LaCie 2big Triple (2TB) Review

LaCie 2big Triple (2TB)

“We at DigitalTrends give the 2big Triple a huge thumbs up.”
  • Four user-selectable RAID options; supports USB 2.0
  • FireWire 400 and FireWire 800
  • Rotating RAID dial is a little cumbersome; expensive
MSRP $939.99

Summary

In the world of external drives and system backups, LaCie has made a solid and unforgettable name for itself. Hot on the heels of numerous product releases earlier this summer, LaCie has a new heavyweight champ to handle your backup needs. The LaCie 2big Triple 2TB RAID hard drive has impressive features for amateurs and professionals alike. Depending on your budget and desire for fail-proof backups, the 2big Triple could be perfect for you. Read on for specifics and be sure to check out our video review.

Features and Design

The "LaCie 2big Triple" is a very rugged drive with sexy-industrial overtones. The all-metal body has a brushed texture and clean, striking lines. It’s built like a brick and weighs in at about 5 3/4lbs.

The back of the enclosure has one USB 2.0, one FireWire 400 and two FireWire 800 connections for super-fast data backups. On the Triple, the USB.20 transfer estimates are 60MB/s, FireWire 400 estimates are 50MB/s and FireWire 800 estimates are an impressive 100MB/s. These speeds are reported under RAID 0 configuration. The three data interfaces are the most common world-wide and will serve 99% or more of the drive’s potential users.

The LaCie 2big Triple drive enclosure cools itself with an internal "thermo-regulated" fan, however the primary source of cooling is through the radiator-like metal body which acts as a full time passive heat sync. No matter how warm your hard drives get from intense use, the 2big Triple will dissipate the heat to help keep the hardware safe. Of course, if the ambient temperatures in your work environment exceed the internal temps of the drive enclosure, you may need to consider an active cooling system for your hardware. For everyone else, the Triple is plenty good at reducing heat.

One notable feature of the 2big Triple is the modifiable ways it can be stored. The Triple has a sturdy metal body with a screw-mounted metal foot plate, giving it good stability in an upright, solo configuration. The Triple is stackable and rack-mountable with a special rack system from LaCie.

LaCie 2big Triple RAID
The front of the LaCie 2big Triple RAID

RAID!

The best and most important feature of the LaCie 2big Triple 2TB RAID drive is the user selected type of RAID configuration for the removable, swappable drives. With the slightest effort, one can switch between RAID levels, giving you full redundancy, maximum disk space, two independent drives, etc. It’s all about you and how you want to protect your data.

Specifically, the four disk management options are:

1. RAID 0 (aka FAST) which merges two drives – in this case, two 1TB drives – into what looks like a single 2TB drive. There is no data redundancy, so if one drive fails, your data is toast. RAID 0 is very popular due to the "doubled" drive size and extra speed associated with simultaneous data transfer to each drive, thereby speeding things up on a hardware level. Excellent for life in the fast lane, but bad, bad, bad for extra paranoid people who simply cannot, will not, dare not lose data. 

2. RAID 1 (aka SAFE 100) which mirrors two identical disks. If you have two 1TB drives in RAID 1, then you’ll see a single 1TB drive when the Triple is plugged in to your computer. Data is being written to both hard drives and should one drive fail, no data will be lost. Simply insert another identical drive and the data safely stored on the non-failed disk will mirror over to the new drive. This is the best option for folks who want ultimate data protection and are willing to forsake overall drive size for peace of mind.

3. BIG MODE (aka hardware concatenation) merges two identical drives together for maximum capacity but, like RAID 0, there’s no redundancy for data protection. Life on the edge. Livin’ large.

4. JBOD MODE (aka independent disks) essentially turns off hardware RAID management and allocates a drive letter to each of the two internal hard drives. If you have two 1TB drives in the 2big Triple enclosure, then you’ll see something like drive D: being 1TB and drive E: being 1TB. If there’s any data redundancy, it’s done on a human level. In other words, you’d be responsible for backing up to each drive. Also good for software-controlled RAID 0.

The 2TB version of the 2big Triple has two 1TB Hitachi Deskstar drives running at 7200 rpm. The drives are SATA 3.0GB/s and have 16MB cache each. Average seek time is less than 10 miliseconds.

Changing RAID

If you’ve had enough of one RAID level and want to try something new, switching RAID configurations is quick and easy. All it takes is a tiny flat-head screwdriver (like a jeweler’s screwdriver) to rotate the RAID dial between the four modes. Once you do this, the 2big Triple will completely wipe out all the data on your drives, so you’re essentially starting over from scratch. Don’t do it till you’ve backed up your data elsewhere.

