LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt review review: Rugged and affordable Thunderbolt hard drive

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.3
  • Setup and ease of use: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 9.0
  • Service and support: 7.0

Average User Rating

5 stars 4 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt offers great performance, USB 3.0 support, and is rugged and competitively priced.

The Bad The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt offers just one Thunderbolt port and its SSD version offers only 120GB of storage space.

The Bottom Line Fast, flexible, rugged, and affordable, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is one of the best high-end portable drives on the market.

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The Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt that LaCie announced today is the third bus-powered Thunderbolt drive to hit the market and the second one that also supports USB 3.0. Its two contenders are the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, which is the very first Thunderbolt drive that's bus-powered, and the recently reviewed Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt HD-PATU3 that also supports USB 3.0.

The LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt still manages to be a first, though: it's the first bus-powered, USB 3.0, portable Thunderbolt drive that uses a solid-state drive (SSD) as its storage. It comes in a single capacity of 120GB, but the drive is also available in a standard hard-drive version that offers up to 1TB of storage.

I reviewed the SSD version, and it proved to be the fastest portable Thunderbolt drive I've reviewed to date. On top of that, the new drive also comes in a rugged aluminum case and has a removable protective rubber layer to offer even more protection. It's also very fast when used with USB 3.0.

At $200, the new SSD-based LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt is an excellent buy, among Thunderbolt storage solutions, costing some $90 less than the Elgato of the same capacity. Those who don't need the ultrafast speed of the SSD version can also opt for the 1TB hard-drive-based version that costs $250.

Drive type External Thunderbolt hard drive
Connector options Thunderbolt, USB 3.0
Available capacities 120GB (SSD) or 1TB (HDD)
Product dimensions 3.4 x 5.3 x 0.75 inch
Weight 8.5 ounces
Capacity of test unit 120GB (SSD)
OSes supported Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Windows 7 or later

Design and features
The new LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt is a nice surprise, considering that the other SSD-based Thunderbolt drive the company released more almost a year ago, the 120GB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD, was one of the most expensive drives on the market. The new drive, on the other hand, arguably is one of the most affordable, and it even includes a Thunderbolt cable, which would be another $50 if you had to buy one separately. The drive also comes with a standard USB 3.0 cable.

Because the drive also supports USB 3.0, you can use it with both Thunderbolt-enabled computers and those that only have USB support. The drive works with Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0, and you just need one cable, be it a USB or Thunderbolt, to use it. I tried it with many computers, and in every case, the single cable can draw enough juice to power the drive from the connected port. Bus power, which is available in all portable USB drives, is a nice feature that spares you from having to use a separate power adapter.

Following the design of the first rugged portable drive, the LaCie LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt also comes with a removable bright-orange rubber protective case. This case doesn't cover the entire drive, just its edges; it keeps the drive safer from shocks and drops. It doesn't keep the drive safe from moisture or water, however. When this layer is removed, you'll find the drive is very rugged thanks to its aluminum casing.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Hard Drive Type external hard drive
  • Capacity 256 GB
About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.