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Some Issues To Start

LaCie 4big: The Enthusiast Data Jukebox
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Unfortunately, we had to solve a few issues before we could start testing the 4big Quadra. These issues are not directly related to LaCie’s product, but rather ones that will appear with all storage hard drives that exceed 2 TB capacity—they represent the next capacity barrier that has to be brought down.

The 2 TB Limit

Use GPT instead of MBR to enable partition sizes of over 2 TB in Windows Vista.

You might not be aware of it, but all of the storage companies certainly are, as this is a major issue for upgrade users. Many operating systems, including Windows XP and Windows Vista pre-SP1 aren’t able to address more than 2 TB per partition. The reason for this limitation is the Master Boot Record or MBR, which was laid out for 32-bit systems. A 512-byte block size times 232 limits the total capacity to 2 TB. As a result, the partition identifier had to be modified in order to allow users to create partitions larger than 2 TB.

The solution is called GPT or GUID Partition Table, which is part of the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) that was proposed as a replacement to the traditional system BIOS. It is based on logical block addressing and supports up to 128 partitions per drive, while the traditional MBR is limited to four. GPT is also more secure, as its header and partition table are written both at the beginning and the end of the storage medium, for redundancy.

GPT is available on practically all 64-bit systems currently available today, such as Windows XP x64. Most 32-bit OSes do not support it; exceptions are the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 and up, and Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 and up. In these cases, GPT support was added to the operating system.

There is one other way around the 2 TB limit, though. You can use your operating system’s RAID capabilities to take various partitions of up to 2 TB and merge them into a massive RAID array.

Controller Limits

In addition to the partitioning issue, many controllers may also not be able to support large partitions. We first used a Promise FastTrak TX4310, which sometimes only displayed 1.7 TB, and sometimes didn’t recognize the 4big Quadra drive at all. Clearly, it is important to use a modern mass storage controller to be able to handle large partitions. We switched to an on-board Intel ICH10R, which is part of the test system we used for this review.

Benchmark Limits

Finally, our good old h2benchw benchmark, which was written by c’t magazine’s Harald Bögeholz in Germany, also terminated before starting any test run with a short message: “*** drive too large”. So much for benchmarking a storage device that offers an impressive capacity. Fortunately, there will be an updated version of the benchmark, which will be capable of handling GPT and partitions that will not limit anyone in many years. According to our information, the maximum currently is 18 Exabytes (EB) or 18,000,000 TB. Before we reach this we will hit the Windows limits of 256 TB per partition and per drive.

In all, we had to switch from our storage reference system to a different platform with ICH10R, and we had to swap h2benchw with HDTach.

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  • 3 Hide
    chookman , January 13, 2009 4:46 AM
    $1299 for slow transfer rates and no NIC... i still dont see much appeal in this type of unit.
  • 1 Hide
    johnbilicki , January 13, 2009 5:10 AM
    Chookman is right, it'd be nice to have a mass storage device as a network drive. For those without eSATA on their boxes just look up an eSATA bracket on Newegg if they aren't using a laptop. It'd be nice to find a bracket with four USB *and* an eSATA connector though. Again there is no such thing as "RAID 10", it's RAID 0+1 or RAID 1+0. Also does this have a three year warranty like the 1TB d2 Quadra? How hot did the unit run? Does the utility report the temperatures? How about SMART status? Without knowing the warranty (and presuming it's not five years) it's a bit of a risk I think without access to SMART.

    With USB3 coming out later this year anyone who has to have mobile access most likely would at least want some LAN/wireless support. Plus if you're the type to only run a laptop and don't have eSATA it would be best to just wait until you can get this with USB3 support along with a USB3 capable laptop. Then I don't think transfer rates would be such an issue and the masses would be much better support overall as eSATA is still amazingly difficult to find on entry level systems.
  • 2 Hide
    kutark , January 13, 2009 5:51 AM
    I just don't see the justification, when i can quite easily grab 4 1tb drives, toss them in my comp, raid them up, and accomplish essentially the same thing for 1/3 the cost. Ok, so big whup its not portable, but lets be honest, with the fact that to get decent xfer rates you have to use eSATA, that means you have to ensure that not only do the computers you plan on using it on have eSATA ports, or eSATA add-in cards (additional cost), but you have to ensure they're running SP1 Vista.

    Not only that, but $1200 and you could build a NAS box with a hell of a lot more storage and for far less cost.
  • 2 Hide
    kschoche , January 13, 2009 11:33 AM
    ROFL @ SMART status, I've been in the disk industry for years and never had a useful bit of information passed on to me from SMART, lol lol lol.
    The real issue I see here is that you dont have a network drive for 1300 bucks.
    For the same chunk of change you can build a htpc or storage server @ home which is probably more reliable and definitely will outperform this.
  • 0 Hide
    hyteck9 , January 13, 2009 11:47 AM
    Why would I buy this? Huh? $1200 dollars? I built a RAID 5, 2 TB system for under $500 in NewEgg parts to use as a NAS. I don't see the $700 benefit to having it in a subwoofer box. For $1200, this thing should have built in IP, Wireless, bluetooth... Heck for $1200 my dead grandmother should be able to connect to it. (Necro-protocal? LOL... 666.11g)
  • 1 Hide
    jeffunit , January 13, 2009 12:09 PM
    I find the file transfer graphs most curious.

