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LaCie Little Big Disk SSD (240GB) review: LaCie Little Big Disk SSD (240GB)

LaCie Little Big Disk SSD (240GB)

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Dong Ngo
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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.

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The LaCie Little Big Disk SSD is the second Thunderbolt-based storage device we've worked with and it's quite different from the first one, the Promise Pegasus R6. If the Pegasus is considered huge, heavy, and offers a ton of storage space, the SSD-based LaCie is tiny and comes with just 240GB of capacity. (There are also hard-drive-based versions of the drive that offer up to 1TB of storage--still much less than that of the Pegasus.)

LaCie Little Big Disk SSD (240GB)
7.1

LaCie Little Big Disk SSD (240GB)

The Good

The rugged, good-looking, and compact Thunderbolt-enabled <b>LaCie Little Big Disk SSD</b> offers by far the best performance for a single-volume external drive. The drive can be daisy-chained with up to five other Thunderbolt devices without decreasing the throughput.

The Bad

The LaCie Little Big Disk SSD doesn't have the built-in support for any other common peripheral connections like USB or FireWire; it works only with Thunderbolt-equipped Macs, is expensive, and a little noisy. The drive doesn't come with the necessary Thunderbolt cable, either, and offers a limited amount of storage.

The Bottom Line

For those who have a Thunderbolt-enabled computer and the necessary funds, the LaCie Little Big Disk SSD makes a decent investment for a compact and superfast storage solution.

The LaCie shares something with the Pegasus, however, by supporting only the Thunderbolt connection and offering superfast data transfer speeds. While not as fast as the Pegasus in our testing, it's still significantly faster than any other storage devices of similar configuration, and even faster than some internal solid-state drives.

On the downside, the drive doesn't have any built-in support for USB, FireWire or eSATA. It's also really expensive at around $900 and is a little noisy. Still, if you're looking for a superfast portable and rugged storage device and have a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac, there's no better choice than the LaCie Little Big Disk SSD. On the other hand, if you also need as much storage space as possible, then also check out Promise's Pegasus R6.

Drive type External Thunderbolt hard drive
Connector options Thunderbolt
Available capacities 240GB
Product dimensions (LWH) 5.5 x 1.6 x 3.3 inches
Weight 1.4 lbs
Capacity of test unit 240
OSes supported Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Software included Intego BackUp Manager Pro

Design and features
The Little Big Disk SSD bears the same signature design of LaCie's storage devices: sturdy, eye-catching, and bold. The compact device is housed in a full-metal body with a round blue button on the front that works both as a power and indicator light. On the back, you'll find the power port and two Thunderbolt ports.

You can use one of these ports to connect the drive to the host computer using a Thunderbolt cable, which, as with the Pegasus, is not included and costs another $49. With the other port, you can daisy-chain up to five other Thunderbolt devices, or a mini DisplayPort monitor without reducing the connection bandwidth. We tested the LaCie together with a Pegasus R6 indeed suffered no reduction in performance.

The drive comes with a detachable base and a flexible power adapter that works with virtually any type of power sockets in the world. Despite how compact the drive is, you'll need to use the power adapter since it's not bus-powered: the Thunderbolt cable doesn't provide enough juice to power it.

Despite the necessary separate power adapter, the Little Big Disk SSD's power status works in sync with that of the computer to which it's connected. For example, when the computer turns off, the drive also turns off and turns back on when the computer restarts. The drive also turns itself off when the computer goes into sleep mode and turns itself back on when the computer wakes up. We found this power management nifty and very helpful. On the other hand, note that you won't be able to turn it on without plugging it in to a supported computer.

Unlike the Pegasus, which has five drive bays, the LaCie is a single-volume drive. On the inside, it hosts a 240GB solid-state drive (SSD). This means that the speed of the storage solution depends entirely on the speed of the SSD itself, which is 6Gbps at best (compared to the Thunderbolt standard of 10Gbps), if the internal SSD supports the latest SATA 3 standard.

There's nothing to setting up the Little Big Disk. Out of the box, it's preformatted in HFS+ and once connected to a computer via Thunderbolt, it's immediately available on your Mac, just like other external storage devices. There's nothing prestored on the drive, but it's accompanied by a CD that contains Intego Backup Manager Pro software and digital copies of the manual and user guide. Since the drive is supereasy to set up and it's probably best to use it with your Mac's Time Machine for backing up purposes, it's safe to skip this CD.

