LaCie is probably not a name you’d recognise as a popular hard drive vendor. However, the Seagate-owned French brand (‘Cie’ is a shorter version of ‘company’ in French) has carved out a nice little niche in the crowded storage market.
Our review of the Porsche Design Mobile Drive 4TB left us hungry for more. That particular drive wasn’t a cheap model but, being a 4TB portable disk, there was (and still is) very little competition with this capacity.
At the time of writing, the new Rugged USB-C drive has yet to appear on Amazon or indeed any other online retailer in the UK. The recommended retail price of the 2TB model we are reviewing has been set at £170 (around $215, AU$285); you are likely to find it cheaper online when it hits the shelves.
A 1TB version of the drive is available, as well as a 4TB model which is a lot thicker but costs only £230 (around $290, AU$385).
As the name informs you, this portable drive is designed to be tough, but it has been made rugged by the addition of a bright orange rubber sleeve which can be easily taken off.
The device itself is very compact with overall dimensions (including the sleeve) of 135 x 86 x 18.7mm and a weight of 224g. Remove the sleeve and all you end up with is a stylish storage device with a brushed aluminium enclosure. At 119 x 74 x 13.5mm with a weight of 166g, it slips into a pocket with ease.
The sleeve, imagined by celebrity designer Neil Poulton, makes the drive drop resistant (up to 1.2m); it can also remain functional after being driven over by a 1-ton vehicle.
In addition, the drive is rain-resistant (that doesn’t mean it’s waterproof, though). Some other members of LaCie’s rugged family of drives go a bit further with their protection – the RAID and Thunderbolt models are IP54-rated for example.
LaCie has used a Seagate hard drive, the ST2000LM007, which is a mobile HDD with a 7mm profile, and that explains why the device is so small. It only has two platters, each with a 1TB capacity.
Having fewer platters means that it is lighter, consumes less energy (500mW when idle, 1.75W average for read/write) and is quieter as well.
Other specs include 128MB of cache, a two-year warranty and a 5400RPM spinning speed. LaCie claims that the drive will reach a max speed of 135MBps (that’s the boast on the outside of the box, anyway).
Note that although the LaCie 2TB uses a USB Type-C connector, it’s a version 1.0 affair, which means that it tops out at 5Gbps, the same as USB 3.0. A USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable is also provided in the box. You can also use the drive with devices equipped with a Thunderbolt 3 connector.
There is precious little that separates this drive from the countless others on the market. LaCie urges you to install an application to determine whether you want to keep the drive as FAT32, an NTFS or a hybrid by moving a slider.
Doing so means that you can choose between legacy (compatibility with more platforms) or performance with NTFS. FAT32 also introduces a 4GB file limit.
Our benchmark using CrystalDiskMark – done under NTFS – showed that it reached 130.1 and 130.4MBps in read/write speeds respectively which indicates that it is using a normal rather than a shingled drive; the latter tend to have abysmal writing speeds.
That’s faster than, say, the Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro that we tested a few weeks ago – albeit not by much.
The difference is due mostly to the high areal density of the platter used by the drive, which despite its tiny dimensions, manages to outflank bigger capacity hard disk drives thanks to fewer spinning platters.
Seagate’s 7mm drives have a maximum capacity of 2TB, with the thickness more than doubling to 15mm for 3TB and 4TB models.
LaCie also provides a free version of Genie Timeline, a reasonably powerful backup application that only runs on Windows – which is slightly puzzling given that LaCie’s primary customers use Macs.
Genie Timeline Free offers Explorer-like file selection, allows you to backup open and locked files, and it offers a no-backup zone and file versioning.
In truth, we’d almost prefer to have the drive without the orange ‘bumper’ case because it looks more stylish, and it’s also more portable without the sleeve.
Of course, then you’d lose out in terms of ruggedness. Equally, you could look at non-rugged rivals and save a fair amount of money going for a 2TB Toshiba Canvio drive or indeed the Seagate Expansion 2TB drive which sells for £63 (around $80, AU$105) and probably uses the same hard drive as this LaCie model.
So it’s difficult to recommend this drive if you don’t need it for use cases where durability and the ability to take a knock or two is paramount.
But even then, an SSD (like the Samsung T3 USB 2TB) is likely to be a better purchase with a marked improvement in durability and speed – although it will cost you far more per GB.
We’d also opt for LaCie’s 4TB model as the best of the bunch here. Although it’s thicker and likely slightly slower on the write speed front, doubling the capacity for a price increase of less than 50% sounds like a real bargain.