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LaCie 5big Network 2 review: LaCie 5big Network 2

LaCie 5big Network 2

Dong Ngo
Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
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 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
6 min read

The LaCie 5big Network 2 is a big upgrade from the company's Network Space 2, both in terms of performance and physical size. The new five-bay server looks impressive with its metal casing and cubic shape. It's also practical with easily accessible hard drive bays. What could be a little more impressive about the server, though, is its performance and features. The server performed well in our testing but was quite noticeably below similarly configured Synology DS1511+ .


LaCie 5big Network 2

The Good

The <b>LaCie 5big Network 2</b> offers lots of storage space and ease of use in a bold, practical and impressive design. The NAS server also offers decent performance and useful features, such as Auto RAID and support for Lion's Time Machine.

The Bad

The LaCie 5big Network 2 performance could be comparatively better. Replacing its hard drive will void the warranty.

The Bottom Line

The LaCie 5big Network 2 is appealing mostly to home users, especially sci-fi movie fans or fashion designers. Advanced and savvy users might be turned off by its lack of features and comparatively low performance.

If you're in the market for a high-capacity, easy-to-use network storage device, with the prices that started at $750 (for the 5TB version), the LaCie 5big Network 2 will definitely get the job done. Those who want to get the most out of a NAS server, however, should also check out the Editors' Choice DS1511+ from Synology.

At a glance, the LaCie 5big Network 2 looks more like a black box of a spaceship than a storage device. The almost perfect cube-shaped device has nothing but a big round LED on the front that shines solid blue when the server is turned on or flashes during data activities.

On the back, you'll find five drive bays that host five SATA hard drives. These bays are locked in by a latch that can be opened with a coin. Once opened, each bay can be pulled out easily in case you want to upgrade or replace the hard drive. You do need a screwdriver to install or remove the drive from the tray. Note, however, that the servers come preloaded with five hard drives; if you decide to replace any of them, it voids the warranty. This is a little counterintuitive, as the server's design is clearly intended to let users service its internal storage easily.

The hard drives come preset in RAID 5 configuration but they can be changed in to other configurations, including JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 6, and Auto RAID. Auto RAID is LaCie's proprietary flexible RAID configuration available with the version 2.0 of the NAS OS that LaCie announced recently. Similar to Hybrid RAID of Synology or XRAID 2 of Netgear, LaCie's Auto RAID automatically set up hard drives in the best RAID configurations depending on the number of hard drives being used. On top of that it also allows for upgrading an existing RAID setup to larger capacities without having to rebuild the RAID from scratch. Note that it would take a long time to upgrade the hard drives (tens of hours for each) and you can only upgrade one drive a time. However, this is quite normal and similar to when you need to replace a hard drive in a RAID 5 setup. The server is still working during the upgrade, just at a slower speed.

The LaCie 5big Network 2 allows for mixing hard drives of different capacities in its Auto RAID configuration.

Also on the back of the server, there are two eSATA ports and two USB 2.0 ports to host more storage. There are also two Gigabit Ethernet ports. These ports can be used at the same time to either balance the load or for failsafe purposes. Unfortunately they can't be aggregated to increase the data throughput rates of the server.

Like the Network Space 2, the 5big Network 2's setup process was fast and easy. The device includes the LaCie Network Assistant software that helps identify the NAS on the network and maps the network drives, so you can use them as connected hard drives. The software also helps launch the device's Web interface that helps further customize the NAS server.

The LaCie 5big Network 2 runs the newer 2.0 of the NAS OS, which, among other things, offers full support for Lion, including its Time Machine. We tried this out and it worked as intended. You do need to turn the support on via the Web interface, however, as support for Time Machine is by default turned off.

Similar to the previous version of the NAS OS, the interface of the version 2.0 is simple and straightforward. It consists of two lines of big buttons on the bottom and the right side of the webpage. Each button is a category, such as Users, Shares, RAID Management and so on, and when clicked on shows all the functions and settings of that category on the main part of the webpage for users to customize. Since there are only so many buttons that can fit on the two sides of the page (three on each side), the lower right corner area of the page contains little icons of other categories that you can drag out to replace any of the buttons that are currently displayed on the sides.

We actually like the way the server's interface is organized as it's intuitive and self-explanatory. Most users will just need a few minutes to familiarize and know what to do without much help. This is especially helpful when it comes to enable the server's features and changing the RAID configuration. Most of the time, all you have to do is a few clicks.

By default the LaCie 5big Network 2 comes with two shared folders. One of them is public with no access restriction. The second one is private to the owner of the account that's currently used to access it. The admin users can add more accounts and can also change access restriction to the public share folder.

The server offers a self download feature that works well but is limited to free FTP or HTTP downloads. This means if you want to use it to download a large file from a subscription service, such as RapidShare, you're out of luck. The server also has support for iTunes and UPnP media streaming servers. You can just turn this feature on or off without being able to further customize from what folder the digital content will be shared, how often newly added content will be included in the share list etc.

Overall, the server supports Windows and Mac OS very well, as well as network media streamers. All of its features worked as intended in our testing.

Considering the performance of its predecessor, the LaCie 5big Network 2 performed well in our testing. It was nowhere even close to our top performers, however.

We tested the server both with RAID 5 and Auto RAID, which are supposedly similar since the reviewed unit comes with all five bays occupied. Since Auto RAID is designed to set up the drive in the best combination of storage space, data safety and performance, we assumed that it set up the drives in something similar to RAID 5. However, we found that the two offer very different performance.

In RAID 5, the server offer very good read speeds that average 83.1MBps, which is similar to that of most USB 3.0 external hard dive. However, its write speeds registered just around 25.3MBps, well below the average on our charts.

In Auto RAID, the server did better in write speeds scoring 29.5MBps but its read speed took a toll and reduced to just 41.1MBps. In comparison, the DS1511+ scored 99.2MBps and 109.9MBps for writing and reading, respectively, in Hybrid RAID.

In all, the LaCie 5big Network 2 isn't a slow NAS server, but it's much slower than other RAID-5 capable NAS servers we've seen.

NAS performance (via wired Gigabit Ethernet connection, measured in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Service and support
LaCie backs the LaCie 5big Network 2 with a three-year warranty, which is longer than the one-year warranty of many other NAS servers and the two-year of the Network Space 2. The warranty covers both parts and labor. Telephone support is offered Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST. At LaCie's Web site, you can download software that accompanies the device, its GPL source code, as well as have access to its documentation, knowledge base, FAQs and other ways to contact LaCie.

While we love the LaCie 5big Network 2 for its great look, practical design, ease of use and the large amount of storage, we were let down by its comparatively slow performance and lack of advanced features.


LaCie 5big Network 2

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 6Performance 6Support 7
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