LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ (2TB) Review

LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ (2TB)

“The LaCie Big Disk Extreme 2TB external hard drive is hardcore gorgeous and very, very fast.”
  • USB 2.0
  • Firewire 400
  • & Firewire 800; solid construction; nearly silent; energy effecient
  • Data rates slightly slower than suggested

Summary

In the world of high-volume data storage, there are two types of hardware providers: those that pawn off cheap, short-lifespan solutions with risky parts and those that offer high quality, reliable hardware and back it up with a friendly, accessible support team. LaCie, located just outside Portland, Oregon, has been proudly offering a wide array of hard drives since 1987. LaCie drives are typically avant-garde in design, and their newest two-terabyte drive (the Big Disk Extreme++ 2TB) is no exception. Featuring two 7,200rpm 1TB hard drives in RAID 0, USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800, and 64MB of cache memory, the 2TB drive is about as good as it gets. We ran the 2TB drive through a series of tests to see how it would perform. Read on to find out how well it did and whether or not the drive would be useful for you.

Features and Design

LaCie’s external hard drives have always been well-built and attractive. The most recent addition to the "Big Disk Extreme+" family is no exception. The LaCie Big Disk Extreme++ 2TB "Professional Hard Drive" has an aluminum body and a sexy brushed metal finish that make it look like it was borne from a Mac Pro desktop computer.

The hard drive itself weighs in at 5.51 lbs., or 2.5 kg. It’s pretty heavy — like a thick dictionary or a small sledge hammer. The physical construction is very good — metal all around, clean edges, rounded corners, etc.

Like with most external hard drives, the power adapter for the 2TB Big Disk Extreme++ is a little bulky, though not abnormally so. The overall cord length is about 10 feet. The power adapter that plugs into the back of the enclosure is proprietary, so if you lose or damage your adapter, you’ll have to buy another one from LaCie.

The LaCie Big Disk Extreme++ 2TB enclosure is designed to operate in three modes of installation: standing upright on a desk with the included metal base (not a cheapo clip-on base, but a screw-mounted, slip-protected base), horizontally stacked with included rubber micro-pads, or rack mounted up to 4U in an optional $49.99 USD rack available though LaCie’s website. If you had the money to spend, you could get 8TB — eight mind-boggling terabytes — of storage in less than one square foot of space on your desk. Holy cow!

The 2TB Big Disk Extreme++ is cooled by heat dissipation and a very quiet, practically silent internal fan.

To keep the relatively expensive 2TB drive from going on walkabout, LaCie added a DEFCON cable lock port. With high-profile hardware like this, keeping the drive secure is just as important as keeping your data safe.

Additionally, LaCie took measures to help you manage power consumption in your office, at home, or wherever this 2TB drive is used. The power switch has three modes: off, on, and auto. Auto mode allows the drive to turn on when it is needed and hibernate when it’s not in use. For average types of use, this could cut power consumption by upwards of 75 percent. 

Software

Another bonus with the LaCie 2TB drive is the included software. You get Silverlining Pro Utilities (Mac OS 9), Silverkeeper (OS 9 & OS X), and LaCie’s "1-Click" backup software. You’ll also get EMC’s Retrospect Express for Mac and Windows machines, which includes the LaCie "Shortcut Button" driver that allows you to customize what the blue button on the front of the 2TB drive does. The button can be assigned any number of actions: opening programs, websites, or — more apropos — initializing a backup. This feature works with Windows Vista, XP, and 2000, as well as with any Mac OS X 10.2.8 or higher.

LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ 2TB
The LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ connected to a MacBook Pro

Setup and Use

Setting up this 2TB Big Disk Extreme+ is easy, though you may need some muscle to heft the drive out of its packaging. Set the drive on a desk or table and plug the power adapter into the back of the enclosure and then into a wall outlet.

Select which transfer cable you’ll want to use. (LaCie is kind enough to include a cable for each of the connections: USB 2.0, Firewire 400, and Firewire 800. That’s pretty generous, especially in these times when tech companies are slimming down the extras given to customers.) Connect the data cable to the drive and your computer. As long as the drive’s power switch is switched to "on" or "auto," the drive will power up and appear on your computer as an available drive.

You can begin using the massive amount of storage space right away or you can install the optional backup software that LaCie includes.

Installing the software — EMC Retrospect Express, for example — took less than two minutes. Retrospect Express has plenty of options for backing up your files or your entire system. I was able to configure the Shortcut Button to open up a program of my choice — Disk Utility — in mere seconds. It works perfectly. Whenever I want to change the program or action, I can do so in less than 10 seconds. I can even have the Shortcut Button open up my favorite song in iTunes! Awesome!

If the power button is switched to "on", the drive will never turn off. Use this option if you absolutely must have the drive running all the time. The lifespan of the drive will probably be reduced a wee little bit, and your electric bill will suffer. Ideally, you’d keep the power button in the "auto" position, allowing the drive to be on/active when connected to your computer, and hibernating when disconnected. If, like most people, you don’t use the drive very often, keep it switched to "off" and/or unplugged from the wall outlet.

Available Space

Even though the LaCie "Big Disk Extreme+" 2TB drive is commonly thought to hold two terabytes of data, the actual usable space on the drive is 1.82TB. This discrepancy is normal. According to LaCie, 2TB should give you enough storage space for 152 hours of digital video, 540,000 songs, or 2,200,000 photos (0.9MB each, which is uncommonly small these days). Professional photographers wind up with RAW images no smaller than 5MB each, which means that this drive could hold upwards of 388,800 RAW images. 

