LaCie Fuel review: Fast and capable, but not new

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MSRP: $179.99

The Good The LaCie Fuel works well either a fast USB 3.0 portable drive or as a capable mobile Wi-Fi storage device. As the latter, it comes with a well-designed mobile app and offers long battery life.

The Bad The LaCie Fuel doesn't have anything its competition doesn't already have, including the Wireless Plus from Seagate, which owns LaCie.

The Bottom Line Fast and easy to use, the LaCie Fuel makes another very good choice as a mobile storage solution for travelers despite having almost nothing better than its existing peer.

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7.5 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

If you're familiar with the Wireless Plus from Seagate, you'll feel right at home with LaCie's first mobile storage device, the Fuel.

Despite the completely new squarish look, on the inside the Fuel is basically the same as the Wireless Plus, from features to function, and even battery life. For this reason, the new device marks the first product collaboration between the two companies since Seagate acquired LaCie back in 2012. Others might wonder why the Fuel is made at all, since it has nothing new compared to its Seagate counterpart.

But having more options is hardly a bad thing, and for those on the market for a mobile storage device to expand the limited capacity of their iPad -- or any mobile devices for that matter -- the LaCie Fuel is another great choice at the estimated cost of $199. For other equally great battery-operated, Wi-Fi-based mobile storage solutions, check out this list.

The Fuel comes in a new squarish shape with a touch of style in its design.
The Fuel comes in a new squarish shape with a touch of style in its design. Dong Ngo/CNET

Totally different look, same features set
The LaCie Fuel looks like no other mobile storage devices I've seen before. For the most part, it takes the square shape of a floor title that measures just 4.5 inches on each side and about 0.9-inch thick. At one corner, it tapers into a pointed head that has a hole, making it looks like a gigantic square pendant. LaCie says the design is supposed to resemble the look of a jerrycan which is a little far-fetched from the Fuel's look.

Compared to the Wireless Plus, the Fuel is slightly bulkier, though at 9.7 ounces it weighs about the same. While the Wireless Plus comes with a modular design that permits you to swap in adapters to make it compatible with different connection types, such as USB, FireWire, or even Thunderbolt, the Fuel comes with just one Micro-USB 3.0 port. This port can be used for charging with the included USB cable and power adapter, or to connect the device to a computer. When connected to a computer, apart from charging, the Fuel will now work as a portable bus-powered hard drive.

The LaCie Fuel (left) next the to Seagate Wireless Plus. The two device share the same features and mobile app.
The LaCie Fuel (left) next the to Seagate Wireless Plus. The two device share the same features and mobile app. Dong Ngo/CNET

When disconnected from a computer, you can use the power button on its side to turn it on or off as a Wi-Fi mobile storage device. The Fuel basically expands the generally limited storage space of your mobile device, such as a tablet or a smartphone. Mobile devices (up to five of them at a time) can also connect to the Fuel's Wi-Fi network, and can then use its included 1TB of internal storage space as their own, either to play back content from it or to back up data on to it.

In all, the Fuel is exactly the same as the Wireless Plus in terms of functionality.

Well-designed mobile app, limited playback media types
What makes the Fuel all the more similar to the Wireless Plus is the fact that it uses the same Seagate Mobile app, which is available for iOS, Android, and Amazon's Kindle Fire. Now at the version, the app is a lot more refined than what it was when I reviewed the Wireless Plus. That makes the Fuel really a pleasant to use (and you'll have about the same experience with the Wireless Plus once you have updated the app and its firmware.)

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive with internal Wi-Fi access point and battery
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Size (HWL) 0.9 x 4.5 x 4.50 inches
Weight 9.7 ounces
Apps included Seagate Media mobile app for iOS, Kindle Fire, and Android-based devices
Capacities / File system
1TB / exFAT
OSes supported iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android, Kindle Fire, Microsoft Windows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
Max concurrent Wi-Fi clients supported 5 (3 for HD video streaming)
Mobile streaming format supported Video: MP4, MOV (iOS only), M4V (iOS only) | Audio: MP3, M4A (iOS only) | Image: JPG, PNG | Documents: DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF
Warranty Two-year limited

The app automatically categorizes content stored on the Fuel into five category including Videos, Photos, Music, Documents and Recent, which shows content that has been recently played. In addition, you can also quickly search for what you want. In my trial, the app worked very well and was smooth and responsive. It took a very short time for an HD movie to start playing.

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