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LaCie Christofle Sphere review: Expensive, luxurious, beautiful, and fast

Would you pay $490 for a 1TB external hard drive? You might happily do so for the LaCie Christofle Sphere, which is basically a piece of jewelry with external storage capability inside. Here's CNET's full review.

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.
5 min read

If you're in the market for a regular external storage device, the Christofle Sphere from LaCie is not for you, mostly because at $490, it's crazily expensive for a device that offers just 1TB of storage space. But as a beautiful decorative piece for your desk that has built-in storage capability, the Sphere is an excellent find. This is a unique storage device that incorporates practical usage into a conversation piece.

The LaCie Sphere is so leek it's to appreciate its shininess in photos.

LaCie Christofle Sphere

The Good

The <b>LaCie Christofle Sphere</b> bus-powered external drive is unique and beautiful with a hand-crafted silver-plated steel chassis. It also offers fast USB 3.0 performance and helpful software.

The Bad

The Sphere is expensive, attracts fingerprints easily, and doesn't work with all USB 2.0 ports. The included Genie Backup software is a stripped-down free version.

The Bottom Line

The LaCie Christofle Sphere is definitely not a storage device that you need, but rather something you want for its great look and fast performance.

Housed in a super-sleek silver-plated steel spherical chassis, the drive looks like a piece of jewelry. In fact, it's hand-crafted by Christofle, a well-known French maker of fine silverware. On the inside, however, it's a bus-powered USB 3.0 external drive that offered very fast performance in my testing. It also comes with a software suite that helps keep your data safe.

So if you're looking for a beautiful present for that special and sophisticated friend, the LaCie Christofle Sphere makes an excellent choice thanks to the combination of great looks and excellent performance. For most of the rest of us who just need an affordable storage device, any of these portable drives would make a much better deal.

The LaCie Sphere is so sleek it's hard to appreciate its shininess in photos.
The LaCie Sphere is so sleek it's hard to appreciate its shininess in photos. Dong Ngo/CNET
Drive type Bus-powered external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 1TB
MSRP $490
Dimensions (LWH) 5.3 inches by 5.3 inches by 4.3 inches
Weight 1.1 pounds
Special feature Handmade sphere design with silver-plated steel chassis
OSes supported Windows XP or later, Mac OS 10.6.8 or later
Software included Genie Backup Free, LaCie Desktop Manager, and LaCie Private-Public
Warranty Two years

Striking and unique design, simple setup
The Sphere takes the shape of, well, a sphere that's 5.3 inches in diameter. It has a flat base so it can stay put on a surface and hence stands 4.9 inches tall. Despite the metal casing, it weighs just 1.1 pounds. The surface of the Sphere is very shiny and polished to be extremely smooth. When put on a desk, it can also be used as a mirror in case you want to watch your back. It's also a fingerprint magnet, however.

Other than the base that's made of hard plastic, the rest of the drive's chassis is made of silver-plated steel. The drive must be hollow on the inside since it's lighter than it looks. It feels very solid, however, and makes no noise if you shake it.

On the bottom the drive comes with a recessed Micro-USB 3.0 port. You can use any standard USB 3.0 cable with this port but the Sphere comes included with a stylish 3-foot-long black cable. This is the only cable you need; the drive is bus-powered, meaning it draws juice from the USB port to power the internal drive. There's no need for a separate power adapter.

At the bottom front, the Sphere has one small blue light that shows the power status (on or off) and data activities (flashing). In all the drive is super-easy to set up; just plug it in a computer's USB port (preferably a USB 3.0 port) using the included cable and you're almost done.

The LaCie Christofle Sphere comes with a few software applications to enhance users' experience.
The LaCie Christofle Sphere comes with a few software applications to enhance users' experience. Dong Ngo/CNET

Helpful software suite
The next step after plugging the drive in is formatting the drive. The Sphere comes with a built-in partition that contains its software suite. This partition can be read from any computer, be it a Windows computer or a Mac. You first run the LaCie Setup Assistant software, which will then walk you through five steps to prepare the Sphere, including formatting it and installing backup and security software. You can choose to format the drive in either NTFS (Windows), HFS+ (Mac ), or into multiple partitions with multiple file systems. It took me just a few minutes to get the Sphere up and running.

The software suite includes Genie Backup Free, LaCie Desktop Manager, and LaCie Private-Public. You won't have to use any of the these applications to use the Sphere, but each of them offers some helpful features.

The Genie Backup Free automatically backs up your data every 8 hours. You can add more features to this software by upgrading to the Home or Pro version. This is a little disappointing; considering the cost of the drive, the full version of the software should be included. In my testing, however, the backup worked well; you can select which folder on the computer to back up or let the software pick important data to back up for you. The Desktop Manager shows the status of the drive, and you can use it to turn on the Eco Mode, where the drive will be put in sleep mode when it's idle for a certain amount of time. Finally, LaCie Private-Public is a security utility that lets you create a secure partition on the Sphere to store important data. The software supports the AES 256 encryption algorithm.

LaCie Desktop Manager displays the drive's status and manages its Eco Mode.
LaCie Desktop Manager displays the drive's status and manages its Eco Mode. Dong Ngo/CNET

It's not just pretty; the Sphere is also a great performer. In my testing with USB 3.0, it registered a speed of more than 100MBps for both writing and reading, ranking around the top four on the charts.

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Seagate Slim
IoSafe Solo G3
WD My Password Slim

Canvio Connect
LaCie Minimus
LaCie FastKey
G-Drive Slim

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 2.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

When used with USB 2.0, the drive was also very decent, with some 28MBps for writing and 34MBps for reading.

Overall, the device worked very well in my trial and produced no heat or vibration. I did run into a small issue, however. While it worked very well with all USB 3.0 ports I tried it with, it seemed that certain USB 2.0 ports on the front of some desktops didn't provide enough juice to power it up. This isn't the first time I've seen this; many other drives have the same issue. With the Sphere, this is not a big deal since plugging it into the front of a computer, with the cable running around would totally kill its beauty affect.On top of that you need to use it with USB 3.0 to get the best perforamnce.

The LaCie Christofle Sphere is clearly not a normal storage device that you pick up at the local store when your computer needs backing up or is running out of space. With a beautiful and unique design, the Sphere is special and should not be compared with other storage devices just in terms of performance and storage space. It'll make a great (and useful) present for your special someone.

The LaCie Sphere is so leek it's to appreciate its shininess in photos.

LaCie Christofle Sphere

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 8Support 8
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