connections, Thunderbolt 3 only connections will not work on USB-C connections. Yes, that is super-confusing considering they look the same. But in the real world, Thunderbolt 3 is more Mac OS-based while USB-C is more Windows-based. You can find rare Thunderbolt 3 connections on Windows-based PCs, but you are more likely to find USB-C. That being said, the LaCie Mobile SSD is compatible with both USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, as well as USB 3.0. Keep in mind you will not get the high transfer speed with the USB 3.0 to USB-C cable. You will only get that with the (USB 3.1 Gen 2) USB-C to USB-C cable. The drive comes formatted as exFAT, which is immediately compatible with both Mac OS and Windows.
So, are spinning drives worth the cheaper price? In my opinion, no. Spinning drives are more fragile when moved around a lot and they transfer at much slower speeds. Advertised speeds vary from about 130MB/s for spinning drives to 540MB/s for SSDs, so for today what amounts to $100 more will give you a significant speed increase.
A very valuable piece of the LaCie Mobile SSD purchase is the limited three-year warranty and three years of data recovery services for free. No matter how your data becomes corrupted, Seagate will try and recover it — Seagate became LaCie’s parent company in 2014. Each product is eligible for one in-lab data recovery attempt and can be turned around in as little as two days, depending on the type of recovery. The recovered media will then be sent back to you on a storage device as well as be available to you from a cloud-based account that will be hosted online for 60 days. This is a great feature that’s included in the price.
The drive itself is small, measuring approximately .35” x 3” x 3.8” and weighing only .22 lbs. The outside has sharp lines much in the vein of a faceted diamond. It feels solid and great to carry. The color is about the same as a MacBook Pro, space gray and is made of aluminum.
Transfer SpeedsAlright, let’s get to the nitty-gritty: transfer speeds. I tested the LaCie Mobile SSD on both a Windows-based PC with USB-C and an iMac Pro with Thunderbolt 3/USB-C. On the Windows PC, I initially connected the drive to a port on the front of my system and I was only getting around 150MB/s write speed (about the speed of USB 3.0). Immediately, I knew something was wrong, so I connected to a USB-C port that was in a PCI-e slot in the rear of my PC. On that port I was getting 440.9MB/s write speed and 516.3MB/s read speeds. Moral of the story, make sure your USB-C ports are not just for charging or simply the USB-C connector running at USB 3.0 speeds.
On the iMac Pro, I was getting write speeds of 487.2MB/s and read speeds of 523.9MB/s. This is definitely on par with the correct Windows PC transfer speeds. The retail packaging on the LaCie Mobile SSD states a 540MB/s speed (doesn’t differentiate between read or write), but much like retail miles-per-gallon readouts on car sales brochures, you have to take their numbers with a few grains of salt. And while I have previoulsy tested drives (not from LaCie) that would initially transfer at a high rate and drop down, the LaCie Mobile SSD drive sustained the high speed transfer rates.
In the end, the size and design of the LaCie Mobile SSD will be one of the larger factors in determining if you buy this drive. It’s small. Like real small, but it feels sturdy. I don’t think anyone can argue that the LaCie Rugged drives (the ones that are orange-rubber encased) are a staple of the post industry. I really wish LaCie kept that tradition and added a tiny little orange rubberized edge. Not only does it feel safer for some reason, but it is a trademark that immediately says, “I’m a professional.”
Besides the appearance, the $152.95 price tag for a 1TB SSD drive that can easily fit into your shirt pocket without being noticed is pretty reasonable. At $219.95 I might say keep looking around. In addition, if you aren’t already an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber you will get a free 30-day trial (normally seven days) included with purchase.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.