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LensVid Exclusive: LaCie Rugged RAID Review


A few weeks ago we received a very unique product from LaCie with a number of interesting features that we feel might appeal to quite a few professional (and possibly a few serious amateur) photographers looking for a high quality portable storage solution.

Storage company LaCie (part of Seagate Technology since 2012) is known for its rugged line of hard drive solutions. These distinctly rubber/orange coated drives are hard to miss and have been fevered by many photographers looking for a rugged solution for their on-the-go workflow.

So far these drives came in capacities ranging from 250GB to 2TB (with both SSD and HHD versions). Earlier this year the company released a new member into the Rugged family called the LaCie Rugged RAID (see our initial news article). This unit is, as far as we know, the smallest and most portable rugged RAID drive of its kind and testing it seems especially relevant for pro photographers looking for either more storage and faster performance, or a more secure way to store their important images and videos on the go.

The above video is long, so if you want to jump forward to a specific section – here is a tables of content:

  •  – 2:23 – Intro
  • 2:24 – 14:24 – Design
  • 14:25 – 22:47 – RAID & Performance
  • 22:48 – end – Conclusion

Portable rugged and fast – LaCie Rugged RAID

DSC_2551Design and build quality 

The LaCie Rugged RAID has a thick orange rubberised shell. It feels pretty solid and isn’t exactly light (almost 550g/1.2 pounds) although it does hold two mechanical 2.5″ drives so no surprise here.

The build quality seems to be good and as long as you do not open the front cover – there is nothing distinctive on the drive (apart from the LaCie logo on the top). When you do open the front cover (which you have to remember to close if you want to get environmental sealing – we got two covers with the unit – but we are not sure if this is the standard), you uncover the drive’s connections as well as the built in Thunderbolt cable (just over 30cm/12 inches long).

If you have Thunderbolt support on your MAC (or less likely on your PC) than congratulations – this is all you need to use the drive (this will give you both data/power for the unit). If you don’t, you will need to use  both a USB 3.0 cable (about 45cm/17 inches cable is supplied with the drive separately) along with an AC power (also supplied).

We have asked LaCie why using USB 3.0 requires  to use of an additional AC cable and although we still didn’t get an answer (we shall add it when we get it), we suspect that the 2 drives simply need more than what a single USB 3.0 can deliver (either a dual USB 3.0, a single USB 3.1 or some sort of an internal battery might have been a solution in this case).

At any rate if Thunderbolt isn’t an option for you – keep in mind that you will be limited to using this drive only where you have AC power handy – which is a drawback considering this is a rugged unit which is meant to be used anywhere you go.

Thunderbolt – the preferred choice 

DSC_3369Operation and performance

In the video we had a somewhat longer discussion on RAID  0 and RAID 1 – here we will settle for the following quick summery on RAID 1/0 on the LaCie Rugged RAID:

  1. RAID 0 – Less data integrity (if one drive fail all your data is lost), faster and 100% capacity – 4TB.
  2. RAID 1 – More data integrity (if one drive fail your data is safe on the other one), slower, 50% capacity – 2TB.

Essentially this is is all you need to know about RAID to choose your preferred mode on this hard drive. We would highly recommend RAID 1 for most photographers – you do loose 2TB, but you gain redundancy for your drive and this is a huge plus in our book.

Now that we know what each RAID is, lets look at the performance of both of them and compare them to two other external hard drives. To do that we used two methods – one synthetic (using a special software) and a real world test (transferring images and videos from the computer’s hard drive to the LaCie Rugged RAID).

If you are interested in the specifications of our new and extremely powerful computer we used for this test – here you go:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 5820K @ 3.30GHz.
  • RAM: 32GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4.
  • Motherboard: Asus SABERTOOTH X99.
  • Graphics: Asus GeForce GTX 970
  • Storage: Samsung SSD 850 PRO 512GB SSD (used for the test), WD 4TB Black, WD 4TB Green.
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64-bit.

First test – LaCie Rugged RAID: CrystalDiskMark 4.03 x64 (500MiB)

  1. RAID 1:
  • Read: 137MB/s.
  • Write: 132 MB/s.
  1. RAID 0:
  • Read: 255MB/s.
  • Write: 261 MB/s.

Second test – LaCie Rugged RAID: transfer 16.3GB of images and videos from the computer to the drive

  1. RAID 1:
  • Total time – 2:20
  • Average transfer speed – 114 MB/s
  1. RAID 0:
  • Total time – 1:07
  • Average transfer speed – 238 MB/s

For comparison sake we also tested two WD drives:

WD 1TB My Passport

  • Read – 129MB/s.
  • Write – 118MB/s.

WD 1TB My Passport Wireless

  • Read – 114MB/s.
  • Write – 109MB/s.

As you can easily see, even in RAID 1 the LaCie Rugged RAID has (slightly) better performance than the WD 1TB My Passport (and even better than the WD 1TB My Passport Wireless – which we shall review soon). In RAID 0 the gap is huge (but as we noted – you loose data integrity).

Side by side next to the WD 1TB My Passport Wireless

DSC_3134One note before we conclude. Changing the RAID from RAID 0 to RAID 1 is a bit annoying. You need to use a paper-clip (when the drive is connected to the computer and is  mounted) and push it into two of the tiny holes located near the USB port (twice in the first and quickly once in the second). We would much rather see a software option for changing the RAID. Also keep in mind that when you change the RAID all the info on the drive is erased – so be careful.

Conclusion

This is a very easy review to conclude. If you are a travelling photographer who use MAC and need a fast, rugged mobile backup solution to include in your day-to-day workflow – look no further than the LaCie Rugged RAID.

If you are a PC user (and don’t have Thunderbolt on your computer/s),  you will need to ask yourself the following question – are you going to have AC power wherever you are going to use the LaCie Rugged RAID? If your answer is yes (lets say that you are only going to use the drive in your studio/office and at home) than the LaCie Rugged RAID can be an option – however the whole rugged part is a bit less relevant for a typical office/studio environment (although accidents will happen anywhere – trust us). If you are not sure that you will have AC power anywhere you go with the drive – we would consider other options.

Perfect companion for on-the go MAC using photographers (less so for PC users)

DSC_3361Apart from this issue there is very little not to like about the drive (apart from the strange way LaCie choose to make you switch the RAID which requires a paper-clip). Pricing isn’t exactly low – currently just under $400 on Amazon, however for a rugged, compact, fast RAID unit with 4TB (in RAID 0) – this doesn’t seem to us like too much to ask – especially when the target audience will most likely include a lot of pro photographers.

What we liked

  • Perfect companion for on-the go MAC using photographers.
  • Small and compact for a RAID device.
  • Rugged (can even survive an SUV going over it – don’t try this at home kids!).
  • Fast transfer speeds on RAID 1; blazing fast performance on RAID 0.

What we liked less

  • Requires external AC power when used with USB 3.0 (far less portability for most PC users).
  • Annoying way to change RAID (requires a paper-clip – but you will probably only have to do this once).
  • Only 2TB on RAID 1 (not actually a drawback, just keep that in mind when you buy the drive).

You can check out more LensVid exclusive articles and reviews on the following link.

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