Tons of Cache

The LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ 2TB has 64MB of cache memory. That’s a lot! Each 1TB SATA drive runs at 7,200rpm and has 32MB cache. For reference, the drives used in the present production run are HITACHI Deskstar 7K1000 drives. Very nice.

LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ 2TB
The back of the drive

Speed Tests

We tested the LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ 2TB several times to see how quickly we could back up some files. While we weren’t expecting stellar performance with USB 2.0, the FireWire options probably should have been better. However, the write speeds absolutely beat the snot out of other recently examined external hard drives.

WRITE Speeds (using 2.4GHz MacBook Pro)
USB 2.0 Transfer TO LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 74 seconds = 14.1MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 80 seconds = 17.5MB/s

FireWire 400 Transfer TO LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 43 seconds = 24.3MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 68 seconds = 20.6MB/s

FireWire 800 Transfer TO LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 53 seconds = 19.7MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 42 seconds = 33.4MB/s

READ Speeds (using 2.4GHz MacBook Pro)
USB 2.0 Transfer FROM LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 77 seconds = 13.6MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 75 seconds = 18.7MB/s

FireWire 400 Transfer FROM LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 50 seconds = 20.9MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 61 seconds = 22.9MB/s

FireWire 800 Transfer FROM LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 48 seconds = 21.8MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 61 seconds = 22.9MB/s

WRITE Speeds (using dual Xeon 2.66GHz Mac Pro)
USB 2.0 Transfer TO LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 74 seconds = 14.1MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 78 seconds = 17.9MB/s

FireWire 400 Transfer TO LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 30 seconds = 34.8MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 43 seconds = 32.6MB/s

FireWire 800 Transfer TO LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 21 seconds = 49.7MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 38 seconds = 36.9MB/s

READ Speeds (using dual Xeon 2.66GHz Mac Pro)
USB 2.0 Transfer FROM LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 67 seconds = 15.5MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 72 seconds = 19.4MB/s

FireWire 400 Transfer FROM LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 31 seconds = 33.6MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 65 seconds = 21.5MB/s

FireWire 800 Transfer FROM LaCie 2TB
1.02 GB Word documents (3,641 files) – 24 seconds = 43.5MB/s
1.37 GB MP4 movie (1 file) – 39 seconds = 35.9MB/s 

Transfers to/from differently configured computers will produce varying results. No matter your setup, you’ll find that USB 2.0 is just painfully slow compared to FireWire.

Warranty

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

Price Point

At the time of this writing, LaCie is offering the 2TB Big Disk Extreme+ for $849 USD. That seems pretty expensive, until you realize that two 1TB Hitachi drives cost at least $700. The extra $149 gives you a gorgeous RAID 0 enclosure with USB 2.0, Firewire 400, and Firewire 800, not to mention access to LaCie’s excellent support team, should you ever need them.

Several readers have commented that it could be cheaper to get four 500GB drives, or even two 1TB drives. True, it could be cheaper, but if you want to continue to have countless drives and cases to manage, and if you want data strewn haplessly over separate disks, then by all means, go cheap. If you want one simple repository for your data, if you want to ease management, save time, and free yourself of drives, power cords, and clutter, then a 2TB drive is brilliant.

Caveat and Paranoid Eggs

The only caveat I can offer is that placing all your data on one drive (and never backing up that drive) is truly the epitome of "putting all your eggs in one basket." While all my 70,000+ RAW and JPG photos, countless documents, PDFs, movies, and other files would fill the 1.82TB allocation quite rapidly, I would be remiss if I didn’t act on a little data paranoia. Whatever goes on the 2TB drive also goes onto DVD or smaller hard drives that can be stuffed away in a storage unit somewhere. Should anything ever happen to the 2TB drive (glitch, fire, theft, etc.) I would be able to recoup from the loss. Both LaCie and Hitachi offer excellent products and they stand by them 100 percent. That’s excellent, really, but it’s up to the consumer to add an extra layer of data protection.

Because this 2TB drive uses two 1TB drives in RAID 0, there’s an increased risk of trouble recovering data in the event that one of the two hard drives dies. RAID 1 is better for the über-paranoid, but until 2TB SATA drives are in production, twin 1TB drives in RAID 0 are the best (and only) option.

If you’re considering the 2TB Big Disk Extreme+ as a single migration/storage point for several existing hard drives, do so, but wrap those old drives in static-free bags and store them somewhere safe, like in an underground bunker where even EMPs can’t mess with your data.

Conclusion

The LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ 2TB external hard drive is hardcore gorgeous and very, very fast. With the holy trinity of data connections (USB 2.0, Firewire 400, and Firewire 800), there are very few consumers out there who couldn’t benefit from such a massive external storage option.

Even though the $849 USD price tag may make budget shoppers feel a little woozy, professional users will concur that price and quality very often go hand in hand. Frankly, the $849 price is just barely over the average retail cost of the parts, and that represents an excellent value for consumers.

Pros:

• Huge 1.82TB usable space
• USB 2.0, Firewire 400, & Firewire 800
• Solid construction
• Nearly silent
• Energy efficient

Cons:

• Data rates slightly slower than suggested
• RAID 0 poses data recovery risk if an internal drive dies

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