External Storage: Terabyte Drives Compared

LaCie Hard Disk, Design by Neil Poulton

LaCie has become a premium supplier of storage products, offering all sorts of value-added hard drives and portable solutions. Unfortunately, LaCie did not choose wisely when it came to the name of the drive it sent us, which it refers to simply as the “LaCie Hard Disk, Design by Neil Poulton.” (Neil Poulton is an award-winning technology designer, but most consumers have never heard of him.) LaCie offers two versions of this drive, one that connects only via USB 2.0, the other with a triple interface—USB 2.0, FireWire 1394a and eSATA. We reviewed the latter, though we received both models. The triple-interface drive is priced about $30 higher than the comparable USB-only models.

It’s Got the Looks

The design is straightforward—in fact, the LaCie Hard Disk is rectangular and looks like a brick. Still, it was clearly designed by…well, a designer and not an engineer. It’s made of glossy black plastic for a visual impact, but it’s a bit sensitive to fingerprints. All connectors are on the back and the company logo is on one side, so most sides are solid black. But the device does have some eye candy: The activity LED on the front is actually installed on the bottom to illuminate the surface area it stands on (see image below).

Features and Performance

We prefer the triple-interface version of the LaCie for performance reasons: the USB 2.0 connection is limited to 32 MB/s read throughput and less than 27 MB/s write speed. This is acceptable for occasional use, but by no means quick enough to copy hundreds of gigabytes. Using FireWire 1394a speeds it up to 40 MB/s reads and 30 MB/s writes. However, eSATA is the best choice, giving you up to 85 MB/s reads and writes. Access time is always around 13.5 ms.

Power Consumption

The LaCie Hard Disk showed the least peak power consumption (measured at the plug) as well as the second-lowest drive idle power requirement. We like its low standby power requirement of only 2 W—it doesn’t create a lot of heat and you won’t notice it on your energy bill. Another nice feature: the unit switches off completely when you shut down the host PC, and power consumption drops to near zero. For even greater control, you can use the power switch, available on only a few external drives.

LaCie offers models with 500 GB, 750 GB and 1 TB, which is the one we looked at. The 500 GB triple-interface drive costs $139.99 and the terabyte model is $199.99. LaCie’s warranty is limited to two years (Seagate and SimpleTech offer five and three years, respectively).

The light of this drive’s activity LED is noticeable only by reflection on the surface. It looks a bit like the light of a bar-code scanner.

LaCie Software

Compared with the other vendors, LaCie does not add a lot of value. The LaCie Backup Software is just a simple copy utility—every backup requires creation of a new folder, name and index value. Each backup is a full backup, and there’s no scheduling—just the option to start the backup with Windows, meaning the backup process will be executed when you boot up your PC.

The following images come from the USB 2.0-only version of the drive.