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LaCie’s 500GB Rugged USB 3.0 All-Terrain Hard Disk Review

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LaCie’s 500GB Rugged USB 3.0 All-Terrain Hard Disk Review

Image courtesy of LaCie

When you hear the terms rugged and durable, you may associate another descriptive term: heavy. However, LaCie’s 500GB Rugged USB 3.0 All-Terrain Hard Disk is anything but. While the drive is on the fatter side than some other portable storage drives, at 8.5 ounces, it’s still light enough to tote around on a daily basis.

At a Glance

Pros: light, rugged, changeable colors

Cons: Have to install drivers to use

SuperSpeed USB 3.0

LaCie is part of the growing consortium of companies introducing SuperSpeed USB 3.0 products. While I was hoping to test the 500GB All-Terrain Hard Disk USB 3.0 capabilities with LaCie's USB 3.0 ExpressCard34, my laptop with an ExpressCard port broke, and my spare laptop doesn't have such a port. So I was forced to test this using USB 2.0.

The good news is that most people only have USB 2.0 at this point, so this device is a great transition drive to have. While USB 3.0 is still slow-coming, it's safe to assume all computers will feature it at some point. With this Rugged drive, you won't have to worry when it comes time to make the switch.

What Makes it Rugged?

The Rugged USB 3.0 comes with a removable rubber outer "bumper" in a nifty orange color. I've been burned before by companies boasting of removable exteriors, but you'll be glad to know that these bumpers pop on and off without a hitch. Besides adding to some color to your desk, the bumpers also serve as shock absorbers in the case of falls. Spare bumpers in various colors are available if you're the type of person who likes to coordinate your drives with your outfits … I know you're out there …

The external drive has an aluminum alloy shell that's supposed to be resistant to scratches -- and it passed my tests.

And Just How Rugged?

LaCie says the external drive is drop-proof at up to 2.2 meters (or around 86 inches) … so I tried at about that, landing on a hardwood floor. When I accessed the files, they were all there, undamaged.

It's important to note that dropping the drive while it's still plugged in isn't recommended. While dropping your portable hard drive is not really ever recommended, doing so while it's plugged in puts you at a much greater risk of losing your data (the whole drives-have-moving-parts-and-that's-when-they're-moving thing).

Performance

In my fairly unscientific testing, I moved 241MB of photos over to the drive in an average of 11.5 seconds. That works out to around 160Mbps -- much less than the LaCie's claim of "up to 480Mbps" (which is the USB 2.0 standard claim), but still very good. As always, it's important to note that data-transfer speeds can be affected by a number of things, including the computer being used.

Installation Required

The only thing that rubbed the wrong way was the need to install the LaCie Setup Assistant to format the drive. It's a small thing since the setup only took a short time, but it could pose a problem if you're planning to use the drive at your office and don't have the proper permissions -- it's not exactly "out of the box" useable.

Bottom Line

LaCie's drive lives up to its moniker, and it's a plenty fast drive to boot. Although we unfortunately couldn't put its true capabilities to the test, it's still a solid drive for the USB 2.0 user. Travelers should especially take notice.

Update

After this review was posted, the folks at LaCie sent me a laptop with a built-in SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port. This allowed me to test the true USB 3.0 capabilities of the Rugged drive -- and man, was I blown away. This was my first hands-on trial of USB 3.0, and it makes 2.0 look like a turtle on tranquilizers.

I put the drive through the same non-scientific timed trials as I had with the 2.0 testing (even using the same files), and the transfer time was cut down to less than half. I moved 241MB of photos in an average of 5.45 seconds, working out to approximately 344Mbps. It felt like the blink of an eye.

Let me tell you -- if you're in the habit of backing up large amounts of giant files, you need to hop on the SuperSpeed bandwagon.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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