CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt review review: Rugged and affordable Thunderbolt hard drive

The LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series is an excellent portable drive thanks to its great performance, flexible and rugged design, and friendly pricing.

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.
Dong Ngo
4 min read

The Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt that LaCie announced today is the third bus-powered Thunderbolt drive to hit the market and the second one that also supports USB 3.0. Its two contenders are the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, which is the very first Thunderbolt drive that's bus-powered, and the recently reviewed Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt HD-PATU3 that also supports USB 3.0.

LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series (1TB)

LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt review

The Good

The <b>LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt</b> offers great performance, USB 3.0 support, and is rugged and competitively priced.

The Bad

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt offers just one Thunderbolt port and its SSD version offers only 120GB of storage space.

The Bottom Line

Fast, flexible, rugged, and affordable, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is one of the best high-end portable drives on the market.

The LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt still manages to be a first, though: it's the first bus-powered, USB 3.0, portable Thunderbolt drive that uses a solid-state drive (SSD) as its storage. It comes in a single capacity of 120GB, but the drive is also available in a standard hard-drive version that offers up to 1TB of storage.

I reviewed the SSD version, and it proved to be the fastest portable Thunderbolt drive I've reviewed to date. On top of that, the new drive also comes in a rugged aluminum case and has a removable protective rubber layer to offer even more protection. It's also very fast when used with USB 3.0.

At $200, the new SSD-based LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt is an excellent buy, among Thunderbolt storage solutions, costing some $90 less than the Elgato of the same capacity. Those who don't need the ultrafast speed of the SSD version can also opt for the 1TB hard-drive-based version that costs $250.

Drive typeExternal Thunderbolt hard drive
Connector optionsThunderbolt, USB 3.0
Available capacities120GB (SSD) or 1TB (HDD)
Product dimensions3.4 x 5.3 x 0.75 inch
Weight8.5 ounces
Capacity of test unit120GB (SSD)
OSes supportedMac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Windows 7 or later

Design and features
The new LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt is a nice surprise, considering that the other SSD-based Thunderbolt drive the company released more almost a year ago, the 120GB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD, was one of the most expensive drives on the market. The new drive, on the other hand, arguably is one of the most affordable, and it even includes a Thunderbolt cable, which would be another $50 if you had to buy one separately. The drive also comes with a standard USB 3.0 cable.

Because the drive also supports USB 3.0, you can use it with both Thunderbolt-enabled computers and those that only have USB support. The drive works with Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0, and you just need one cable, be it a USB or Thunderbolt, to use it. I tried it with many computers, and in every case, the single cable can draw enough juice to power the drive from the connected port. Bus power, which is available in all portable USB drives, is a nice feature that spares you from having to use a separate power adapter.

Following the design of the first rugged portable drive, the LaCie LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt also comes with a removable bright-orange rubber protective case. This case doesn't cover the entire drive, just its edges; it keeps the drive safer from shocks and drops. It doesn't keep the drive safe from moisture or water, however. When this layer is removed, you'll find the drive is very rugged thanks to its aluminum casing.

Like the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt, the new LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt comes with one Micro-USB 3.0 port and one Thunderbolt port on one side. This means the drive can only be used at the end of a daisy chain, in case you want to use it with other Thunderbolt devices. Generally, up to six Thunderbolt devices can be connected to another in a daisy-chain setup. The drive can be used with either USB or Thunderbolt at one time, but if you mistakenly connect it to a computer using both USB and Thunderbolt, you won't break it; it will only connect to the host computer via the connection that was plugged in first.

And plugging the drive into a computer is all there is in terms of setting it up. Out of the box, the drive is preformatted using HFS+ and will work immediately once connected to a Mac (running OS X 10.6.8 or later), including support for Time Machine backup. The drive does work with Windows, but in that case you'd need to reformat it into either FAT32 or NTFS. The drive doesn't come with any bundled software.

I tested the SSD version of the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt and it performed excellently with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.

Note that the drive's performance, when used with Thunderbolt, is limited by that of its internal drive; obviously, it can't compare with other multiple-volume Thunderbolt drives in terms of performance, since they come with RAID setups that can manipulate their internal drives to offer speeds faster than that of each individual drive.

CNET Labs Thunderbolt performance

LaCie Little Big Disk SSD 184.71 186.80LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt 150.07 154.90Elgato Thunderbolt SSD 120.61 168.97Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt HD-PATU3 105.48 109.67WD My Book Studio Edition II (via eSATA) 98.8 109.16LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt (via USB 3.0) 92.29 112.23Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt HD-PATU3 (via USB 3.0) 91.96 106.12WD My Book Studio Edition II (via USB 2.0) 26.5 40.98WD My Book Studio Edition II (via FireWrire 400) 20.6 44.56
  • Write
  • Read
Note: Measured in megabytes per second

For the Thunderbolt standard test, I used a MacBook Pro running OS X Lion, on a SATA 3 (6Gbps) SSD, which is the same standard as the SSD inside the Buffalo. And in this test, the LaCie scored 150MBps for writing, which was noticeably faster than the 121MBps of the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD. In reading, however, the LaCie registered 155MBps, slighly slower than the Elgato's 169MBps.

For the USB 3.0 test, I used a Windows 7 computer, and in this case the LaCie scored 92MBps and 112MBps for writing and reading, respectively, making it among the fastest of USB 3.0 portable drives.

In all, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt performed very well and proved worthy of its $200 price tag.

With great performance, affordable pricing, support for both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, and an included Thunderbolt able, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt makes for one of the best deals going among portable drives on the market.

LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series (1TB)

LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt review

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 9Support 7