    First, read and write are not labeled. I presume the higher numbers are read.

    Second, for raid-5, the transfer rates are about 4 times faster than any other nas reviewed. Either this is an error, or this unit is screaming fast, which was not pointed out in the article. Having personally built my own nas with 6 750gb drives and a dual xeon system, my network read and write speeds are much less than this device, and much higher than any other nas reviewed. I therefore conclude that the measurements are bogus.
  • 0 Hide
    igot1forya , January 13, 2009 1:03 PM
    jeffunitthe transfer rates are about 4 times faster than any other nas reviewed. Either this is an error, or this unit is screaming fast, which was not pointed out in the article.


    It's not a NAS at all, it's just an eSATA enclosure with 4x1.5TB drives. If it were a NAS, then your transfer rates will max out at about 122MB/sec (theoretical) not counting the normal 15% overhead (~105MB/sec total) for a Gigabit connection.
  • -1 Hide
    jeffunit , January 13, 2009 2:27 PM
    Do you know how to read? I said *for raid-5* the transfer rates are
    about 4 times faster. I wasn't speaking about any other transfer rates
    except. RAID-FIVE.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 13, 2009 4:02 PM
    He can read, he was mentioning that it was not a NAS, but an external drive, NAS's are meant to be hooked up to a network and have ethernet ports, Comparing NAS transfer speeds to external RAID arrays is like apples and oranges..sure a Raid Array directly connected to a computer will outperform a NAS, most times and it doesn't matter which RAID type it's set to..
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , January 13, 2009 5:30 PM
    johnbilickiWith USB3 coming out later this year...


    FWIW, USB 3.0 may or may not be out this year, but it will start with device support and then carry over to add-in cards and finally, chipsets. Don't expect to actually be using USB 3.0 until 2010.
  • 0 Hide
    jeffunit , January 13, 2009 6:02 PM
    If you have read the NAS reviews, the fastest NAS did raid 5 writes
    around 30mbytes a second. Clearly not a gigabit ethernet limit.
    All of the other NAS's reviewed were slower.

    Now this device does raid 5 read/write at either 120 or 170 mbytes/second.

    Isn't it curious that no NAS device is within a factor of 4 as fast
    as this device? Isn't it curious that this thing is about 3 times
    faster than my dual xeon raid-5 box, when I have 6 hard drives to
    this thing's 4 hard drives. Sure there is some network
    overhead, but this thing is so much faster than any NAS that I question
    the measurements. I have used bonnie to benchmark my drives local (non-network) performance, and it isn't as fast as this box.

    You know, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
    The article doesn't even mention the processor inside this box.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 13, 2009 11:57 PM
    what about mac OS X? (that other OS)
  • 0 Hide
    paulwatsonjr , January 13, 2009 11:57 PM
    As stated above, the benchmarks are run using esata -- external, but direct attached, sata.

    They will be much higher than any network box will give you...
  • 1 Hide
    coopchennick , January 14, 2009 1:09 AM
    Maybe I'm just an ignorant old box of rocks but I don't see what is so darn "perfect" about this thing considering I'd have to shell out 1300 bucks for it.
  • 0 Hide
    jameskangster , January 14, 2009 11:48 AM
    Just a correction request on the first page:
    "All that said, some storage products really are different. Here is one that stores up to 4 GB, is extremely stylish, fast and efficient."

    I would hate to spend a grand+ on a 4 GB storage... :) 
  • 0 Hide
    kschoche , January 14, 2009 4:05 PM
    If you somehow get conned into going to lacie's website because you disagree with stuff from this review, the 4TB version is only $1099 now, but still, too much money.
    I also found out some interesting information:
    Weight: 15.7 LBS, damn that weighs as much as my computer..
    OS Support: OSX/Vista (no support for XP even with 64bit 2TB+)
    ---Why no mention of Linux hardware support?

    ---Some of their software doesnt work properly with eSATA - Shortcut Button
    No JBOD support, but maybe thats a limitation of the eSATA protocol, I'm not sure. For 1000+ dollars I would expect some more magic.

