LaCie 5big Thunderbolt review: Fast connectivity and maximum capacity

The 5big Thunderbolt concentrates on doing storage and Thunderbolt connectivity well, making it a fast and spacious solution.

The 5big Thunderbolt is part of LaCie’s range of multi-bay storage devices. It’s identical in looks to others in the 5big series, including the 5big NAS - a network version with USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and Ethernet connectivity. The 5big Thunderbolt sacrifices all that for the speed of Thunderbolt. It’s a sacrifice worth making.

LaCie’s clean and chic styling makes this an attractive object to own. The familiar LaCie big blue eye stares back at you, from a bulky brushed aluminium box. 

A black plastic back panel is home to five 3.5” SATA drive slots, each capable of supporting a 4TB drive. The version we tested shipped with 20TB of storage in total - 5 Seagate Barracuda drives. The 5big also comes in a 10TB or 0TB configuration.

The drives are hot swappable, trays locked in place simply with a lock that can be opened with the twist of coin.

There are two Thunderbolt ports which, after a first wave of devices that frequently hosted a single slot, is the clever choice. Two ports enable you to chain the device with other Thunderbolt enabled hardware. There’s a power switch, a power socket and little else.

The Thunderbolt is pretty unique among devices of this size in that it’s, basically, a dumb enclosure. While other units this size have built-in RAID functionality, the 5big thunderbolt offers software RAID capability. In other words, you can configure it using Disk Utility in OS X.

But your 5big Thunderbolt ready populated and it ships in RAID 0 format, for maximum speed. You can opt to reformat as RAID 1, for redundancy across the drive - or split the device into separate volumes.

In its default configuration, you can’t complain about the unit’s speed. The combination of Thunderbolt connectivity and fast SATA drives in RAID 0 configuration give superlative performance well suited to small businesses, media usage and server solutions.

OUR VERDICT

What you lose in native, full RAID capability, you gain in speed and storage capacity. For a drive that undercuts similar storage devices in price - and that does it so stylishly - this makes the 5big Thunderbolt a choice investment. Think about it in particular if you need to handle large files in a team environment.

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