Review LaCie hard disks and DVD burners to go

Netbooks, ultraportables, convertibles and light, slender subnotebooks often do without optical drives and don't offer adequate hard disk storage for every application. But also full-blown notebooks and desktop replacements can put a second DVD drive to good use for fast burning of DVD data (a drive for reading, the second for direct burning) or an external hard disk as a data container, back-up or transport medium. In the following review we deal with this kind of accessory products in more detail and test four fundamentally different mass storage devices.

Four entirely different drives from LaCie
LaCie drives

Test Domain

For the review several devices of the accessory manufacturer LaCie have kindly been made available to us, which cover very different performance- and application-domains. Small, light and with an "always nearby" factor, the 1.8" LaCie "Skwarim" presents itself; elegant, light and fast, the designer oriented "Sam Hecht little disk"; and the particularly flexible and robust two-coloured LaCie "rugged" with 320 GB memory. The remarkably compact and light for its class Portable DVD+-RW Slimline burner appears likewise in the simply elegant Sam Hecht design and offers the standard burn- and read-speeds.

Test coverage

The main focus points of the review are the mobile characteristics and the offered transfer rates on the different test line-ups. Thus we have measured the data transfer on different computers on Windows Vista Business SP2, Windows XP SP3, and Max OS X with (as far as possible) and without additional power supply, we took a look at the maximum power consumption, and we looked closer at the cases regarding their robustness.

As test tools we have used HD Tune (here the Pro-Version) which is already known from our notebook reviews and on Mac OS X we have used Xbench 1.3. We measured the read- and write-speeds on all (device-dependent) interfaces available.

We have measured the energy consumption when connected by mains (with Skwarim as the exception) and thus the maximum power consumption to be expected should be reflected here. In mobile use this is reduced somewhat, which is also obviously partly due to the rather lower transfer rates.

Technical Data

Device LaCie Skwarim LaCie little disk (Sam Hecht Design) LaCie rugged LaCie Portable DVD Lightscribe (Sam Hecht)
Hard Disk Hitachi Travelstar C4K60 1.8" Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 2.5" Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 2.5" TSSTcorp CDDVDW SNS082N USB
Capacity 60 GB 250 GB 320 GB  
Rpm 4200 5400 5400 8x DVD+-RW,4x DL, 24x CD-RW
Cache 2 MB 8 MB 8 MB 2 MB
Interfaces USB 2.0 USB 2.0 / FW 400 USB 2.0 / FW 400 / FW 800 USB 2.0 (version available with firmware for Mac)
Dimensions 85(W)x 85(D)x 13(H) mm 81(W)x 129(D)x 18(H)mm 90(W)x 145(D)x 25.4(H) mm 137(W)x 157.5(D)x 25(H) mm
Weight in Grams 99 195 250 319
Power Supply USB USB + USB power cable USB + USB power cable USB + USB power cable/ mains adapter
Software Windows LaCie Backup (Genie) LaCie Sync, "1Click"-Backup, Silverlining LaCie "1Click"-Backup, Silverlining Easy Media Creator Suite 9 + Lightscribe Labeler
Software Mac LaCie Backup (Intego) LaCie "1Click"-Backup, Silverkeeper LaCie "1Click"-Backup, Silverkeeper -- (FW version for MAC)
Price (street) from 75,- Euro from 68,- Euro (without FW from 56,- Euro) from 105,- Euro (USB only from 69,- Euro) from 80,- Euro

Case

The Franco-American manufacturer traditionally developed the four different LaCie series together with notable design studios and thus expresses its particular connection in view of appealing design.

LaCie's Sam Hecht family
Sam Hecht family

LaCie Little Disk and Portable DVD+-RW (Sam Hecht)
Both of the Sam Hecht models in the test domain come in a particularly straightforward and linear design from the well-known fancy retail packaging. In particular the covering on the "little disk" amplifies the reduced appearance and leads to the impression of having a monolithic device in front of you. In practise: the protective function for the interfaces in mobile, daily use. On the other hand the high-gloss finish won't be everyone's cup of tea. Not only the susceptibility of the surface but also the colouring will potentially strongly polarise buyers. Scratches, dust and fingerprints will as on similarly finished notebooks not be avoided for too long and the fancy design piece will quickly appear unsightly from active use. After all with the Sam Hecht hard disk you've got a fancy fluffy fabric jacket enclosed, which from consistent use should at least prevent the worst. The case stability is not quite as optimal for mobile use due to the deployed plastic, as a slight indentation is slightly possible above all on the DVD drive. For transportation in the notebook bag you should therefore particularly take care that belongings don't unnecessarily apply too much pressure.

Pink or blue?
Pink or blue?

LaCie Skwarim (Karim Rashid)
Clearly more eye-catching when it comes to design and fundamentally designed differently for the practice-oriented application, the sky-blue Skwarim with rubbery tread encasement really catches our eye. The square 8.5cm case is consistently in line with mobile use and thus puts its main focus on lightness, robustness and low dimensions. It's particularly practical here, like on the "little disk", to mention the integrated USB connection, which makes an additional USB cable superfluous. It's only the colouring, with a pink coloured variant also available apart from the sky-blue variant we tested, which could put off business- or understatement-customers from a possible purchase.

