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LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 review: The best performance money can buy

The best performance money can buy

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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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At $1,300 (€1,250 in Europe; pricing for the UK and Australia is not yet available, but it converts to £760/AU$1,380) for just 1TB of storage space, the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 is the most expensive external storage device you can find. But if performance is of the utmost importance, you'll be happy to pay it.

lacielittlebigdisktb2-11.jpg
8.9

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2

The Good

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 is unprecedentedly fast. The drive is compact, it runs cool, and it supports RAID.

The Bad

The drive requires a separate power adapter to run, and it's by far the most expensive 1TB storage device on the market.

The Bottom Line

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 is worth every penny of its hefty price tag, but only to those needing a super-fast and compact storage device.

Sporting dual high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) on the inside, the new Little Big Disk is by far the fastest external drive to date. Additionally, its compact and rugged design means you can easily bring that performance with you.

If you need to do data-intensive work such as editing 4K video -- especially doing so in the field -- the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 will make your life a lot easier. Consumers with less of an extreme need for speed, however, will find those on this list of top Thunderbolt-based storage devices to be great alternatives.

The new Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 from LaCie at its internal parts.
The new Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 from LaCie and its internal parts. Dong Ngo/CNET

Design

The new LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 looks very similar to its predecessor , with its rugged and distinctive full-metal body design. On the front is LaCie's signature round blue button that works as a power indicator. On the back, there are two Thunderbolt ports and a power port. The drive supports Thunderbolt 2 but will also work with Thunderbolt. Both standards share the same cable and port.

The drive comes with a detachable stand that enables it to work in an upright position, but you can use it without the stand in any orientation you choose.

Drive type Thunderbolt 2 external drive
Connector options Thunderbolt
Available capacities 1TB
Product dimensions 5.5 x 1.6 x 3.3 inches (40 x 140 x 85 mm)
Weight 1.4 lbs (620g)
OSes supported Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Software included Intego BackUp Manager Pro, LaCie Private Public
Warranty 3-year

Despite its compact design, the drive is not bus-powered and requires a separate power adapter. The power adapter itself is about half the size of the drive. Still, the whole package is compact enough for you to easily fit it into a backpack or a briefcase.

The new LaCie comes with wall socket converters included for many different parts of the world, as well as a foot-long Thunderbolt cable. This is a welcome change, since with the previous model, you were required to provide your own cable.

Flexible RAID, Mac-oriented

On the inside, the LaCie now sports two 512GB PCI-express Gen 2 SSDs in a RAID 0 setup, as opposed to the regular standard SATA SSD found in the previous model. You can also switch these SSDs into a RAID 1 configuration for better data protection at the expense of reduced performance.

The new drive is totally Mac-oriented. For one, it comes preformatted in HFS+, which is the file system used by Macs. This means that, out of the box, the drive works immediately with any Thunderbolt Mac. Secondly, it comes with the Intego Backup Manager Pro software for Mac included. This is a backup solution that offers more advanced options than Time Machine.

Technically, the drive can be reformatted to work with Windows, and the included LaCie Private Public, a security utility that keep the information on the drive secure in case of theft or loss, is available for both Mac and Windows computers. There are more Macs that support Thunderbolt on the market than there are Windows computers, however.

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The new LaCie drive comes with a lot of accessories. Dong Ngo/CNET

Performance

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 worked very well in my testing. The drive takes just a second to mount once it's plugged in, and it shares its power status with the host computer. It turns off when the computer is shut down or put into sleep mode and then turns back on when the computer wakes up. Each time there's a change in power status, the drive responds instantly -- there's no waiting for it to be ready.

CNET Labs Thunderbolt performance

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 (RAID 0) 567.72 643.41LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 (RAID 1) 452.4 556.80Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ 284 308WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo 192 178WD My Passport Pro 180 170LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt 179 181WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo 156 167Elgato Thunderbolt SSD 130 169Drobo Mini 106 95Pegaus J2 84 153
  • Write
  • Read
Note: Measured in megabytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance.

I tested the LaCie with a late 2013 model MacBook Pro, which supports Thunderbolt 2 and uses a fast PCI-express solid-state drive as its main storage, and the LaCie blew me away. In the default RAID 0 setting, the drive registered a sustained write speed of 568Mbps and a read speed of 643Mbps. When I made it work on its own, doing both writing and reading within itself, it averaged more than 500Mbps.

This means the first set of numbers shown here is likely the speed of the test machine's internal drive. If I had a test machine with a faster internal drive, chances are the Lacie would register a sustained speed of more than 1,000Mbps. To put this in perspective, with this kind of speed, you can put a CD's worth of data (some 700MB) on the drive in significantly less than a second.

When I switched the internal SSDs into RAID 1, the performance was reduced but still very impressive, at 452Mbps for writing and 557Mbps reading. Never before have I seen an external storage device this fast.

The LaCie also remained quiet and cool during the testing. I didn't hear any sound coming from it at all.

Conclusion

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 clearly shows off the superiority of the Thunderbolt 2 connection: its only major shortcoming is that it's cost prohibitive. With a price tag this hefty and a capacity cap of just 1TB, the drive is obviously a niche product for those willing to pay a high premium for top performance. That said, if you have the need and the funds to invest in a Mac Pro, you'll find this new external storage device very tempting, to say the least. And when you do buy one, just the performance alone is enough to justify your decision.

On the other hand, if you don't have one of the latest computers that supports Thunderbolt 2, this drive is probably not for you, since you won't be able to realize the performance it has to offer. In this case, I'd recommend the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ or the WD My Passport Pro instead.

lacielittlebigdisktb2-11.jpg
8.9

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Performance 10Support 7