LaCie d2 network 1TB review

The LaCie d2 Network is a very special hard drive. It's not the fact that it offers up to a whopping 1.5TB of space (we’re reviewing the 1TB version here); or the fact that it has USB 2.0, eSata, and Gigabit Ethernet connections. All of that is fairly mundane.

It’s not even the fact that it’s the prettiest NAS drive we’ve ever tested – with a big glowing blue button and metal casing that complements a Mac perfectly. Although it’s likely to be tucked away next to your router, LaCie hasn’t skimped on the design build. Interesting. But by no means amazing.

Sorry if we’re gushing, but what makes the LaCie d2 Network special is that it’s Time Machine compatible over a network. That makes it not just a NAS drive, but a Time Capsule. Only it’s cheaper, bigger, and prettier than Apple’s own offering. And that makes it unique.

We've come across a few hard drive makers that have either made this claim, or stated that it’s something they’re working on. But with the d2 Network this isn’t wishful thinking. This is the first time we’ve come across a third-party NAS drive that actually works as a Time Capsule. Plug this drive into your router and not one, but two disks appear in the Shared menu. One called LaCie d2 and another called LaCie d2 (Time Machine). And when you fire up the Time Machine system preference and choose Select Disk you'll find the LaCie d2 sitting there as one of your options.

It works in largely the same way as a Time Capsule. The backup is created wirelessly over a network. When Time Machine is required (either for backing up data, or data retrieval), the network volume is mounted automatically for the data transfer to take place.

Share and share alike

The LaCie d2 Network cleverly enables Time Machine support by splitting up the single volume into two sources. One marked LaCie d2, and the other called Lacie d2 (Time Machine). It is this second volume that is mounted during Time Machine setup and appears in the Finder when Time Machine kicks into action. Although it appears to have two volumes, it has just one and the actual Time Machine data is stored inside.

In practice, setting up the LaCie d2 Network as a Time Machine is similar to setting up a drive attached via USB. You simply select the Share volume on LaCie d2 Network (Time Machine) and click on Use For Backup.

LaCie D2 Network, Apple’s Time Capsule differences

We managed to make a complete backup of two different Mac systems, restore individual files, and we even used the Migration Assistant via Time Machine to do a complete setup from a MacBook Air to a new MacBook Pro.

There are a couple of key differences to be aware of. A Time Capsule doesn’t appear as two separate drives in the Sources list. Although this is something of a misnomer on the d2’s part, as there’s really only a single volume. The LaCie d2 (Time Machine) volume that appears in the Sources list appears to just redirect the Time Machine application to the main volume.

And, of course, the Time Capsule combines a hard drive and AirPort router into a single combination. The LaCie d2 Network connects to your own network, so if you’re planning on a wireless solution, you should make sure that your router is WiFi 802.11n compatible

Our initial backup of a MacBook Air with 43.08GB used on the hard drive took 5 hours 11 minutes. The LaCie d2 Network was attached to a Belkin N+ router. Subsequent backups are much faster though, ranging from 2 minutes to 5 minutes depending on how much data has been changed.

Try using it on an older WiFi 802.11g router and the initial backup can take several days, and even subsequent backups are grindingly slow.

Most WiFi routers supplied by ISPs are still on the slower ‘g’ category. So unless you’re already armed with an 802.11n router you’ll need to factor in the cost of a new router. Normally we’d suggest getting an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (£139) because it has simultaneous 802.11n and 802.11g dual-band support, but as this device lets you turn any USB drive into a Time Capsule it might make the extra investment in the LaCie d2 Network superfluous.

We’d like to say that the d2 runs almost silently, as LaCie alludes to on its website, but it doesn’t. LaCie claims the fanless design makes for quieter operation, but we found it a fair bit noisier than many other drives on the market. However, as it’s likely to be tucked next to your router this isn’t much of a problem.

There are lots of other features that the LaCie d2 Network has to offer (although they are all somewhat overshadowed by the amazing Time Machine compatibility). It offers SMB and AFP functionality, so both Windows and Macs can access the data; it has iTunes and UPnP compatibility and is DLNA compliant; it also has a built-in BitTorrent server. One other bonus is that it sports Wake-On-LAN functionality, enabling your Mac or PC to wake it up.

The d2 comes bundled with Intego Backup Manager Pro for Mac if you want an alternative to Time Capsule. It also comes with Genie Backup Manager Pro for Windows, which is quite cool if you have a network platform of Mac and PC computers. Again, this is an area where Time Capsule would fall short.

If you have another network option in your home or small business that’s fast enough to handle the data transmission required by the LaCie d2 Network, there’s no doubt that it’s a great alternative to Apple’s Time Capsule. It’s cheaper, more versatile, packs more storage, and has more features.

OUR VERDICT

This 1TB model is £195 cheaper than the equivalent Time Capsule, and the 1.5TB version is still substantially cheaper while offering more capacity. (The 500GB model shaves £75 off the equivalent Time Capsule.) Of course, it lacks the built-in network functionality, so you’ll need a 802.11n WiFi or Ethernet network to hook it up to, but once there it’s little different to using a Time Capsule. Plus it functions as a stylish and sizable NAS drive to boot.

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