One cool thing about changing RAID configs on the 2big Triple is the reboot – the drives wind up like little turbo chargers and the red and blue LEDs flash on the back of the drive indicating that the Triple is setting up the new RAID config.

The only caveat when setting these RAID configurations is that you need to make sure the little arrow on the dial is turned exactly to the right point. If the wee tiny arrow does not line up with the proper mark on the drive, the RAID configuration could accidentally be selected as the next closest RAID level on the diagram. If I had a voice with LaCie’s dev team, I would ask them to not use a click-less rotating dial for changing RAID levels – use a 4-position vertical or horizontal switch that decidedly clicks into place.

LaCie 2big Triple RAID
The back of the LaCie 2big Triple RAID

 

Operating Systems

The Triple works seamlessly with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, all without drivers. To use the Triple with another OS, you may need drivers.

Another endearing characteristic of the 2big Triple is the reduced-size power brick. Instead of having a huge honking power brick taking up valuable space and poisoning your office Feng Shui, the Triple has a much smaller power brick that’s not much larger than a stick of butter. It’s also light weight. 

Warranty

LaCie offers a two year limited warranty on this 2TB drive.

Included Items

LaCie includes data cables for USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800. Also included are software CDs and a somewhat limited user manual. You get EMC Retrospect Express HD 2.0 for Windows 200/XP/Vista, EMC Retrospect Express 6.1 for Mac OS X, the LaCie Shortcut Button utility for Mac/PC, Silverkeeper, LaCie’s 1-Click Backup software and MacDrive for Windows.

Setup and Use

Setting up the 2big Triple drive is fairly easy, though it’ll take some forethought to select the proper RAID setting. As for the physical drive setup, remove the Triple from the packaging, plug the power supply into the drive enclosure and an available outlet and connect the drive to your computer by USB 2.0, FireWire 400 or FireWire 800. For absolute speed, go with FireWire 800, It just can’t be beat.

If you want, install the included software on your system. If you have another preferred backup program, then you can use it instead of the included software. To take advantage of the LaCie one-touch button, you’ll need to install the utility from the CD. The LaCie "Shortcut Button" utility allows you to customize what the blue button on the front of the 2big Triple drive does. The button can be assigned any number of actions – opening programs, websites or performing a backup. This works with Windows Vista, XP and 2000, as well as with any Mac OS X 10.2.8 or higher.

Once the 2big Triple is powered up and connected to your computer, your computer should instantly (or somewhat quickly) recognize the drive and assign a drive letter or name. The rest is up to you and the backup software.

LaCie 2big Triple RAID
The drives are hot-swappable on the LaCie 2big Triple RAID

Transfer Speeds

We tested the LaCie 2big Triple RAID drive several times to see how quickly we could back up and retrieve some files. Average transfer speeds are 40MB/s when using FireWire 800 on a 2.4GHz MacBook Pro. These speeds increase to an average of 51MB/s when using FireWire 800 on a dual Xeon 2.66GHz Mac Pro desktop. FireWire 400 averages 28MB/s to 32MB/s depending on what’s transferred – a single huge file or a folder with thousands of smaller files. Not surprisingly, USB 2.0 is the slowest means for transferring data to and from the LaCie Triple. Average speeds for USB 2.0 range between 15MB/s and 19MB/s. 

Because each computer system is different and environmental factors can have effects on transfer speeds, these test results may vary from what you experience.

On a personal note, I love the SAFE 100 (RAID 1) mode. It provides such a warm, fuzzy feeling of total data protection. Using this mode, I swear I can feel my stress level drop. 

Noise Factor

The LaCie 2big Triple RAID drive is a substantial piece of hardware. It has two 1TB Hitachi drives spinning at 7200rpm and it has an internal fan that occasionally winds up to cool the drives. With all this activity happening, one would expect the Triple to be a loud drive. On the contrary – it is surprisingly quiet, though certainly not silent. 

Conclusion

The LaCie 2big Triple 2TB RAID hard drive is a very solid, very advanced (but completely easy to use) hard drive for professionals and non-professionals – anyone who wants their data to be safe and properly backed up. The user-configurable RAID options are nothing short of awesome. The swappable drives make for even higher levels of data protection. Sure, the price is high when compared to generic and consumer level external drives, but no other low- or mid-grade drive solution offers quite what the Triple does. We at DigitalTrends give the 2big Triple a huge thumbs up.

Pros:

• Four user-selectable RAID options
• Massive storage
• Fast data transfers with USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800
• Cools with internal fan and heat-sync body
• Quiet & energy efficient

Cons:

• High $939 USD retail price
• Rotating RAID dial is a little cumbersome

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