Robust case
Robust case

LaCie "rugged" (Neil Poulton)
Somewhat less spectacular, but nevertheless barely less eye-catching, is the Neil Poulton case of the LaCie "rugged" series. By default the drive is equipped with orange-coloured rubber protective coverings. In contrast to the Skwarim you have the possibility to purchase less eye-catching, alternatively-coloured variants as accessories. The largest in the test domain of partaking hard disk cases accommodates a 2.5" hard disk and scores points above all with the robust aluminium case and the varied interfaces. It's only an eSata port that's to be missed in particular by Windows users, if it's about an optimal data transfer rate.

Transfer rates

USB: Strongly dependant on the interface used in the notebook, our results should only serve as support. As to the quality we have had to establish to some extent enormous differences in particular in the USB ports in our notebook reviews. Thus some USB connections in notebooks supply just about 20 MB/s, others more than 30 MB/s. Of course that unnecessarily thwarts the best hard disks. Therefore we have involved the HP 2710p (a desktop), with a Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2H mainboard (USB up to 36 MB/s), that is for the read tests in order to exhaust the USB interfaces of the test hard disks as much as possible.

Firewire: Whilst the USB transfer rates on Mac and PC barely offer differences, the LaCie hard disks on FW400 and FW800 interfaces on Windows Vista and XP seemingly have a writing weakness. Here we didn't manage to get write rates of more than 5.2 MB/s. An external FW400 hard disk used as a cross check with an Oxford chipset that's around 6 years old provided a 19 MB/s write rate after all, on the same interfaces. A current, external Western Digital Studio Edition (1TB) provided write rates of 34.1 MB/s over FW400 and 45.9 MB/s over FW800. On the Mac Mini with Mac OS X this problem didn't arise. Here the speeds were on the usual high level and are at least an indication of the long Mac tradition of LaCie.

Test readings HD Tune

Device LaCie Skwarim (60GB) LaCie little disk (250GB) LaCie rugged (320GB) FW400 external DIY disk WD Studio Edition 1TB (USB,FW400/800, eSata)
USB (Notebook running off the battery) read/ write in MB/s 22.4 / 22.2 24.4 / 18.7 25.0 / 19.1    
USB (Notebook with mains adapter) read/ write in MB/s 22.4 / 22.2 28.1 / 23.3 29.9 / 15.5    
USB (Desktop Windows 7 RC, GA-73PVM-S2H) read/ write in MB/s 22.4 35.0 33.4    
FW 400 (Notebook running off the battery) read/ write in MB/s - 37.2 / 5.1 36.4 / 5.1    
FW 400 (Notebook with mains adapter) read/ write in MB/s - 37.9 / 5.2 37.2 / 5.1 25.6 / 19.4 34.6 / 34.1
FW 800 (Notebook running off the battery) read/ write in MB/s - - 58.1 / 5.1    
FW 800 (Notebook with mains adapter) read/ write in MB/s - - 58.2 / 5.1   54.4 / 45.9
Blue eye-catcher
Blue or pink rubber casing with small dimensions

The LaCie "Skwarim" is adversely affected less by the USB interfaces than by the deployed 1.8" Hitachi hard disk. More than 24 MB/s weren't reached and this shows that from a certain size strong trade-offs in performance must be made. In exchange the peewee is convincing with its high mobility and adequate memory capacity of 60 GB (gross).

dark brown knight
2xFirewire, 1xUSB in dark brown plastic casing

Already the LaCie "little disk" clearly goes to work more quickly. Our model with 250 GB (gross) capacity achieves good USB rates and can also convince with a solid FW400 reading performance. Unfortunately the device suffers on Windows from the already mentioned FW writing weakness, which doesn't emerge from the pitiful 5.2 MB/s rate. Here the disk clearly works more briskly on a Mac Mini 2009 and provides the expected results.

Robust companion
Comprehensive port equipment that particularly accommodates Mac users

We can certify a similar performance with the LaCie "rugged". Whilst the reading performance of all three interfaces settles in the upper third of the performance scale, only the USB write rates are convincing. The transfer performance of FW400 and FW800 interfaces disappoints when writing on Windows once again and only displays its full capability in cooperation with Mac OS X.

