While cloud storage, with its ability to easily sync and share files has reduced our dependence on external drives, they are still important. Whether that's as a backup tool or for moving large files around, or if you simply don't trust cloud services with critical data, external storage is still useful. LaCie has been around for a long time - mainly appealing to Mac owners who are prepared to pay extra for stylish enclosures that match their hardware. The LaCie Rugged brings together an aluminium enclosure and bright orange protective surround that offers physical protection for your data as well as the offer of data protection services.
LaCie sent me two rugged drives to look at; a 1TB SSD equipped drive and another with a 2TB HDD. Outwardly, the look identical. Both have an integrated Thunderbolt cable that winds around the case and is hidden away when packed away. But they also have a USB-C port (and cables in the box) so you can connect to computers that don't have Thunderbolt ports.
The SSD-equipped unit is rated to delver data at 510 MB/s while the box for the HDD model sys it can hit 130 MB/s.
I connected them to two different systems - a Mac with a Thunderbolt port and a Lenovo Miix 510 that's equipped with a USB-C port.
I started by connecting one drive to the Mac and the other to my Windows 10 system. Both are running the most recent (non-beta) builds with all updates.
Annoyingly, you can't use the drives straight out of the box. When I checked Disk Utility and Disk Management tools, most each drive's capacity is unallocated so you'll either need to do some partitioning yourself of use the LaCie set-up utility that's on the drives, which is what I did.
On the upside, the utility does offer a handy feature. It can set the drive up with both Windows and Mac friendly partitions. I did that as I'm a multi-platform kind of person but you can easily make the drives specific to you preferred operating system.
On the Mac, you get the usual prompts when you connect a new disk to use it for Time Machine backups along with offers to install the Intego Backup Assistant. And the two partitions that are created are formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and MS-DOS (FAT32).
With Windows, the partitions are formatted at NTFS and exFAT.
How rugged is the Rugged?
The Rugged is rated as IP54 for dust and water. The IP rating system is a measure of how well a device can repel materials that might damage it.
IP stands for "Ingress Protection".
The first digit is about protection against solid objects and particulate. The higher the number - it's a scale from 0 to 6 with resistance to the smallest particles represented by the higher number. A zero means no protection. The "5" rating means "Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment".
The second digit is about resistance to liquids and is rated on a scale of 0 to 8. LaCie's rating of 4 means "Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction at 10 liters/min at a pressure of 80-100kN/m2 for 5 min shall have no harmful effect". If protection against immersion is important to you, then you'll need to look for drives where the second digit is either a 7 or 8.
LaCie also says both the HDD and SSD models can withstand a drop from two meters or being run over by a 1 ton car. Sadly, my car weighs more than that so I couldn't validate LaCie's claim on that.
Once the integrated Thunderbolt cable is secured around the device and the rubber cap is secured over the base, the drives worked perfectly after being placed under a running tap and a couple of drops from the desk onto timber and tiled floors had no effect on the drives' operation.
I used a 240MB stash of files of various types in a folder and copied them to the two drives. Each test was performed three times after emptying the Recycle Bin or Trash and restarting the systems between tests.
With the Thunderbolt-connected 2TB HDD-equipped Rugged attached to the Mac, that copy to the Mac OS Extended partition took about 6 seconds. The same copy to the FAT32 partition took twice as long. Writing data back from the drive took just under 5 seconds for the same data with the FAT32 partition taking a second longer.
Repeating the same tests, with the same files, on the Windows 10 system with the 1TB SSD Rugged drive, copying to the NTFS partition took under 4 seconds, with the copy to the exFAT partition taking 7 seconds. Writing the files back to the hard drive took 5 seconds from both the NTFS and exFAT partitions.
Price and availability
LaCie offers the SSD version of the Rugged Thunderbolt and USB-C drive in 500GB and 1TB capacities. The HDD version comes in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB and 5TB versions.
The units I tested, the 1TB SSD and 2TB HDD, have retail prices of $879.95 and $289.95 respectively. So the investment over picking up a cheap drive and enclosure yourself is significant. But LaCie is offering a three year warranty as well as three years of access to Seagate's Data Recovery Services should the drive fail. That means if something goes awry, they'll help with data recovery services.
So, while the LaCie Rugged drives are priced at a premium they are backed with some extras that offer extra protection - something folks who need a ruggedised drive might consider valuable.