LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 review

The original LaCie Little Big Disk was a neat little product, a fast Thunderbolt drive small enough to balance on your hand with two SATA SSDs inside.

But it suffered a few setbacks that stopped us getting too excited about the complete package. Despite its compact size it was not a mobile product as it demanded mains power, so didn’t lend itself to carrying around with a MacBook as a portable storage peripheral.

And if you wished to keep its designer chassis proudly displayed on your desk, you had to be prepared to put up with its gawdawful noise. A tiny always-on fan revved at high-speed, making a buzzing din we found intolerable.

The mains dependency remains the same on the new, stealthy looking black version. But its cooling system has been entirely overhauled by fitting a vertically mounted fan of larger diameter, right between the two internal SSDs. This is also somewhat smarter, only spinning when sensors tell it that temperatures have increased.

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Performance is the LaCie drive’s new watchword, adopting two new technologies to make it the fastest drive we’ve ever met, of any dimension.

In place of regular solid-state drives with a SATA interface, the new LBD 2 adopts the same types of drive technology that has accelerated Apple’s latest MacBooks to such great effect – namely using a PCIe connection. This instantly unlocks the NAND flash’s capability to work at greater than SATA’s circa-560 MB/s bottleneck. In the latest MacBook Pro with Retina display we have measured sequential speeds greater than 750 MB/s.

To ensure these high-speed SSDs are not being compromised by even Thunderbolt’s bandwidth, LaCie has been one of the first manufacturers to adopt the revised Thunderbolt 2 standard. Thunderbolt 2 doesn’t offer any more net bandwidth than its first iteration, but it does bond together two duplexed 10 Gb/s channels to form one fatter 20 GB/s pipe. You’ll need a Mac that sports Thunderbolt 2, starting with the Retina MacBook Pro models that launched last autumn.

Fit and finish of the LBD 2 are excellent, and in place of the former satin-matt natural aluminium is a glossy black lacquer. You can lie the unit down flat, or screw on a pedestal platform to site it upright.

Two Thunderbolt 2 ports are found at back to allow placing the LBD 2 in a Thunderbolt chain, and a Kensington slot accepts laptop locks to help deter casual theft.

In use we found the drive to remain supremely quiet, even when pushed hard with serial benchmark tests.

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 review: Performance

With two PCIe-connected solid-state drives wired in RAID 0, and fitted with a Thunderbolt 2 data bus, we expected great things – and were not disappointed.

Even at the small file level this little drive stormed just about every record set. Averaged from 4-1024 kB random test, we measured 252 and 423 MB/s reads and writes. Those are the kinds of figures that the best SSDs could only achieve in large-file sequential tests until relatively recently.

Given larger data to transfer, the LaCie LBD 2 really came into its stride, hitting an average of 1139 MB/s when reading files 2-10 MB, and not far behind at 1098 when writing the same.

Peak performance was still to come, with up to 1360 MB/s available in sequential read tests. Averaged from 20 to 100 MB sized data, it actually sustained 1349 MB/s for reads and 1179 MB/s for writes. This put it comfortably ahead of even a six-disk RAID 0 array with Thunderbolt 2, namely the Pegasus2 R6.

OUR VERDICT

It may not be bus-powered but the cute Little Big Disk 2 can certainly be toted when required, in contrast to multi-disk arrays. Not only compact and now blissfully quiet in use, it’s also the fastest storage drive of any persuasion, albeit at the higher price bracket at exactly £1 per gigabyte. But if you need super-speed storage up to 1000 GB there’s none better.

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