LaCie Rugged eSATA (500GB) review: LaCie Rugged eSATA (500GB)

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MSRP: $159.99

The Good Fast data transfers; includes new Power over eSATA standard; generous three-year warranty.

The Bad Expensive cost per gigabyte; flimsy, outdated design; uncovered ports; large footprint; competition offers tougher specs and more storage for less.

The Bottom Line The LaCie Rugged external hard drive might have garnered high marks in the past, but after four years of the same design, it's fallen behind competing drives that offer tougher, more-attractive designs that cost less. If you need storage space in a protective package, we recommend models from Iomega, Transcend, and Hitachi instead.

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6.3 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 5
  • Performance 7

LaCie has not changed the design of its Rugged series since it debuted almost four years ago. The drive feels cheap and wimpy next to new drives such as the Hitachi SimpleTough that boasts a completely rubberized casing--not just a flimsy bumper--and an impressive 10-foot drop-resistance rating. To date, the Rugged eSATA is the only all-terrain drive with a Power over eSATA interface for your laptop--the rest only offer USB 2.0, but unless you absolutely need an eSATA port, we recommend passing over this dated drive and playing rough with the Hitachi SimpleTough or the Transcend StoreJet 25 Mobile.

Design and features
The LaCie Rugged eSATA, like the rest of its linemates, is encased in a thin aluminum shell and then wrapped with a bright orange removable bumper that protects the drive from drops and shocks up to 86.6 inches in nonoperating mode. Note that LaCie does not recommend dropping the device while transferring data.

We give LaCie credit for increasing the drive's maximum safe drop distance since the debut of the USB 2.0 version, but it still takes second place next to the Hitachi SimpleTough with a drop-resistance of up to 10 feet. In fact, a Hitachi representative told us about an anecdotal endurance test where he placed a SimpleTough on concrete and ran over it with a 1998 Chevy 3500 cab truck; the drive made it out of the fray in perfect working condition. Granted, we don't have the means to test the LaCie in this capacity, but judging by its creaking response to our squeeze test, we think its safe to assume that the Rugged eSATA wouldn't stand up to a ton of weight.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB flash hard drive
Connector options USB 2.0, Power over eSATA
Size (LWH) 5.7 inches by 3.5 inches by 0.9 inch
Weight 8.7 ounces
Capacity of test unit 500GB
OSes supported Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6
Software included LaCie Backup Assistant; LaCie Setup Assistant

The top side of the drive houses the eSATA and USB 2.0 ports you need to connect the drive to a host computer. Keep in mind that the new Power over eSATA port transfers energy and data through the same cable, but it only works on laptops equipped with the new port. Thankfully, LaCie recognizes the slow-moving nature of manufacturers to equip their devices with current technology and includes an additional USB power-sharing cable so you can use the drive with desktops and older laptops.

We'd like to see LaCie make several changes to its Rugged series before the next model is released. First, any device that claims to be "ideal for protecting valuable data" should not have three fully exposed ports on one side that make it too easy for dust, dirt, and grime to enter. Again, we refer you to the Hitachi SimpleTough external drive that has a built-in USB cord that wraps around neatly and hooks to itself underneath the chassis; that's a simple, smart design.

Next, we'd like to see the LaCie Rugged series slim down in size. The drive is quite light at just 8.7 ounces for the eSATA model, but its body is massive, bulky, and not very easy on the eyes. It might have earned best in show early in its career, but the checkered pattern and "construction orange" color are so early 2000s.

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