LaCie 12big Thunderbolt 3 review: The ultimate storage system for professionals
Gigantic (both physical size and storage space) and unprecedentedly fast, LaCie's 12big Thunderbolt 3 is the ultimate storage system for professionals. Here's CNET's full review.
The 12big Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) is not for everyone, partly because not everyone can afford it. Starting at $6,399 (£ 5,649, price for Australia not yet available) for 48 terabytes of storage space, going all the way to $13,700 (£ 11,849) for 120TB, it's one of the most, if not the most, expensive consumer-grade storage system on the market. And chances are it's hugely overkill, too. The 12big is gigantic, both in terms of capacity and physical size. You'll also need a recent computer equipped with a TB3 input to take advantage of its performance.
That said, the new storage device only suitable for professionals who does a lot of heavy editing work, like high definition movie editing. And for this target audience, it will do well. If you find yourself in this demographic but need something with less storage space and lower price, the 6big Thunderbolt 3 is also an excellent alternative.
Staggeringly huge design
The 12big Thunderbolt 3 is basically a box that allows you to stack twelve standard 3.5-inch internal hard drives (HDDs) on top of one another. That said, it stands some 1.5 feet (about .5 meter) tall. Since it weighs almost 40 lbs (18kg), make sure you don't accidentally topple it on anyone, or anything.
Technically you can use any standard hard SATA HDDs with the system -- I haven't tried -- but it's preloaded with twelve Seagate Enterprise NAS 7200-rpm drives with the capacities ranging from 4TB to 10TB each. The review unit is populated with twelve 8TB drives. According to Seagate, these are high-performance drives designed for 24/7 operation.
On the front, the system has an array of removable front-loading trays, making it very easy to replace a drive. I found it a bit too easy, however, since there's no lock to keep the drives from being pulled out by accident, which can be a problem when the system is being used.
On the back, the system has two TB3 ports and one USB 3.1 USB-C ports and it includes a cable for each port. This means when used with TB3, you can daisy-chance a display or other TB3 storage device. You can also use the system with a computer that's only equipped with USB 3.1 Type-C connector but at much lower speeds. Unfortunately, the system doesn't have a regular Type-A USB port for you to connect or charge a regular USB device, like an iPhone .
Easy setup, plenty of RAID options
To make the 12big work with a computer, be it a Mac or a Windows computer, you first need to install LaCie Raid Manager. After that you can use the software to manage the device's RAID setup.
By default all of its drives are combined into a single RAID-5 volume and all you need to do is to format the volume before you use it, using Disk Utility (Mac) or Disk Management (Windows). This task took me just a few seconds.
Apart from RAID-5, you can use the 12big's HDDs in all other available RAIDs, including RAID-0, RAID-1, RAID-6, RAID-10, RAID-50 and RAID-60 in a single or multiple volumes. (Learn more about RAID here.) In my trial, the system could switch from one RAID to another very quickly, in a matter of a minute or so. The switch would, however, initiate a "Full background initialization" process which could take many hours to finish. This background process -- only necessary if you're not sure if all hard drives are in good condition -- didn't seem to affect the system's performance a great deal and I could also cancel it.
Other than that you can also use the LACie RAID Manager software to monitor the health of the disks in the system and perform other tasks such as firmware update.
Apart from LACie RAID manager, the system also include backup and security software in case you want use the 12Big as a backup destination or keep a portion of its storage from prying eyes.
The 12big is by far the fastest storage device I've seen. I tested it with a 2016 Macbook Pro and via a TB3 connection, in a RAID-5, it has the sustained real-world write speed of 1,161 megabyte per seconds, its read speed was even better at 1,371MB/s. To put this in perspective, with this kind of speed, you can finish transferring a Blu-ray disc worth of data (25GB) in less than 20 seconds. When performing both reading and writing at the same time, the system still delivered a sustained speed of more than 600MB/s.
The 12big shares the power status with the host computer, meaning if the computer is off or in sleep mode, the system will go offline, too, and will power backup when the computer turns on. Note that the 12big takes quite a long time -- up to some 20 seconds -- to get ready from sleep, mostly because it takes time to spin up all twelve hard drives.
Should you buy it?
Clearly, general home users have no use for the 12big, but if you're a professional who needs an ultimate direct attached storage device, it's totally worth the consideration. It's currently the fastest and the most capacious DAS storage device on the market. Just make sure you have a TB3-ready computer before you get it.