Specifications And Features
Thin is in. A quick look at most new business-class notebooks, a majority of external storage products, and even your monitor sitting right in front of you confirms the trend. Height challenged products may look cool, but when it comes to storage, you can't pack as many bits into a slim design. Thankfully, companies like LaCie give us options, such as the small capacity products that satisfy the need for trendy slim designs. The company also provides larger devices for massive storage capacity when the job requires it.
LaCie's Porsche Design line consists of three products. The largest is a desktop model that currently pegs the capacity scale at 8TB. The drive is fairly large, uses a wall outlet for power and doesn't meet the standards for portable use. The Porsche Design Mobile Drive is on the other end of the scale with a slim 10mm Z-height and up to 2TB's of storage capacity. Both products are very attractive and useful for their intended use case, but there was a gap in the middle. LaCie recently filled that gap with the new Mobile Drive 4TB.
The LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive with 4TB of storage has double the Z-height (thickness) of the 1TB and 2TB products. To reach the massive 4TB capacity point, LaCie needed to use a taller hard drive. 2.5-inch hard drives range from 5mm to 15mm with a few stops in between. In time, the hard drive companies will release a 4TB product in a slimmer form factor, but for now, the Momentus / Laptop HDD (Seagate Branding) only ships with the large 15mm thickness.
The Porsche Design Mobile Drive product line consists of four part numbers that fall into three capacities. The mid-tier 2TB product ships in two colors; silver like the rest of its siblings and gold for a little extra bling. The large 4TB model offers twice the storage capacity of the others but also uses a taller, and heavier, enclosure.
This isn't the first 4TB external HDD we've tested. Several months ago, we tested the 4TB LaCie Rugged RAID ($379.99). The Rugged RAID unit requires two 2TB hard disk drives to provide high capacity, but some users prefer a single drive to a RAID pair. The latter adds an extra device to the storage pool, thus increasing the odds of a failure in a RAID 0 array.
The Porsche Design Mobile Drive 4TB uses a USB Type-C connector but still delivers the same bandwidth as 5Gbps USB 3.0. The interface speed isn't much of a concern with hard drives because the connection bandwidth isn't the limiting factor.
LaCie doesn't list performance specifications for the Porsche Design series. We’ve noticed this troubling trend with the HDD companies on several products over the last couple of years.
We found a Seagate ST4000LM016 from the Momentus / Laptop HDD product line inside the enclosure. This drive uses shingled magnetic recording (SMR) to reach the high capacity point. SMR is a controversial subject because it's similar to three-bit per cell flash. SMR increases capacity, but it writes data slower when the drive is full because the manufacturer overlaps the recording tracks. The overlap means that existing data on the overlapped tracks is affected by writing new data to neighboring tracks. The drive must read the data, modify it and then rewrite it to overwrite the existing data, just like an SSD. This isn't a big problem for mass storage with a normal sequential workload, but SMR encounters performance problems with random data during heavy use.
Pricing And Warranty
B&H lists the 4TB Porsche Design Mobile Drive for $229.99, and the drives are in stock. The 2TB silver model retails for $149.99 and the 1TB model for $109.99. All three products include a 3-year warranty that covers manufacturer's defects.
The LaCie Porsche Design Mobile sells online and in retail stores. LaCie chose to use a full retail package that outlines many of the specifications and features of the product.
LaCie packaged the drive in a plastic container to keep it secure. The accessories and paper Quick Installation Guide fit under the drive in a recessed area of the plastic container.
The drive ships with two cables in the package. The cables give users the ability to connect to a legacy USB 3.0 Type-A port, and also the new USB Type-C port featured on many new PCs and Apple products. I feel this would have been a great product to include a combo cable with. We're starting to see cables with a Type-A adapter cap fitted over the end of a USB Type-C connector. The cables are fairly low-cost, less than $15 online, but we've yet to use one, so we can't comment on quality.
A Closer Look
The drive itself is a full metal design that aims to add both style and protection to your data. Inside is a small printed circuit board attached to a Seagate Laptop HDD (Part Number ST4000LM016). A support structure keeps the components together but also reduces direct vibration to the delicate internals.
The drive uses the new USB Type-C connector, but it still offers the same 5Gbps peak transfer performance found with USB 3.0.
The Porsche Design Mobile Drive ships with applications loaded on the drive so you don't have to find and download the software from the LaCie website. The software is also available on the site in case you lose or delete it.
After you find the software, you can run the installer, which asks you questions during the setup. The software will format your drive and even give you the option to set up two partitions. Non-Windows devices can access the first partition (but Windows can access the data too), and the second partition has the NTFS file system that only Windows can access without third-party tools.
LaCie's software suite includes backup scheduling software, encryption management and formatting tools. LaCie also gives customers access to backup software for Mac products. We pulled these software images from the Rugged RAID, but the software, setup and features are identical.