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LaCie Minimus review: LaCie Minimus

LaCie Minimus

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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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Just slightly larger than a 3.5-inch internal hard drive, the LaCie Minimus is easily the most compact desktop external hard drive to date. Despite its small size, it runs fast and cool even during heavy loads. The sleek aluminum housing also helps the drive fit on any computer desk.

LaCie Minimus (2TB)
7.5

LaCie Minimus

The Good

The LaCie Minimus USB 3.0 is compact and performs decently. It can easily be made to work with either PCs or Macs.

The Bad

The Minimus doesn't include a USB 3.0 add-in card for computers that don't yet have this connection.

The Bottom Line

The LaCie Minimus is a good-looking and compact 3.5-inch external hard drive that would make a good addition to a desktop computer that already supports USB 3.0.

On the downside, the Minimus doesn't include a USB 3.0 add-in card for desktops that don't yet support USB 3.0. If your computer already has USB 3.0, at $130 for 1TB (or $195 for 2TB), the LaCie Minimus is a good bet. Otherwise, you should also check out the WD My Book 3.0 or the Seagate GoFlex Desk.

Design and features

Drive type 3.5-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Size (WHD) 4.4 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
Weight 1.87 lbs
Available capacities 1TB, 2TB
Capacity of test unit 1TB
OSes supported Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac OS 10.5 or later
Software included LaCie Setup Assistant; LaCie Backup Assistant (PC and Mac), 10GB Wuala Secure Online Storage (1 year included)

The LaCie Minimus USB 3.0 is a frills-free external hard drive, coming in LaCie's typical squarish shape. The drive has nothing but the LaCie logo on the front. On the back, it has a Mini-USB 3.0 port, the power port (the drive requires a separate power adapter to operate), and an on/off switch. On top, at the back, the drive has one blue LED light that shows the power status of the drive and flashes to show the activity of the internal disk.

The drive has a sleek-looking aluminum casing and two long rubber feet at the bottom. These feet are very effective at keeping the drive grounded, and the casing helps dissipate the heat, keeping the drive cool even during heavy loads.

The Minimus comes with the drive itself, the power adapter and a Mini-USB 3.0 cable. These are all you need to get the drive up and running.

Unlike other external hard drives that are normally preformatted in NTFS (Windows), HFS+ (Mac), or FAT32 (for both Windows and Mac, with file sizes limited to 4GB or less), the Minimus comes with a 100MB temporary partition that contains LaCie Setup Assistant software. The software prompts you to run it the first time you plug the drive into a computer and offers to format the drive into either NTFS or HFS+.

Once you have chosen, the software then quickly formats the drive and makes all of its capacity available to the platform of your choice. Note that you'll need to make sure you pick the right one, as the formatting process will erase the temporary folder, along with the LaCie Setup Assistant. If you change your mind later, you'll need to do the formatting manually, which is relatively easy.

The LaCie Minimus comes with LaCie Backup Assistant for both Windows and Macs. We tried it with our Windows test machine, and it worked well. You can back up preselected file types (such as documents, photos, and movies) or the entire folders of your choice. After that, you can make the backup as a copy (be it a full copy, an incremental copy or a mirror) of the original data or compress it into ZIP format. If you choose to compress the backups, you'll also have the option to encrypt them for security purposes.

The software works with the Minimus drive or any other storage locations as backup destinations. You won't be able to create an image of the computer's hard drive from which to restore the entire system at a later time, though.

Apart from that, the Minimus also includes a one-year 10GB subscription to Wuala online backup, which costs $29 per year after that.

Performance
The LaCie Minimus USB 3.0 performed well in our testing, though it wasn't the fastest drive we've seen, both with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.

In tests with USB 3.0, the drive scored 87.7MBps in writing and 104.9MBps in reading. Both of these numbers were high but still slower than the 106.6MBps and 108.8MBps of the WD My Book 3.0 in write and read testing, respectively.

When used with USB 2.0, the Minimus registered 28.7MBps in writing, among the top three of external hard drives we've reviewed. In reading, it did a little worse comparatively at 36.6MBps, slightly lower than the average.

In all, we were happy with the drive's performance. We also noticed that the drive remained cool during even heavy loads, which was impressive considering its compact size.

USB 3.0 performance (in MB per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  

USB 2.0 performance (in MB per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  

Service and support
As with other LaCie's storage devices, such as the Network Space 2, the company backs the Minimus USB 3.0 with a two-year warranty, which is shorter than the three- or five-year warranties that other hard-drive vendors offer. And for external hard drives, the warranty time is the most important factor in service and support, as you likely won't need many other types of help. LaCie's telephone support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. At LaCie's Web site, you can download software that accompanies the device. There you'll also find its GPL source code, and you can access documentation, a knowledge base, FAQs, and other ways to contact LaCie.

LaCie Minimus (2TB)
7.5

LaCie Minimus

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 8Support 6