LaCie Rugged USB 3 review
LaCie’s Rugged drives are popular with many Mac users, and this latest model adds a solid-state drive and Thunderbolt interface to the range. The drive’s full name is actually ‘Rugged USB 3 Thunderbolt Series’ as it is equipped with both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces. That’s a sensible move, as it allows you to use the drive with older Macs and PCs that don’t have Thunderbolt.
We tested a 120GB drive priced at £169.99, but there’s also a 256GB version for £294.99 – with both models costing significantly less than the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD with the same amount of storage. And, if you need even more storage, there’s a third model that has a conventional 1TB hard drive for just £209.99.
Like the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, the Rugged drive has a sturdy metal case, but LaCie also includes a removable rubber sleeve to provide extra protection. The Rugged drive is also the only model in this group that provides any additional bundled software. There’s a utility that allows you to format the drive as HFS for use with Macs only, or to split it into both HFS and Fat32 partitions so that you can use it with PCs as well. LaCie’s Private-Public utility also provides password protection and data encryption to protect your files from prying eyes.
We were interested to note that the information on LaCie’s web site indicates that the Rugged drive provides virtually identical performance with the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces, and our tests confirmed this, showing only slight variations between the two interfaces. When using its USB 3.0 interface it left the USB drives from Kingston and Verbatim trailing in its wake. After switching to Thunderbolt the Rugged drive slipped into second place behind the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD when handling larger video files for the Aja System Test. However, the difference between these two drives on that test was really marginal so we certainly wouldn’t count the Rugged drive out as an option for video-editing work.
The Rugged drive also surged back when copying smaller files, pulling well ahead of Elgato in those tests. That combination of results made the Rugged drive the overall winner on performance – and at a considerably lower price than the Elgato drive.
Some people might prefer the low-cost, pocket-sized drives from Kingston and Verbatim for sheer convenience and portability. However, those two drives are also quite a bit slower than the Rugged drive and lack the versatility of its twin interfaces. So if you want a sturdy SSD drive that is fast, affordable and can also be used with older non-Thunderbolt machines then the Rugged drive is hard to beat.