LaCie's been supplying Mac users with drives since 1987, but the company's still able to surprise and delight the Mac community with new and innovative products. One that I had been looking forward to testing just showed up at the office -- the new LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt SSD (starting at $199 for SSD models). The model I tested was the $499.99 500 GB SSD model, and I'm pleased to say that it actually surpassed the advertised speeds in benchmark testing.
Capacity: SSD -- 120 ($199.99), 256 ($299.99), 500 GB ($499.99) HD - 1 ($199.99 street price), 2 TB ($349.99 street price)
Interface: 1 Thunderbolt port (with built-in cable), 1 USB 3.0 port (USB 2.0 compatible)
HD rotational speed: 5,400 RPM
SSD Type: SATA 6 Gb/s
Average Transfer Rate: (USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt) SSD - 385 MB/s, HD - 110 MB/s
Drop height: 4 feet/1.2 meters (in non-operating mode)
Dimensions: 3.5 x 5.5 x 0.97 in. (89 x 140 x 24 mm)
Weight: 9.2 oz. (260 grams)
Included: USB 3.0 cable, Thunderbolt cable (0.5 m, integrated), software
LaCie has a history of making external drives look good. In the case of the Rugged, form follows function and the drive is encased in a thick orange silicone bumper to protect from drops and falls. Designer Neil Poulton smartly included an integrated Thunderbolt cable that fits into a groove around the middle of the bumper, with a silicone "door" that holds the end of the cable in place and covers the bare USB 3.0 port.
The Rugged drive is designed to take a 4 foot drop in non-operating mode, meaning that the HD version is unplugged, the platters have "spun down," and the drive heads are retracted. No such restriction for the SSD version, of course, as it has no moving parts. However, you still want to take care to keep accidental drops to less than 4 feet.
Sad to say, we don't have any single Thunderbolt SSD drive benchmarks run on our standard tool (QuickBench) to compare the Rugged drive to. But let's just say that it's fast -- very fast. As a comparison, I have added results for the G-Technology G-DOCK ev, which is a Thunderbolt 2-drive RAID setup. It's not exactly a straight comparison, but it should give you an idea of just how speedy this little portable drive is.
For the purposes of testing external drives and RAID arrays, we traditionally use the Intech SpeedTools QuickBench 4.0 app to run multiple cycles of read/write tests. The Rugged was directly connected to a MacBook Pro with Retina display using the built-in Thunderbolt cable.
To ensure accuracy in testing, I performed a 100-cycle complete test. This subjects the drive to sequential and random read and write tests with file sizes from 4K to 100 MB, then graphically or textually displays that information to show the "sweet spots" for a specific drive or array. For example, if your work involves shuffling around a lot of very large files, you'll probably want a drive that has peak read/write speeds for files around your average file size. Here are the test results, compared to the G-DOCK ev set up as a RAID 0 volume:
Sequential Read: 206.553 MB/Sec (189.675 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
Sequential Write: 188.524 MB/Sec (197.831 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
Random Read: 174.414 MB/Sec (22.432 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
Random Write: 169.066 MB/Sec (38.360 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
Large Read: 380.365 MB/Sec (272.062 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
Large Write: 353.494 MB/Sec (262.744 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
Extended Read: 391.315 MB/Sec (266.927 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
Extended Write: 362.019 MB/Sec (264.170 MB/Sec for G-Dock ev via Thunderbolt)
This thing cooks! That extended read rate of 391.315 MB/sec is better than the advertised rate of 385 MB/sec. As you'd expect, being an SSD, the Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt SSD is completely silent in operation.
Portability? Check. Rugged design? Check. SSD speed? Check. Bus-powered? Check. Thunderbolt and USB 3.0? Check. Built-in Thunderbolt cable? Check. The only negative for the LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt SSD is the price tag. A bare 500 GB SSD drive runs as low as $200 through online, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a small enclosure that has both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces. So if you need a fast, ruggedized, bus-powered drive with half a terabyte of storage and blazing speed, the LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt SSD is going to be your absolute best bet at this time.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4 stars possible