LaCie’s latest external hard drive is all about its glorious Thunderbolt 3 connection. The highfalutin’ port not only allows for superfast file transfers (compared to older USB ports), but it also lets you daisy-chain multiple drives together. Your storage capacity won’t be limited to this single drive, although its capacious 8TB of storage can hardly be considered limiting.
The d2 Thunderbolt 3 is a high-end solution for creative professionals; if you’re just looking to back up photos of the grandkids, look elsewhere. This is a drive for pro content creators who need the chaining connectivity and the expandable capacity that it brings, and who won’t blink at its $529.99 price. (The company also offers a 6TB model for $429.99 and a 10TB version for $639.99.)
As you can see from its size and shape, the d2 houses a single hard drive. In this particular case, however, instead of going cheap with a 5,400rpm hard drive, the Seagate-owned LaCie stuffed a 7,200rpm enterprise-class drive inside. The drive itself is a Seagate BarraCuda Pro, which is designed for 24/7 operation and includes a long five-year warranty. LaCie also includes support for one instance of forensic lab-based data recovery, should something bad happen. This is quite the freebie; this kind of service is usually quite expensive on its own.
The drive enclosure is designed to keep it running nice and cool. Its unibody construction (in Apple Mac-speak) consists of a single, monolithic piece of aluminum and a large, HAL-9000-esque LED. Inside the enclosure is a small fan. Even a tiny airflow can help to prevent meltdowns in most desktop-class hard drives.
Aside from the enterprise-grade hardware inside, the real selling point of the d2 is the array of connectivity options it provides. In addition to the two Thunderbolt 3 ports, there’s also a USB 3.1 Type-C port…
You can obviously connect the d2 to a PC with a Thunderbolt 3 port, but most PCs (and Macs) don’t have these ports. That’s why LaCie includes two cables: a Thunderbolt 3 (with a USB Type-C connection at either end) cable, and a Thunderbolt-to-USB Type-A cable for users who don’t mind operating at USB speeds—Thunderbolt 3’s speed advantage comes into play when daisy-chaining rather than using a single drive (see our performance section below).
Also, if you have to connect the d2 to an older Mac and don’t want to use USB for some reason, you can connect Thunderbolt 3 to a Thunderbolt 2 dongle. The only fly in the ointment: the relatively short 20-inch Thunderbolt 3 cable, designed to sit next to a laptop like a recent MacBook Pro instead of dropping down behind a desk. The included Thunderbolt/USB-C-to-Type-A cable is almost twice as long, at 38 inches.
LaCie also provides a bevy of international power adapters for overseas customers and travelers going abroad. It’s quite surprising to see this many adapters in the box, but the drive’s obviously made for a global audience.
Easily the most interesting aspect of the d2’s connectivity is that it allows daisy-chaining two 4K displays, one 5K display, or as many as six d2 drives (though you can, naturally, connect Thunderbolt 3 drives from other vendors to the chain). It’s also possible to power a compatible laptop through the latter’s USB-C port, though that’s more of a theoretical feature (the d2 can only output 15 watts).
Like other LaCie drives, the setup wizard allows you to partition the d2 into both PC and Mac file formats for file sharing. You can drag a slider to create partitions, leaving you with one partition that can share files between PC and Mac, and one partition that is just for Macs. If you’re using the drive for Windows only, you’re better off setting it up it as NTFS using the built-in formatting tool in Windows.
LaCie also includes a handy backup tool called Intego Backup Assistant, and it’s flexible and easy to use. You can set up a schedule of backups, so all your precious files are backed up from local storage inside your PC to the d2. Of course, this won’t save you from a fire or flood, but it’s a good safeguard against drive failure.
To test the d2, we plugged it into a PC with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 connector, as well as a Thunderbolt 3 connector on a new Razer laptop, as we were curious if there’d be any performance difference. Both Thunderbolt 3 (as well as 2, actually) and USB 3.1 Gen 2 provide more than enough bandwidth for a spinning hard drive. With the d2 the limiting factor isn’t the specific connection in play, but rather the drive output. As you’ll see in the results, both connections fared about the same. So don’t be swayed by the fact that the Thunderbolt 3 interface is, at the core, “faster” than USB 3.1; for a spinning drive, the extra theoretical bandwidth is moot.
We started out with this aging but popular benchmark for storage aficionados who, like PCMark fans, want everything boiled down to a single score…
The d2 performed quite well in Anvil’s stress test, making it the fastest single external hard drive we’ve tested thus far by a small margin. That’s likely due to its 7,200rpm rather than 5,400rpm hard drive. The small speed boost could be helpful to creative professionals, for whom time is money. It’s also interesting that the USB 3.1 test score was a bit higher than the Thunderbolt 3 score, but that’s within the margin of error.
We run this popular sequential read/write test because, for this kind of secondary storage, sequential operations are the most relevant. It’s not randomly accessing files here and there, but usually just writing or reading large files such as movies, music, high-res photos, and video.
Once again, the LaCie d2 sped through this sequential read and write test, hovering around 237MB per second for reads and 227MB per second for writes. That’s quite good for a single drive, and just like with Anvil, these are the fastest scores we’ve seen for a non-RAID setup. The LaCie drive’s 7,200rpm platter takes credit for that, of course, but the proof is in the pudding. It’s more expensive than its counterparts, but its performance partly explains its price. (The other part is the premium that the Thunderbolt 3 interface and cabling places on things.)
Seagate external drive for just $179, which really illustrates the LaCie drive’s lofty positioning.
Of course, this is a high-quality, full-featured product for the bucks. It runs quietly, has slick software for both PCs and Macs, and can be used with a wide range of computers, both new and old. The Thunderbolt 3 connectors are really the main selling point, though, so if you have a new MacBook Pro or Windows 10 PC that has one of those leading-edge ports, you might be eyeballing this drive. It’s a backup solution par excellence, no doubt, but it seems wise to spend on it only if you’re into daisy-chaining drives, and have a Thunderbolt 3-equipped computer or computers (or aim to in the near future).
If you just want an 8TB backup drive, there are far cheaper options, but if Thunderbolt 3 is a must-have, the d2 is an elegant, flexible storage solution with features and build quality that most drives lack.
The LaCie d2, made for people with newer Macs, is a fast, flexible, but expensive external hard drive with dual Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy-chaining expandability.
ComputerShopper may earn affiliate commissions from shopping links included on this page. To find out more, read our complete Terms of Service.