LaCie 4big: The Enthusiast Data Jukebox

We review a steady stream of new direct-attached storage products. Most of them are single-drive external solutions, actively or passively cooled, all with USB 2.0, and some also featuring eSATA. Most of them are pretty much alike, and to be honest, many are boring. In addition, recent price drops have moved terabyte hard drives close to the $100 line, making storage more affordable than ever, and making price less of a differentiating factor.

All that said, some storage products really are different. Here is one that stores up to 4 TB, is extremely stylish, fast and efficient. Welcome the 4big Quadra by LaCie.

 4 TB

The 4big external storage units are toys for big boys, available in capacities of 2 TB, 4 TB and 6 TB (utilizing hard drives that store 500 GB, 1,000 GB, and 1,500 GB each, respectively). The entry-level model costs $849; we received the 4 TB middle class unit, which currently sells at $1,099. Clearly, that's a lot to spend on a quartet of terabyte drives, so we're hoping for significantly more value in the solution itself.

Our test sample is called the 4big Quadra; the latter term represents the four supported interface options: you can connect the 4big Quadra via USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800 or eSATA. This unit must be classified as a Direct Attached Storage (DAS) product. Internally, the device works with RAID technology.

That’s the simple description of the product, but it doesn’t do justice to it.

More Than Storage

It has become very easy to store terabytes of data. All you need to do is get some hard drives and connect them to your storage controller, either internally or outside the PC. Yet modern storage solutions can do much more. On the one hand, external solutions are much more convenient than internal hard drives now that eSATA has removed the interface bottleneck. On the other, external storage products are often being bundled with software to tackle data management tasks such as backup and synchronization.

But then there are other features that need to be considered. Noise is a huge issue. Anything loud enough to be noticeable isn’t well-suited for a working or living environment, belonging more in a server room. Power consumption and temperature are also important, as an increasing number of PCs and storage devices tend to run 24/7. Finally, performance has to be at an adequate level. Deploying RAID technology means trading off performance against data safety.

Let’s see how LaCie did with the 4big Quadra.