LaCie 2big Thunderbolt review: LaCie 2big Thunderbolt

The drive comes with a CD that contains Intego Backup Manager Pro software. Since the drive is easy to set up and it's probably best to use it with your Mac's Time Machine for backing-up purposes, it's likely you won't need to use this CD at all.

Performance
The LaCie 2big Thunderbolt Series is the first dual-bay Thunderbolt-based storage device I've reviewed. This means it's only similar to the Pegasus R6 when set up in RAID 0. In RAID 1, it's very much like a single-volume external hard drive. This is because in RAID 1 the bandwidth of the drive is limited by that of the internal hard drive. The reviewed unit comes with two 3TB Seagate Barracuda hard drives that spin at 7,200rpm. The hard drives support SATA 3, which caps at 6Gbps, much slower than the Thunderbolt standard's 10Gbps. In my tests, there was a big difference in the 2big's performance between the two RAID setups.

I put the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt through two sets of performance tests. In the first set, I compared it with internal drives, both traditional hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs). In the second set, the drive was stacked up against other popular external devices that use USB 3.0, USB 2.0, FireWire, and eSATA connections.

The test machine is a 2011 MacBook Pro running OS X Lion, with a SATA 3 (6Gbps) SSD. Again, note that, though among the fastest on the market, the notebook's internal drive has a significantly slower ceiling speed than the 10Gbps (about 1.2GBps) of Thunderbolt.

For the first set of tests, I used the Pegasus R6 connected to the LaCie and benchmarked how fast the LaCie transferred data to and from the Thunderbolt partner. After that, I took the R6 out of the chain and tested the 2big on its own. The host computer's internal storage doesn't have much effect on this set of tests.

In RAID 0, the 2big performed well when working with the R6, registering write speeds of about 240MBps, faster than any other dual-bay external hard drive. It was slower than the Pegasus R6, however, which scored 353MBps in the same test. When working alone and performing both read and write, the 2big averaged 111MBps, again much slower than the R6, but still faster than some SSDs.

The same tests were repeated with the 2big's hard drive being set up in RAID 1. This time around the drive performed much slower, close to a regular internal hard drive, registering 130MBps and just 60MBps, when working with the R6 and alone, respectively.

In the second set of tests, I basically tried using the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt the way most of us would use an external hard drive: copying data back and forth between it and the host computer's internal drive. In this test, the LaCie scored 179MBps for writing and 181MBps for reading in RAID 0. In RAID 1, it was slightly slower at 127MBps and 147Mbps, for writing and reading respectively. These numbers were slower than those of the R6 (RAID 5) but it still performed faster than any non-Thunderbolt external storage devices.

All in all, the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt performed as I expected, with RAID 0 showing much better performance than RAID 1. In either case, it was still one of the fastest external storage devices on the market. That said, if you intend to use it to host important data, make sure to change its hard-drive configuration to RAID 1 to keep your data safe.

The LaCie 2big Thunderbolt worked well in my trials even after long and heavy operation. The drive emitted almost no noise at all. Its blue round light, however, could be a nuisance if you want to keep the room dark.

Data transfer speeds Thunderbolt vs. internal drive (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unit to unit  
Self read and write  
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 0)
353.24 
228.06 
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5)
323.79 
192.53 
Plextor PX-256M2S
261 
162.03 
OCZ Vertex 3
260.71 
150.01 
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
233.5 
141.69 
Crucial M4
235.51 
117.99 
LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 0)
239.98 
111.36 
OCZ Agility 3
207.75 
101.67 
Patriot Wildfire
202 
99.72 
LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 1)
130.01 
60.1 
WD VelociRaptor 600GB
126.33 
58.05 
Seagate Barracuda XT
115.71 
51.1 
WD VelociRaptor 300GB
112.59 
47.12 

Data transfer speeds Thunderbolt vs. external drive (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 0)
184.94 
212.5 
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5)
177.53 
210.5 
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
186.8 
184.71 
LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 0)
180.96 
179.22 
LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 1)
147.2 
126.96 

Service and support
LaCie backs the 2big Thunderbolt Series with a three-year warranty, which is good compared with the Pegasus R6's two-year warranty. At LaCie's Web site, you have access to the device's documentation, knowledge base, and FAQs, and can download software to use with the device. If you want to contact LaCie, you'll first have to register an account with the company, however, which can be a hassle when you need help immediately.

Conclusions
The LaCie 2big Thunderbolt series, though very fast, is the slowest of the few Thunderbolt-based storage devices on the market. It more than makes up for this, however, by being much cheaper than the other Thunderbolt storage devices in terms of cost per gigabyte. In short, the drive offers a better balance of cost, capacity, and performance and I'd recommend it to any owner of a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac who needs a superfast external storage device.

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