    Its a cool enough product but really shouldnt be priced so high imo.
  • 0 Hide
    gringott , January 15, 2009 8:58 AM
    Ok, let me see... I just put together a Direct Attached Storage box (Sans Digital TR4M-B) that holds 4 SATA II drives, uses 1 eSata cable, came with a 2 port eSata card. It has a backplane, no trays, tooless hotswap. I got 1 x 1TB Seagate drive with it to start. It does RAID 0, 1, 10, 5, 5, 5+spare, spanning, and JBOD. Supports WIn 2K, XP, Vista, Server 2K3, Mac, Linux. The price was $270 shipped. If I would have purchased 3 more drives to get to 4TB it would have cost me $330 more, shipped, or $600 total. And it is a nice looking fuller featured setup than this subwoofer box with a light.
    I am using this as expansion storage on my Windows Home Server that currently has 3 TB internal, but no more room for drives. If I use 1.5 TB drives for the other 3 slots, I will have 8.5 TB storage online. I can add another Sans Digital with 4 more drives to the same card.
    Some posters don't seem to understand the difference between network attached storage adn direct attached storage; or more specifically; using ethernet vs. eSata. Google, do some reading.
    For kschoche (posted above) my setup does JBOD on eSata, from what you posted above, the reviewed DAS @ $1200 does not.
    As for Tom's hardware, perhaps look around a bit before publishing - lately all I see on here are poorly researched articles. The CES review stated several products were " soon to be released on the market " when they have been out for months. Sheesh.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 15, 2009 9:29 AM
    kschocheROFL @ SMART status, I've been in the disk industry for years and never had a useful bit of information passed on to me from SMART, lol lol lol.The real issue I see here is that you dont have a network drive for 1300 bucks.For the same chunk of change you can build a htpc or storage server @ home which is probably more reliable and definitely will outperform this.

    You've never found smart useful? I love the submit feature of speedfan's smart info, cause with the amount of drives I see dead, it's quite handy to know why they died. And while smart isn't always reliable (see the google hard drive article) or even aware of a problem, it's definetly worth having.

    I'm currently running with a raid 5 at home, where one of the drives will sometimes stop working, and break the array - and then work again and it'll rebuild. I don't know which drive it is, cause the controller doesn't care once it's started working again. If I could access smart I'd know if the spindle motor had started way more often than the device been powered - which would indicate a problem with that. Or check on max temp or other stuff that'd reveal a problem.

    Point is - smart is worth having.


    On another subject - how come hd tach appears to work for you guys? for me it always say 90mb/sec - both on my work pc with raid 1, and in vmware on a virtual drive on the same pc, and on my home pc with a raid 5, and on the old mashine with 3 raptors in raid 0 - always sits at around 90mb/sec according to hd tach. Sandra's benches seem to disagree though.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 15, 2009 9:41 AM
    jeffunitIf you have read the NAS reviews, the fastest NAS did raid 5 writesaround 30mbytes a second. Clearly not a gigabit ethernet limit.All of the other NAS's reviewed were slower.Now this device does raid 5 read/write at either 120 or 170 mbytes/second.Isn't it curious that no NAS device is within a factor of 4 as fastas this device? Isn't it curious that this thing is about 3 timesfaster than my dual xeon raid-5 box, when I have 6 hard drives tothis thing's 4 hard drives. Sure there is some networkoverhead, but this thing is so much faster than any NAS that I questionthe measurements. I have used bonnie to benchmark my drives local (non-network) performance, and it isn't as fast as this box.You know, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.The article doesn't even mention the processor inside this box.

    I'm not sure, but perhaps your own raid isn't working properly?
    I'm running 5x500GB WD drives in raid 5 at home. On the onboard (ich9r) software controller. Sandra measured my read speed at an average 180mb/sec. My actual read speed varies a lot between approx 66mb/sec and 260mb/sec, so the average I have isn't a 200mb/sec start speed, dropping to 160mb/sec or so at the end. My speed variation is caused by the chipset according to gigabyte. An offboard controller would see more linear speeds. So even with a 'hampered' raid 5 I'm getting speeds that would be in line with what I'd expect 4 new 1tb drives would do in raid 5 with a hardware controller.

    kschocheIf you somehow get conned into going to lacie's website because you disagree with stuff from this review, the 4TB version is only $1099 now, but still, too much money.I also found out some interesting information:Weight: 15.7 LBS, damn that weighs as much as my computer..OS Support: OSX/Vista (no support for XP even with 64bit 2TB+)---Why no mention of Linux hardware support?---Some of their software doesnt work properly with eSATA - Shortcut ButtonNo JBOD support, but maybe thats a limitation of the eSATA protocol, I'm not sure. For 1000+ dollars I would expect some more magic.Its a cool enough product but really shouldnt be priced so high imo.

    I agree that it is severely overpriced, but apart from the price, I rather like this product. It really just needs a wireless draft n card.

    ps. I believe the article stated the lacia box uses some celeron processor for xor'ing.
  • 0 Hide
    jeffunit , January 15, 2009 12:06 PM
    I am using linux software raid. My local filesystem performance is
    much better than my network performance. According to bonnie++, my read speed is 120mbytes/second and my write speed is 73mbytes/second.

    I do have a 266mb/second limitation between my northbridge and southbridge which may be causing a bit of a bottleneck. All of
    my disks are on an 8 port sata II pci-x card, so there is no bottleneck
    there. I haven't upgraded the motherboard because this is a NAS and
    my goal is to saturate my gigabit ethernet, not build the fastest
    raid-5 box.

    By the way, the array total size is 5*750= @3500gb, and windows 32
    has no problem seeing all of it via samba.
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