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LaCie D2 Thunderbolt 2 review: Massive storage space and top performance, packed in a compact design

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The Good The LaCie D2 Thunderbolt 2 has top storage space, fast performance and the option of hosting an SSD Upgrade drive within its compact design. The drive supports both Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0.

The Bad The drive is very expensive; the SSD Upgrade kit is hard to install and will remove the USB 3.0 port. The three-year warranty is short.

The Bottom Line If you need lots of extra storage space in a compact package, the LaCie D2 Thunderbolt 2 is a great accessory for your Thunderbolt 2-enabled Macs.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Support 6

At the cost of $300 (£230, or AU$390), $400 (£310 or AU$520), and $499 (£390 or AU$650) for 3TB, 4TB and 6TB, respectively, LaCie's new D2 drive is one of the most expensive single-volume external hard drives on the market. But it's expensive for a reason.

The D2 is the first of its type that supports both Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0. It boasts a smart design with the option of hosting an SSD Upgrade (another $300, £230, or AU$390) to provide top performance without changing its physical size.

In my testing, the drive indeed proved to be very fast, worthy of the investment for those looking for a compact desktop drive that has top storage space, and -- when upgraded -- also the best performance on the market.

For more options check out this list of excellent Thunderbolt storage devices.

lacied2-9.jpg
For a drive that has up to 6TB of storage space, the D2 is very compact. Dong Ngo

Innovative compact design

The new D2 is the first single-volume external hard drive that supports Thunderbolt 2 standard. This is unusual since the internal hard drive on the inside has the cap speed of just 6Gbps, much lower than 20Gbps of the Thunderbolt 2 standard. All other single-volume drives I've seen only supports the original Thunderbolt (10Gbps) at most.

However, with two Thunderbolt 2 ports on its back, the D2 can be used in a daisy-chain setup with other Thunderbolt 2 devices without slowing them down. On top of that, this facilitates the option of the high-end SSD Update. More on this below.

For a drive that hosts a 3.5-inch (desktop) internal hard drive, the D2 is compact, just slightly larger than a standard hard drive itself. Its chassis is made out of a single piece of aluminum that feels sturdy and looks expensive.

The drive comes with a permanent stand to work in the vertical position. This stand has many little rubber feet that cancel out the vibrations of the internal drive, and keep the drive stay put on a surface. On the back, the D2 has an integrated cable lock that prevents accidental disconnection of both power and data connections.

D2 Thunderbolt 2 specs

Drive type External Thunderbolt portable
Connector options Thunderbolt 2, Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, plus a 128GB SSD Upgrade.
Product dimensions 2.4 x 8.5 x 5.1 inches (60x217x130mm)
Weight 3.2 lbs (1.5 kg)
Capacity of test unit 6TB
OSes supported Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Windows 7 or later
Warranty 3 years

When plugged into a computer for the first time, the D2 appears as a small FAT32 volume that contains the LaCie Setup software for both Windows and Mac OS. This software walks you through a few step of formatting the drive, and installing extra software, including LaCie Private Public (Windows and Mac), and a backup application (Windows only). You have the option of formatting the drive for Windows only (NTFS), Mac only (NFS+), or into two separate partitions one for each platform. Alternatively, you can also use the built-in tools in the respective operating systems to manually format the drive.

LaCie Private-Public is a security application that enable password protection for the drive using AES 256-bit encryption. When used with a Mac, the D2 support Time Machine, which is the reason why it doesn't come included with backup software for this Mac OS.

The D2's package includes a Thunderbolt cable, a USB 3.0 cable and enough power plug adapters for it to work anywhere in the world. On the front, it has the LaCie signature round button LED light that shines blue when the drive's powered on, and flashes blue when there are data activities. This light is very bright and can be a nuisance if you wanted to keep the room dark.

lacied2-7.jpg
Once installed, the SSD Upgrade kit won't change the look of the D2 but will remove the USB 3.0 port. Dong Ngo/CNET

SSD Upgrade

As a single-volume drive, out of the box, the D2's performance is at the mercy of the internal hard drive it hosts, which is no more than 6Gbps at best. However, you can improve that by getting the LaCie D2 SSD Upgrade kit. This kit is a 128GB PCI-express solid-state drive (SSD) attached to a rear panel of the D2. You can simply undo the original rear panel, using a standard screw driver, and install this kit.

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