500 GB External Drives Tested

LaCie D2 Quadra

As the LaCie d2 Quadra's name implies, it has four interfaces, including USB 2.0, Firewire 1394a, 1394b and eSATA. However, you can only use one of the interfaces at a time. The d2 Quadra is a massive metal box, with a design that we found both conservative and attractive at the same time. It was designed to be positioned vertically, and it comes with a solid stand. Though you can remove the stand, we recommend keeping it in place as the fan at the back was placed at the very top of the device for efficient cooling.

We found three different versions of the device on the LaCie Website with capacities of 320 GB, 500 GB, 750 GB and one terabyte. Our sample is based on a 500 GB drive (Hitachi Deskstar T7K500), which is reasonably priced at $229.00. The 750 GB model retails for $319.99, while the terabyte version is overpriced at $599.

The drive is only slightly slower than WD's MyBook Premium ES, reaching almost a 79 MB/s maximum transfer rate with eSATA versus 82 MB/s for the MyBook Premium. The situation changes if you have to use USB 2.0: LaCie reaches 30 MB/s while WD stays below 27 MB/s. LaCie's 18+ ms access time on all interfaces is a bit disappointing, as the MyBook Premium and Wiebetech's TouchTech XE all stay below 14 ms, which we would expect for a modern 7,200 RPM hard drive.

LaCie bundles EMC's Retrospect Express HD 2.0 with the device, which is a full-featured backup software package that also allows for scheduled backups. It creates so-called restore points, which help to restore specific version of backed-up files.

LaCie offers a built-in power management capabilities, which shuts down the drive once the PC has been switched off. However, the auto shutdown only works with USB 2.0 and Firewire, but not with eSATA. It stops the spindle motor, but doesn't switch off the d2 Quadra completely. There are three modes you can select from: "auto" for energy efficiency, which is what we used; "on" for instant access and "off" for data protection. This product has no hard power switch, which means that you have to unplug the power supply unit if you want it to be completely shut off.