LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt Series 1TB USB3 Drive

      Photo Review 8.5


      Full review

      LaCie’s  Rugged range of portable external drives has been expanded with three new drives featuring both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces, which are available in 120GB, 256GB and 1TB capacities. The 120GB (RRP AU$250; US$200) and 256GB  (RRP AU$399; US$350) drives contain solid state storage drives, which accounts for their limited capacities and comparatively high price tags relative to their storage capacity. The 1TB drive, which we received to review,  is a conventional magnetic hard disk drive (HDD) that sells for AU$299 (US$250).


      Side view of the  LaCie Rugged  Thunderbolt  USB 3.0 drive. (Source: LaCie.)

      Build and Ergonomics
       The three Rugged drives have the signature Neil Poulton design and come in tough aluminium enclosures with a removable protective rubber-like buffer in bright orange. This cladding covers the edges and corners of the drive, extending inwards over the case by approximately 1 cm on the longer sides and about 2 cm at the top and bottom.

      The orange buffer has a textured surface that provides a very secure grip but it’s flexible enough to be removable without too many hassles.  When in place it provides adequate protection against impact shocks and withstands drops of up to 1.2 metres. But it’s not waterproof.

      Each drive is supplied with Micro-USB USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt cables and there are separate ports for each type of cable, both at the same end of the case, as shown in the illustration below. This means the drive can only be used at the end of a daisy chain when linked with other Thunderbolt devices.


      End view of the Rugged Thunderbolt Series 1TB USB3 Drive showing the Micro-USB USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports. (Source: LaCie.)

      Only one interface can be used at a time. If you inadvertently connect the drive to a computer with both the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt cables, the first connection to be made will be used.  LaCie supports these drives with a two-year limited warranty (details at

      Size-wise, there’s a price to pay for the rugged construction, high capacity and high-speed transmission facilities. The illustration below shows the 1TB Rugged Thunderbolt USB 3.0 drive with a WD My Passport USB 2.0 500GB drive sitting on it.



      Whereas the smaller drive slips easily into a neoprene laptop pouch with a 14-inch laptop computer, the LaCie drive is too large to be carried in this way and would be better partnered with a larger laptop. Price-wise, the WD My Passport 500GB USB 2.0 drive that provides only twice the capacity.

      A couple of features are pretty standard on portable HDDs: bus-powering via the interface cable and plug-and-play set-up. The LaCie Rugged offers both and is fully compatible with computers running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8  and Mac OS X 10.5 (Intel only), 10.6, 10.7, 10.8. Because USB 3.0 is backwards compatible, you can also connect it to virtually any standard computer with an appropriate port.

      The Thunderbolt interface was developed by  Intel  and  released commercially in Apple’s  MacBook Pro  line-up in February, 2011. The interface uses a mini DisplayPort connector that combines optical and electrical cables. The former supports fast data transmission while the latter powers the external device. Thunderbolt is interoperable with  DisplayPort  1.2 compatible devices, which include some Dell, HP and Lenovo laptops.  

      The drives come with the following software applications: Adobe Reader, Genie Timeline Free backup software, LaCie Private Public encryption software and Wuala online storage. 10GB of  Wuala Secure Cloud Storage is included for one year of secure data storage.

      Setting Up
      We found it took about half an hour to configure the drive and set up the software that supports it. It’s straightforward thanks to the wizard-based Setup Assistant that steps you through the installation process. It pops up on the screen the first time you connect the drive to your computer.



      The first step in the set-up process is to format the device. Initially we were reluctant to do this, fearing it may wipe the pre-installed software. However, the process simply lets you allocate how much of the drive you want to share with other operating systems. NTFS works best with Windows XP, Vista and 7; FAT 32 is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers.


       The formatting process takes roughly five minutes.


       Once the drive is formatted, you’re asked to register it, which activates the warranty.


       Step 4 installs the software and you can choose not to install applications you don’t plan to use. This step takes between five and 10 minutes, depending on how many applications are installed.



      The final step provides a summary of the applications installed and notification that the device is ready for use.



      If you’ve installed LaCie Genie Timeline Edition, you will be prompted to set up your backup system.



      This involves selecting a drive to receive the backup data.


       Then determining which files to back up.


       You can view the progress of the backup on-screen and pause it and resume it at will.



      If you’ve installed Wuala Secure Cloud Storage, you’ll be promoted to create a free account, a process that takes less than a minute.

       We were only able to test this drive with a USO 3.0 connection as we don’t have a laptop with a Thunderbolt interface. It took approximately 10 minutes to copy a 30GB file of images to the drive using the USB 3.0 connection. Moving them back from the drive to the computer took six and a half minutes.

      A 2GB folder containing a mixture of data types (images, text, spreadsheets) took 44 seconds to transfer to the drive and 26 seconds to return to the computer.

      To help you gauge how much storage capacity you need for different tasks, we’ve gleaned the following information from a number of sources (including Wikipedia):
       – 1GB can store approximately seven minutes of  HDTV  video at 19.39  Mbit/second.
       – 1GB can store approximately 101 high-resolution JPEGs or 28 compressed raw files from a 22-megapixel camera.
       – 1GB can store approximately 130 high-resolution JPEGs or 65 compressed raw files from a 16-megapixel camera.
       – 1GB can store approximately 210 high-resolution JPEGs or 70 compressed raw files from a 12-megapixel camera.
       Multiply these figures by 1000 for one terabyte (1TB) capacity.

       The 1TB Rugged drive is well built and efficient and it’s easy to set up and use. The bundled software provides good automatic backing-up facilities and the option for cloud storage could be useful for photographers on the move.

      Although we weren’t able to test LaCie’s Rugged solid state drives, their technical specifications claim they are capable of transfer speeds of up to   380MB/second, compared with  the claimed 110MB/second transfer speed of the drive we tested. If speed is a priority and you don’t need high storage capacity, one of these drives could be a better option than the 1TB drive.


       Capacity: 1TB
       Rotational speed: 5400rpm
       Interface: USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt  
       Data transfer rate: 110MB/s
       Power supply: Bus-powered via USB cable
       Maximum drop height: 1.2 meters in non-operating mode (dropping is not recommended in operating mode)
       Dimensions: 89 x 140 x 24 mm
      Weight:   260 grams

      RRP: AU$299; US$250
       Cost per gigabyte: ~25 cents


      RRP: AU$299; US$250

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of Use: 8.5
      • Software: 8.5