In most ordinary circumstances, you can equate hard disk design with the word "dull". At the end of the day, it's a hard disk, a bit of external storage designed to let you carry data from one place to another where it's not practical for either bandwidth or security reasons to send it over a network. Thankfully, nobody told Lacie, and specifically industrial designer Neil Poulton this, as the new Lacie Rugged All-Terrain Hard Drive is something of a visual charmer, as well as being built with physical sturdiness in mind.
The drive itself is encased in a tough and ever so slightly flexible aliminium casing, surrounded by a tough rubber outer shell in eye-catching orange that also serves as something of a shock protection mechanism. One minor flaw with the design lies in the fact that it's not a terribly small unit. At 90 x 25 x 145 mm, it's not entirely pocket sized in the way that something like the Seagate Pocket Drive or even an iPod is.
The rear of the unit's casing shows off its three way connection model, with socket plugs for USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 connectors, as well as an additional power plug that can be used with systems where the USB Bus power is insufficient. Whether you're using USB or Firewire connectivity, the entire unit is powered from your connection, so there's no need to carry around a chunky power supply along with the unit. Lacie also sells a variant of the drive that offers only USB 2.0 connectivity.
Lacie sells the Rugged Hard Drive in three capacities -- 80GB (5400rpm, AU$399), 100GB (7200rpm, AU$689) and 120GB (5400rpm, AU$649) -- which is a touch on the lower side for a modern hard drive, although it should be plenty for most mobile applications. The unit we tested came with an 80GB 5400RPM hard drive with 8MB of internal cache. Lacie lists it as being capable of up to 100MB/s using the Firewire 800 interface, and predictably half that for Firewire 400 users. USB 2.0 connectivity tops out at a claimed 60MB/s, although all the above figures really only apply to small file transfers. Lacie's own notes on the product drop those speeds to a slightly more realistic 40MB/s for Firewire 800, 30MB/s for Firewire 400 and 30MB/s for USB 2.0 transfers over a lengthier period.