On December 5, 2007, LaCie announced yet another hard drive with a breathtakingly sleek design. The "Hard Disk" by Neil Poulton is a study in elegant simplicity – glossy black surface, no markings or logos, and a soft LED light that spills a blue glow in front of the drive. If you value design aesthetics as much as drive reliability, the $149 USD 500GB LaCie Hard Disk might be the right choice for you. Check out our full review for detailed specs on the hard drive and its read/write performance.
Features and Design
Neil Poulton, one of the key designers behind the most stylish and unusual LaCie hard drives, recently created an ultra-minimalist, high-gloss black hard drive enclosure that looks like a tiny onyx monolith. The drive uses USB 2.0, has no logo and no markings whatsoever on the visible surfaces and oozes cool. The back of the drive is where we find the USB 2.0 port, power input and on/off switch. There’s also a well-camouflaged fan grille opposite the USB 2.0 port.
Other than the superbly glossy finish and the blue LED light glowing from under the front of the drive enclosure, this drive is a standard USB 2.0 drive. The 500GB (also available in 1TB) disc spins at 7200 RPM and has 8MB cache. As hard drive supplies change, the cache in your Hard Disk may vary between 8MB and 16MB.
The drive works with Linux, Mac OS X 10.3 and above, Windows 2000, XP and Vista. It measures 4.6" x 7.6" x 1.8" and weighs about 2lbs. The power cable is roughly 8′ long, so it’s easy to use on a surface somewhat far from an outlet.
LaCie includes easy-to-use backup software that works smoothly on both Mac and Windows systems. The software (LaCie 1-Click Backup Software for Mac & PC, and LaCie SilverKeeper Backup Software for Mac) is pre-loaded on the drive, so you won’t need to use a CD to do any installations. Also, included in the box: USB 2.0 cable, power supply and installation guide (not very informative or necessary).
Image Courtesy of LaCie
Setup and Use
Setting up this drive is incredibly fast and easy. Unbox the drive, the power cord and USB cable. Set the drive on a table or desk, connect the power cord to the drive and the other end to a surge protected outlet. Connect the drive to your computer with the included USB cable. Flip the little power switch on the back of the drive to the "on" position and voila – your drive will boot up and appear as an available drive on your computer.
If you want to follow the LaCie disk setup software, you can partition the drive or just format it as a single 500GB drive. Either way, the drive formats very fast and offers about 465.8GB once formatted. Note that the backup software is already on the drive, so be sure to copy the software to your computer before doing your own custom formatting or partitioning.
One thing we noticed when setting up the drive was its propensity for attracting countless fingerprints and hairline scratches. The fingerprints wipe off easily with any sort of microfiber cloth, but the hairline scratches do not. Rough cloth, paper towel and even fingernails leave tiny swirl marks on the glossy surface. Luckily these scratches are hard to notice from any distance over 2′. Be careful with the drive and don’t set anything on top of it – especially keys.
The drive emits a cool blue light
The drive is pretty quiet. It’s not silent, mind you, but it’s far from noisy or distracting. The design and ultra-shiny black surface and blue LED grab more attention than any sounds coming from the enclosure.
1a. Average write speeds for several 1.08GB files was 21.7 MB/s (173.6 Mbps)
1b. Average read speeds for several 1.08GB files was 29.9 MB/s (239.2 Mbps)
2a. Average write speeds for a 5.86GB folder with 5,000 files was 18.7 MB/s (149.6 Mbps)
2b. Average read speeds for a 5.86GB folder with 5,000 files was 20.8 MB/s (166.4 Mbps)
3a. Average write speeds for a 689MB folder with 116 files was 20.2 MB/s (161.6 Mbps)
3b. Average read speeds for a 689MB folder with 116 files was 22.9 MB/s (183.2 Mbps)
As you can see, the 500GB drive doesn’t exactly scream in read/write tests, but this is a common factor to USB-only drives and is not related in any way to the LaCie product. For USB 2.0 hard drives, the above test speeds are right on par. (FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 drives go far beyond the speeds of USB 2.0, if you’re looking for an all-out speed demon. In contrast, USB 2.0 is the most common and widely used connection on computers worldwide, so if you want to leverage ease-of-use and compatibility over a speed advantage, USB 2.0 is certainly the right choice.)
Along with Neil Poulton’s Hard Disk, you get LaCie’s solid reputation and excellent support team (though you’ll probably never have a reason to call tech support.) Every once in a while, we like to cold-call support teams to present common questions or support issues to see how the average consumer will be treated. Our call to LaCie’s support team in Hillsboro, Oregon went quite well. The rep was kind, professional, had a good sense of humor and handled all questions with surprising accuracy and confidence. It was a near perfect call, one that would (or should) please any LaCie customer.
The sexy black 500GB drive by LaCie is a solid USB 2.0 performer. It is unusually attractive for a hard drive and offers enough storage for half a million high-res photos or several years’ worth of MP3 music. It’s quiet and compliments any office or home decor. For $149 USD, it’s a very nice piece of hardware.
This drive is available in 320GB, 500GB, 750GB and 1TB sizes for $119, $149, $249 and $399 USD respectively.
• Very attractive design
• Simple and easy to use
• Very good dollar-to-GB price ratio
• Includes backup software for Mac & PC
• USB 2.0 not ideal for top-speed transfers
• Glossy surface scratches easily