LaCie Rugged RAID: Thunderbolt, Redundancy, Speed in a Durable Enclosure

LaCie Rugged RAIDAs you well know, OWC manufactures a complete line of storage solutions, but also sells worthy third-party drives. Today I’m reviewing the LaCie Rugged RAID ($399.99), a portable RAID solution for professionals and others who want the speed and redundancy of a Thunderbolt RAID array in an enclosure that can easily handle the bumps, dirt, and even water splashes that occur in the real world.

Design
The Rugged RAID was created by noted designer Neil Poulton, who took a solid aluminum enclosure and surrounded it with a protective layer of orange silicone. There’s no need to remember whether or not you’ve packed a Thunderbolt cable in your travel bag — the Thunderbolt cable and connector is integrated into the drive, wrapping around the middle of the orange silicone when not in use.

There’s no need to worry if you don’t have a Thunderbolt port on your Mac; the Rugged RAID also supports USB 3.0, although you will have to supply your own cable. The USB port and Thunderbolt cable end are all hidden under a removable foam plug when the drive is not in use, and LaCie thoughtfully provides a spare plug in case the primary one is lost or damaged.

LaCie Rugged RAID - Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 Ports

Many users will want to use the Rugged RAID the way it’s designed to be used, with power from a computer’s USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt port. However, an external power plug is provided in cases where a USB hub may not supply enough bus power to run the drive.

The LaCie Rugged RAID has been certified to IP54, meaning that it is protected against dust (“Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment; complete protection against contact (dust proof)”) and water splashes (“water splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect”).

In the video below, you’ll see just the type of customer LaCie is targeting the Rugged RAID at — someone who does surf photography and needs a drive that can put up with bumps, drops, sand, water, and lots of data.

Rating-Bar5For design, I give the LaCie Rugged RAID a full five out of five rating. (Check out OWC’s matching orange keyboard covers and snap-on laptop covers).

 

Benchmarks
To test the Rugged RAID’s speed, I used QuickBench, part of Intech’s SpeedTools Test Suite. The Rugged RAID is configurable as either RAID 0 (striping) or RAID 1 (mirroring), and I ran benchmarks on both configurations. RAID 0 doesn’t provide redundant protection for data, but maximizes speed and capacity by writing to both hard drives at the same time. RAID 1 writes a copy of the same data to both drives simultaneously, which provides a backup copy of the data while halving capacity and reducing read/write speed.

LaCie’s specifications for the Rugged RAID state that the RAID 0 configuration can hit 240 MB/s in both read and writes, with 115 MB/s in read and 120 MB/s in write for RAID 1. Let’s take a look at the benchmarks, which test speeds with both small (4 – 1024 KB) files, large files (2 – 10 MB), and extended files (20 – 100 MB).

RAID 0 Configuration — Approximately 4 TB Capacity

Standard Test (small file size):

  • Sequential Read – 177.060 MB/s
  • Sequential Write – 206.268 MB/s
  • Random Read – 25.527 MB/s
  • Random Write – 140.735 MB/s

Large Test (larger file size):

  • Large Read – 254.392 MB/s
  • Large Write – 373.267 MB/s

Extended Test (much larger file size):

  • Extended Read – 249.769 MB/s
  • Extended Write – 274.505 MB/s

Raid 1 Configuration – Approximately 2 TB Capacity

Standard Test (small file size):

  • Sequential Read – 103.685 MB/s
  • Sequential Write – 122.383 MB/s
  • Random Read – 20.559 MB/s
  • Random Write – 68.543 MB/s

Large Test (larger file size):

  • Large Read – 125.413 MB/s
  • Large Write – 166.983 MB/s

Extended Test (much larger file size):

  • Extended Read – 124.249 MB/s
  • Extended Write – 122.521 MB/s

The Rugged RAID handles large file sizes very well, exceeding the specs in both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations. This means that for those who work with large image or video files, the Rugged RAID is an excellent choice. For day to day usage as a Time Machine backup drive for those hundreds of thousands of small files created by OS X and the applications running on a Mac, the Rugged RAID won’t be any faster than any other drive.

Rating-Bar4For Thunderbolt performance, I give the LaCie Rugged RAID a four out of five rating.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 1.3 x 3.6 x 5.8 inches (34 x 91 x 148 mm)
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs. (0.56 kg)
  • Internal Storage: 2 x 2 TB HD
  • Interfaces: Thunderbolt, USB 3.0
  • RAID Modes: Preconfigured RAID 0, Hardware RAID 0/1
  • Rugged Design: IP 54 rated, 1.5 meter (5 ft) drops, can withstand being run over by a 2205 lb/1000 kg car

Rating-Bar5With respect to the specifications of the Rugged RAID, its light weight, compact size and IP 54 rating give it a five out of five rating.

Conclusion
If your goal is to just have a low-cost external or backup drive, there are other solutions like OWC’s Mercury Elite Pro, available in a 4 TB configuration for just $265.00. There are also RAID solutions from OWC such as the Mercury Elite Pro Dual, which provides Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 RAID 0/RAID 1 at just $447.99 in a 4 TB (RAID 0) configuration.

Rating-Bar5But if you’re looking for a very rugged portable RAID solution, the LaCie Rugged RAID is a top pick. I give it a five out of five rating.


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