LaCie’s newest external drive, the Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C, is designed to help bridge the gap for people who have yet to upgrade to a computer with USB Type-C connectors, whether they use a PC or a Mac. As its name indicates, it comes with both a USB Type-C connector and a Thunderbolt connector, so you can pick your poison.
LaCie includes a USB Type-C to Type-A cable in the box too, if you’re still on the Type-A train. (This is the traditional USB connector we all know and don’t love.) And though LaCie offers this particular drive in several configurations of disks and connectors, from a half-terabyte SSD to a 5TB hard drive, our test unit is rocking a good old-fashioned spinning drive inside for 2TB of storage in the palm of your hand.
The stars of the show on this drive are its dual connectors and its clever design that keeps all the cables at bay (mostly). LaCie bundles two cables in the box (seen above). One has Type-C connectors at both ends for either USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3, in case you have a fancy new laptop or a PC with an adapter. The other plugs into the drive on the Type-C end, and connects to a traditional USB port (3.1, 3.0, or 2.0) through the Type-A end. If you have an older Mac with a first-gen Thunderbolt connector, use the third cable, integrated into the drive. The cable tucks neatly around the edges of the rugged bumper case, and the end fits in an enclosure on the top of the drive, sitting alongside the USB-C port. You then squeeze an (easily lost) rubber cap over the enclosure to keep out the elements.
To use the Thunderbolt cable, pull it out of its sheath along the edges of the drive. Since the cable is about 14 inches long, it’s enough to easily connect to your computer or device. This clever design also solves the problem of what to do with the cable, unlike most drives, which are designed to have it dangle for all eternity. But remember, it’s not a Thunderbolt 3 cable. Instead, it’s the first-gen version, for use with older PCs and Macs.
Of course, there’s still the issue of where to store the other included cables. But that’s the price we have to pay for backwards compatibility. For what it’s worth, we tested this drive’s Thunderbolt connector on a 2013 MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 2 ports, and it worked fine.
The drive’s titular ruggedness makes it a bit wider, longer, and taller than comparable drives. (See below, in comparison to the WD Passport.) The actual hard drive is wedged into a chunky metal enclosure, and the whole thing is wrapped in a thick bumper of orange rubber. It’s rated IP54, which means it can handle dust, bumps, and splashes of water, but it can’t be submerged in water. It can withstand up to six-foot drops, however, and it won’t buckle beneath a one-ton car.
The protective bumper on the LaCie drive makes it a bit larger than similar drives (WD Passport for comparison).
The model we tested stores 2TB within a spinning hard drive; LaCie offers capacities up to 5TB. Other Rugged models have different connectors and configurations, so be sure to check with LaCie if you’re interested in a drive like this but with different connectors (USB 3.0 only, USB-C, FireWire 800, and so on).
Since this drive only utilizes a 5,400rpm hard drive, there’s no speed benefit to using the Thunderbolt connector over USB 3.1. Don’t believe the marketing hype and think that if you use the Type-C connector it’ll suddenly be as fast as an SSD, or faster than any other hard drive in an enclosure.
The LaCie Thunderbolt USB-C is backed by a three-year warranty, which is typical for a drive like this.
The setup software included on the drive allows you to format it in a way that allows you to share files between a PC and a Mac, which is a great feature for mixed households (including mine). When you fire up the software, it asks you how much drive space you want to devote to each of the two different file systems: FAT32 for maximum compatibility, and HSF for Mac-only. You can slide a bar left or right to change the capacity dedicated to each file system. With LaCie’s unique file system setup and various cables, this drive not only works with most computers, but between them, as well.
Also included in the software package is a backup program called Intego Backup Assistant. It’s a slick utility that lets you backup and synchronize folders to the drive. You can schedule the whole shebang, too, with options that let you create monthly, weekly, daily, or by-the-minute backups, if you’re the cautious type. You can also easily restore accidentally deleted files, and it’s fast and efficient. After setting up and trying out a backup routine, we walked away impressed. It’s a no-hassle, easy-to-use utility that’s perfect for all kinds of backup. It even let me back up my Dropbox folder, just in case.
Because the Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C uses a 5,400rpm laptop hard drive, the drive, and not the interface, will limit performance. We tested this particular drive on a new workstation with a USB 3.1 (Gen 2) port instead of Thunderbolt, so it should perform equivalent to a USB 3.0 drive. We also plugged it into an older Macbook Pro via Thunderbolt 2, and it seemed to perform about the same in some impromptu tests. Though we didn’t test all three interfaces it offers (USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, and USB-C), we are quite sure it would perform the same on all three of them; the drive inside is the limiting factor. It should be noted that LaCie does offer a version of this drive with an SSD inside, and in that case you might be able to get around 500MB/s out of it, which is typical.
We started out by testing this drive with this aging but popular benchmark for storage aficionados who, like PCMark fans, want everything boiled down to a single score…
The LaCie drive finished in the middle of the pack, mostly hanging with the single-drive competition, in this test. Since most of these drives use 5,400rpm platters, their results are usually pretty similar. Since Seagate owns LaCie, you can bet it’s a Seagate drive inside this model. Overall, we’d say the results are right in line with expectations.
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.
In this test, we see the LaCie drive is capable of 134MB/s sequential reads and 130MB/s sequential writes, which is very typical for a drive of this class on a USB 3.0 connection. It fits in with most of the other drives we’ve tested (the RAID array is the obvious exception), and it’s basically standard for this kind of drive.
PCMark 7 Secondary Storage Test
This benchmark, part of Futuremark’s PCMark 7 testing suite, gives a proprietary score based on a series of scripted tasks typical of everyday PC operation and disk accesses. It measures application launches, video conversion tasks, image import, media file operations, and more.
Here, the LaCie drive ended up outshining its competitors by a small margin. While it’s difficult to translate an edge of 100 proprietary points into a real-world benefit, the LaCie was still the fastest portable hard drive on this test so far.
The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C drive is well designed, easy to use, and perfect for situations where you are sharing files between multiple computers. Both the different connectors and cables provided and the handy formatting assistant that lets you easily partition the drive using different file systems make this sharing simple.
Since it uses a 5,400rpm hard drive, performance is merely adequate, so what really separates this drive from the competition is its rugged chassis, excellent backup software, and of course its Thunderbolt and USB-C connections. This makes it perfect for owners of newer laptops, and LaCie provides a USB Type-A cable if you’re still using older systems as well. Plus, the Thunderbolt cable works on older Macs too.
The only downside is its price, which is exorbitant for a 2TB mobile drive. If you don’t need a rugged enclosure and are fine with USB 3.0 (which performs the same), you can pick up a 2TB drive for about $75, which makes buying this $200 LaCie drive seem decadent in comparison. If you need or just want the durability, however, and you need to share files between a variety of computers, this very good drive will satisfy all your needs.
This LaCie mobile hard drive has a rugged exterior and is great for sharing files between PCs and Macs, but it will likely be too pricey for most budgets.
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