Performance Testing And Conclusion
Our test group includes the previously reviewed Sony PSZ-HB2T 2TB and LaCie Rugged RAID 4TB. The two products utilize a dual interface design that supports both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 2. The charts also list the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB. A full feature review for this model will come in the following weeks, but you get a sneak peek of its performance in this review.
There are a limited number of 4TB portable hard disk drives on the market. Seagate managed to pack a lot of capacity into a very small package.
Sequential Scaling Block Sizes
The three single-drive external HDDs deliver nearly identical sequential performance. The USB 3.0 Sony PSZ-HB2T enjoys a slight performance increase with 8KB and 16KB block sizes. The LaCie Rugged RAID (two HDDs in RAID 0) has a much higher performance ceiling, but the cost also increases proportionally with the performance.
Full LBA Span Performance
In this test, we read and write data across the entire user LBA range to find the peak, median and low performance. Hard disk drives operate at a higher speed while working on the outside of the platter, but the inner section of the platter is slower. The drives write new data to the outer tracks first, which is why your HDD-powered notebook or desktop starts out fast but becomes slower as you populate the drive with data.
Again, we see the three single-drive products delivering nearly identical performance, while the Rugged RAID offers nearly a 2x improvement.
To demonstrate real-world performance, we have three tests to represent the most common data types stored on portable storage devices. The first test transfers a Blu-ray ISO of a popular movie to the drives, so the workload consists of a large block sequential transfer.
In the second test, we transfer the entire directory of rFactor, a PC video game. The drive transfers both small and large blocks of information during the test.
The third test involves transferring a 15.2TB directory of files similar to what you have in your My Documents folder. We're mixing photos, Microsoft Office documents, MP3s, PDFs and a couple of small game files.
Just as before, the three single-HDD products all group together with similar performance. The Rugged RAID steps away from the crowd with the highest level of performance, just as you would expect.
The LaCie Porsche Design Mobile 4TB struggled with the backup and game directory tests, which have a mixture of small and large block data. SMR hard disk drives tend to struggle with small block transfers. The test reveals performance degradation when small-block data is mixed in with large sequential blocks of data. Users will have to decide if the additional storage capacity, and lower cost, is worth the slower performance. I'm going to guess that most shopping for the largest portable HDD will make the trade and never look back.
LaCie raised the bar for portable storage once again. The Rugged RAID was a great breakout product, but the company passed the additional expense of two 2TB HDDs connected to a RAID bridge (required to reach the 4TB capacity mark) to the user. The new Porsche Design Mobile Drive reduces the overall expense required to reach the high capacity mark, and the company passes those savings on to end users.
This product doesn't improve performance over existing products, but we didn't observe a crippling reduction in performance, either. Users get a 2x capacity increase over the existing products in the line without twice the cost. The Porsche Design Mobile Drive offers a great balance of capacity and price while holding the performance steady.
LaCie has stepped to the forefront of both external and Thunderbolt technology products. For a long time we looked at the LaCie products as a niche for wealthy elites with more money than sense, but in the last couple of years the prices have come down, and the products now offer leading technology features. Before, we would get a product that looked amazing but lacked true innovative features. That isn't the Seagate LaCie we have today. The product we tested, and others like the 12big, shows LaCie's leadership and determination to be a real premium brand.