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LaCie's latest Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain is the new height among portable drives, in terms of both design and performance.
The storage device has two layers of casing to protect it against dust, water, and shocks -- even when in operation -- and now has a built-in Thunderbolt cable that's well hidden along its sides. In my testing, the solid-state drive (SSD) version proved to be the fastest portable drive on the market.
The only drawback of the drive is its hefty price: about $300 (which converts to £175/AU$320) and $500 (£290/AU$535) for 250GB and 500GB, respectively, for the SSD version. There's also a hard-drive-based version that currently goes for $220 (£130/AU$235) and $300 (£175/AU$320) for 1TB and 2TB, respectively, that isn't as fast as the SSD-based version. But if you can afford that, and want something super-fast to edit your HD content, you'll find the new drive second to none.
Pricing in other markets is not available at the time of review. For more options, however, check out the alternatives in this top list of best portable drives on the market.
The Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain is the successor to the Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt series . While the similar name might be confusing, the new drive's design is distinctively different from its predecessor's.
Similar to the previous model, the new Rugged Thunderbolt comes with two layers of protection. The outer layer is a removable bright-orange rubber protective case that protects the edges to keep the drive safe from shocks and drops. This case now has a watertight cover that seals the drive's USB 3.0 port from water or dust. When you use the drive with a Thunderbolt port, however, this cover can be put back in its place, meaning that the drive is protected even when it's in operation.
|Drive type||External Thunderbolt portable|
|Connector options||Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, USB 2.0|
|Available capacities||250GB (SSD), 500GB (SSD), 1TB (HDD), 2TB (HDD)|
3.5 x 5.5 x 1 in (89 x 140 x 24 mm)
HHD version: 12.3oz (350g) | SSD version: 8.8oz (280g)
|Capacity of test unit||500GB (SSD)|
|OSes supported||Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Windows 7 or later|
Along the sides of this outer casing runs a groove in which the drive's built-in Thunderbolt cable is hidden. This cable is permanently attached to the drive so there's no Thunderbolt port on the drive and it doesn't require a separate Thunderbolt cable to work. To keep your desk from cluttering, you actually pull just part of the cable out, instead of all the way, to plug it into the host computer.
I find this built-in cable great in terms of design, and similar to that of the WD My Passport Pro , which doesn't support USB 3.0 or have a protective outer casing.
When the outer casing is removed, you'll find the rugged aluminum chassis. LaCie says this layer further keeps the internal storage safe from drops and being crushed in case the drive is run over by a car or even a truck.
Technically, the Rugged Thunderbolt is MIL-compliant, meaning it can protect data against accidental drops of up to 6.6 feet (2 meters). With the rubber cover on, the drive provides IP 54-level protection against dust and water.
Out of the box, the Rugged Thunderbolt comes with a small partition containing the setup software. You need to run this software to format the drive before you can use it. The software allows you to format the drive for Windows, Macs, or both (two separate partitions). In my trial, the formatting process took just a few seconds to complete. Note that you can manually format the drive, using the operating system's built-in tool, such as Disk Utility in Mac OS X, instead of using the setup software.
On top of that, the drive also includes LaCie Private Public software, which protects the data against loss or theft with AES 256-bit encryption.
The drive also includes a standard Micro-USB 3.0 cable and works with either a USB port or a Thunderbolt port at a time. It's bus-powered, meaning there's no need for a separate power adapter. Note that since there's no extra Thunderbolt port, in a daisy-chain setup, the Rugged Thunderbolt can only be used at the end of the chain. It works with both Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 standards.
The new Rugged Thunderbolt dethroned the recently reviewed Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ as the fastest portable drive on the market. I tested only the SSD version of the drive and its performance blew me away.
When used with Thunderbolt, the drive registered the sustained real-world copy speed of almost 300Mbps for writing and more than 330Mbps for reading, noticeably faster than the runner-up.
When used with USB 3.0, it also did very well, scoring some 155 Mbps for writing and 227Mbps for reading, about the third fastest on the market.
As its design indicates, the new Rugged is more of a Thunderbolt drive and its USB 3.0 port is just a backup connection. For this reason, as far as performance is concerned, it's for now the fastest portable drive on the market. In all, I find the Rugged Thunderbolt totally worth the investment for those needing an ultra-fast, rugged, and compact storage device.
The new LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain Portable Drive is an excellent find for those needing a tough storage device thanks to its design, performance, and portability. And for professionals, such as filmmakers, the SSD-based version of the drive will save them a lot of time, and potential data loss from handling mishaps.
Note that the drive is a single-volume storage device, so make sure you back up its content on a regular basis.