Test Readings Mac XBench 1.3

Device LaCie Skwarim (60GB) LaCie little disk (250GB) LaCie rugged (320GB)
USB Mac Mini (2009) read/ write in MB/s 21.7 / 21.3 34.5 / 31.8 29.0 / 26.1
FW 400 Mac Mini (2009) read/ write in MB/s - 36.1 / 33.7 36.5 / 33.1
FW 800 Mac Mini (2009) read/ write in MB/s - - 53.7 / 50.8
3 different interfaces
Aluminium case with changeable rubber bumper
Ports disappear behind covering
practical interface protection
USB cable hiding-place
Rubber case with integrated USB cable
Size difference
Size comparison
Netbook with DVD drive
 

LaCie Portable DVD+-RW

The external optical drive convinces first and foremost through its compact dimensions and its comparatively low weight. On second look, however, the subjectively low noise behaviour is also convincing (due to possible imbalances strongly dependent on the disk) and the acceptable power consumption at an average of 3.4 Watt. The supported formats and the burning speeds are on the hip and should meet most demands. The Lightscribe function is convenient for archiving, which allows laser inscription of media (special blank CD).

In contrast to the hard disks, LaCie carries out a clear separation for Macs and PCs on the external optical drive. Not only regarding the accompanying software but also regarding the deployed connections there are differences. The Mac version (not in the test) is therefore only available with accompanying Mac programs and a FW400 port, the USB variant tested by us is only supplied with Windows and Linux software and is respectively only supported by such operating systems. A faster platform-comprehensive use is therefore for now only possible to a limited extent with the enclosed equipment.

very light and compact
Very light and compact
straightforward design
Cute, geradliniges design with unusual colouring
High-gloss surface
High-gloss surface susceptible to fingerprints and dust deposits
Mains- and USB-connection
Mains- and USB-connection
Design label LaCie
LaCie, well-known for attractive design
In terms of colour - eccentric
In terms of colour - only rarely suiting the notebook

Energy Consumption

Apart from the small LaCie "Skwarim" all drives are provided with a mains adapter. Nevertheless an external mains adapter is also enclosed in the optical drive. For both of the larger hard disks, however, the USB connection with additional USB power connector, which establishes a second connection to the power supply, has to suffice.

We have tested all hard disks on several note- and netbooks as well as desktop PCs and in this regard were able to discover no faults. Only partly low transfer rates were to be observed, when the host notebook is operated on the battery (dependant on settings and device).

4-pin FW ports in any case call for an additional USB power connection, whilst the 6-pin variants standard on Macs and desktop PCs provide the power.

The relatively high power consumption of both of the 2.5" hard disks from Hitachi that are to be found in the "little disk" and the "rugged" weren't really convincing. Whilst a Samsung Spinpoint M6s in a 12.95 Euro USB case from Conrad only requires a maximum of 2.7 Watt, both of the LaCie devices luxuriously indulge themselves with 3.1- 4.9 Watt.

Energy Consumption

Device LaCie Skwarim (60GB) LaCie little disk (250GB) LaCie rugged (320GB) DIY 2.5" hard disk USB 2.0 WD Studio Edition 1TB LaCie Portable DVD+-RW
Idle (Watt) undetermined 3.1 3.1 0.4 2.7 0.1
Read (Video DVD/ data) write - - - -   read: 3.2 / 2.2-2.5 write: 3.4-4.1
Load (Watt) undetermined 4.8 4.9 2.7 8-13.4 5.4 (temporary peaks)

Emissions

Due to the fact that the components lack fans in all three devices, noises typical of hard disks only arise from write- and read-access. However these always stay subtle and are not different from the hard disk noises we're used to in notebooks. The heat development in all devices turns out to be unobtrusive in the maximum lukewarm area and should bring about no kind of disturbances. As already mentioned, the DVD drive likewise remains very quiet with immaculate disks, yet it can also become unpleasantly loud with an unclean disk or a disk that is afflicted with an out-of-balance body. Overall there is nevertheless no difference to the well-known internal notebook solutions.

 

Passively cooled the hard disks become lukewarm as a maximum and their presence is only noticed on write- and read-access.
Passively cooled the hard disks become lukewarm as a maximum and their presence is only noticed on write- and read-access.

Verdict

The accessory products tested by us cover a broad spectrum and offer the suitable external device for many application areas. You cannot expect the highest possible suitability for daily use from all of the visually eccentric devices, yet in exchange they are convincing with other peculiarities.

The Sam Hecht models, with their high-gloss plastic cases, are comparatively light and appeal to design-smitten users with their straightforward and reduced style.

The "Skwarim" is convincing through its small size and unsusceptible cover. The live weight of less than 100g with an integrated USB port is very compact.

The LaCie "rugged" is the stable one in the test and in addition can come up with broadly diversified interface equipment.

The start-up is less time-consuming on all models. Also the platform comprehensive software will particularly please those who want to use their devices with Windows and Mac OS X (apart from the portable DVD).

It's a shame that the FW devices have a pronounced writing weakness to battle on Windows, especially as the other transfer rates are very convincing. Here Mac OS X users have a clear advantage and can clearly exhaust the Mac-typical interfaces better.

Also the energy consumption of the 2.5" models isn't really convincing, as the level of economical comparison models is to some extent clearly undercut.

On the whole the tested models constitute pleasantly different accessories, which according to application area and also through intrinsic values are convincing.

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review of external drives to go
Author: Tobias Winkler, 2009-08- 9 (Update: 2013-06- 6)