by Alexandra Haskell

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt Review (SSD)

Durability and style once again collide with LaCie's latest portable drive release. The Rugged Thunderbolt portable drive puts a new spin on LaCie's lineup by enhancing shock, dust, and water resistance. SSD and HDD versions are available, both feature an integrated Thunderbolt cable and a USB 3.0 port if needed. Like past versions of the Rugged line, this solution is all-terrain storage built for the active professional facing the elements.

With the protective orange case the drive is rated IP54 (Ingress Protection rating for external conditions), which in essence tells us that this drive is well protected from dust and splashing water.  The Rugged SSD can withstand shock drops of up to 2 meters (in non-operating mode) and can withstand pressure of up to 1 ton. For those who not only need physical protection, but also seek data protection, this drive comes with AES 256-bit software encryption. 

Of course the biggest visual change from previous Rugged designs in the integrated Thunderbolt cable. For those on the go sometimes searching for cables can be a pain. With the Rugged Thunderbolt, the cable wraps around the drive for a total length of about 14 inches. The connector then nestles in the back where a removable protective cover goes. There's also a USB 3.0 port if needed, though a cable is not provided. 

The Rugged comes in three SSD capacities up to 500GB and two hard drive configurations up to 2TB. Our review unit is the 500GB SSD configuration. 

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt Specifications

  • Capacity
    • 250GB SSD (9000490)
    • 500GB SSD (9000491)
    • 1TB HDD (9000488)
    • 2TB HDD (9000489)
  • Interface: 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 Thunderbolt port
  • Rotational Speed for HDD: 5400rpm
  • SSD Type: SATA 6Gb/s
  • Average Transfer Rate (read): SSD - 387MB/s, HDD - 110MB/s
  • Rugged Resistance
    • Dust & Water: IP 54 rated (when cover is attached)
    • Shock: drops of up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) (in non-operating mode)
    • Pressure: 1 ton
    • Theft: password protection with AES 256-bit software encryption
  • Software: LaCie Backup Assistance
  • Size: 89mm x 140mm x 24mm / 3.5in x 5.5in x 0.97in
  • Weight: 260g / 9.2oz
  • Box Contents
    • LaCie Rugged with integrated Thunderbolt cable
    • USB 3.0 cable (USB 2.0 compatible)
    • Quick Install Guide
    • Removable cover

Design and Build

Acclaimed Paris-based product designer Neil Poulton put a unique twist on the design of the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt. A bright orange rubber encasement wraps around all sides and corners to protect the most vulnerable external aspects of the portable storage solution. The cover is open-facing, leaving the top and bottom exposed to give a sense of style, showing off the sleek brushed metal look of the drive enclosure. Although slightly thick, the protective case shields exposure to the environment when needed.

The Rugged's thunderbolt cable neatly tucks into the encasement, giving a gratifyingly methodical feel to cable organization. There is also a removable end cap protecting the ports when you're out in the field. When operational, the cap should be placed back on the unit to maintain dust and water protection, this of course also prevents losing the cap in the field. Of course USB 3.0 cannot be used with the cap in place. The drive indicator light is also behind the cap, so the user loses access to that as well. 

The topside of the Rugged SSD displays the LaCie logo, traditional on most of their drives. The underside is bare, maintaining LaCie's classic, clean look. 



Out of the box, LaCie includes an application to configure the drive for use. A well-explained slider lets users configure the storage for performance for Macs, or interoperability for Macs and PCs. Users may also select something in between, creating two volumes on the drive. In our testing we made a single HFS+ partition.

Performance

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt was tested on a current gen MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 2. The format of choice was HFS+. LaCie quotes speeds of 387MB/s read for the SSD version of the drive. We also included the recently reviewed Brinell SSD (Reads 420MB/s, writes 300MB/s) as a comparable. While not rugged and the drive uses USB 3.0 only, both drives are premium offerings in a similar performance class.

Using the MacBook Pro testing platform, the LaCie Rugged SSD posted a 385.5MB/s read, and 354.4MB/s write speed in Blackmagic using the Thunderbolt connection. Performance came in right on par with LaCie's quoted performance. 


LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

For comparison, we tested the Brinell SSD using USB 3.0 with the same MacBook Pro. Results showed 430.4MB/s read and 254.7MB/s write speed.


Brinell SSD USB 3.0

LaCie outshines the Brinell regarding write speeds, while Brinell has a leg up on LaCie on reads. Overall though LaCie manages to post very even performance and the enhanced write speeds should benefit the target market well. Professionals often use these drives to dump content to in the field, making write performance generally more important to them than to the consumer market at large. 

Conclusion

Surprisingly compact for the amount of protection it offers, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is an impressive portable storage solution. This drive is for the  professional or adventurous consumer who seeks style and stresses the importance of durability and protection from the elements. The drive's tough exterior is in no way a compromise to performance with solid test results that matched advertised speeds. With its MIL-compliant build, data is protected during accidental drops of up to two meters and its removable cover provides IP 54-level protection against the elements including dust and water (though we found that it could be a bit more snug). The SSD model takes the external drive's protection even further with resilience against vibration and shock. All of this, coupled with software that offers integrated AES 256-bit encryption, make the LaCie Rugged one of the most secure external SSDs on the market.

As far the performance specs go, the new LaCie Rugged boasted results of 385.5MB/s read and 354.4MB/s write during our Thunderbolt connection benchmarks, which was exactly what LaCie quoted. Its write speeds were particularly impressive, outperforming the Brinell SSD (using USB 3.0) by a significant margin. These impressive speeds will undoubtedly satisfy the needs of mobile users, whatever their use case may be.

Pros

  • Excellent physical data protection
  • Great performance for read and write
  • Integrated Thunderbolt cable

Cons

  • Lose USB 3.0 port and activity light when port cover is in place

Bottom Line

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt portable storage solution brings a lot to the table including great performance, unique design and superb durability for those who need it on the go. 

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt at Amazon

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