Performance
We tested the LaCie Little Big Disk the same way we did with the Promise Pegasus R6, which is similar to the way we test external storage devices: by copying large amounts of data from one place to another and measure the device's throughput speed. We actually used the R6 as part of the test since it's the only other storage device we have that's equipped with Thunderbolt.

The LaCie was put through two sets of tests. In the first set, we compared its performance with that of internal drives, including traditional hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs). In the second set, the drive was stacked up against other popular external devices that use USB 3.0, USB 2.0, FireWire, and eSATA connections.

As with the Pegasus R6, our test machine is a 2011 MacBook Pro running OS X Lion, on a SATA 3 (6Gbps) SSD. Again, note that, though the fastest on the market, the notebook's internal drive has a significantly slower ceiling speed than the 10Gbps (about 1.2GBps) of Thunderbolt. But chances are we already have the best equipment on the market.

For the first set of tests, we used the Pegasus R6 connected to the LaCie and benchmarked how fast the LaCie transferred data to and from the Thunderbolt partner, with the least involvement of the MacBook Pro's hard drive. In this test, the LaCie scored the highest we've seen for a single-volume external drive, averaging 233.50MBps, faster than most SSDs we've reviewed. It was slower than the 353.24MBps of the R6, which used a RAID configuration.

In the second set of tests, we used the drive as an external storage connected to a computer, the way we test other traditional external hard drives. This means we copied data directly from the MacBook Pro's internal SSD to the LaCie to show what a general user can expect from it. In this test, the LaCie scored 184.71MBps for writing and 186.80MBps for reading, by far the fastest among single-volume external hard drives. It was still slower than Pegasus R6, which offered 210.5MBps, and 177.5MBps for write and read, respectively, with RAID 5.

In all, the LaCie's performance met our expectation: comparable to that of an internal SSD. This is, again, because it's limited by the internal SSD inside. While much lower than what the Thunderbolt standard can offer, the LaCie Little Big Disk SSD external drive still is by far the fastest among its peers on the market.

Unlike other SSD-based storage solutions, we found that LaCie was a little noisy during operation, which was a little strange since an SSD has no moving parts. We later found out that this was caused by a tiny ventilation fan on the back that emits a high-pitched noise when turned on. The drive's not noisy enough to notice in a room with a high ambient background, but it could cause some annoyance in a quiet room. We were more concerned about the durability of the fan than the noise it generates.

Data transfer: Thunderbolt vs. internal (in MB/s)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unit to Unit  
Self Read and Write  
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 0)
353.24 
228.06 
Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5)
323.79 
192.53 
Plextor PX-256M2S
261 
162.03 
OCZ Vertex 3
260.71 
150.01 
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
233.5 
141.69 
Crucial M4
235.51 
117.99 
OCZ Agility 3
207.75 
101.67 
Patriot WildFire
202 
99.72 
WD VelociRapter 600GB
126.33 
58.05 
Seagate Barracuda XT
115.71 
51.1 
WD VelociRapter 300GB
112.59 
47.12 

Data transfer: Thunderbolt vs. external (in MB/s)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
LaCie Little Big Disk SSD
186.8 
184.71 

Service and support
LaCie backs the Little Big Disk SSD with a three-year warranty, which is good compared with the two-year warranty of the Pegasus R6. At LaCie's Web site, you can download software that accompanies the device, as well as access its documentation, knowledge base, and FAQs. If you want to contact LaCie, you'll first have to register an account with the company, however, which can be a hassle when you need help immediately.

Conclusion
The LaCie Little Big Disk SSD showed the impressive performance of a Thunderbolt-based storage device. However, as with the R6, we were a little let down by the fact that it's very expensive, and the lack of support for other peripheral interfaces. Still, if you have a Thunderbolt-enabled computer and want a compact, rugged storage device that offer stellar speed, it'll make a great (and for now the only) choice on the market, as long as you can afford it.

LaCie Little Big Disk SSD (240GB)
7.1

LaCie Little Big Disk SSD (240GB)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 9Support 6