LaCie Little Big Disk - Thunderbolt Series

With all new Apple laptops comes a new port - Thunderbolt. It promises to deliver super-fast transfer speeds to Thunderbolt drives or devices, so getting a file from A to B isn't something that takes you longer than getting across town on a Friday night in rush hour.

So can the super-fast, super-expensive Little Big Disk solve your storage needs?

Design

It's called the Little Big Disk because it is just that - an oxymoron - Big in file size, small in actual size - geddit? Anyway, random naming jokes aside, the small drive measures 85x40x145mm in size and weighs 650g. That's surprisingly heavy for the size of the box, and that's most likely down to the fact that it is made of metal. The metal is clever though, its ribbed design acts as a heatsink to save firing-up the internal fan constantly.

The front of the unit features the only button on the drive, and it just so happens that it glows blue when on. We suspect blue was chosen because red would remind you of HAL9000 and give you the hebegebies.

Memories of the scene "What are you doing Dave..." who echo in your mind every time you went to delete a file. Frightening.

Back to the design of the Big Little Disk and the back of the hard drive casing features the power socket, and two Thunderbolt ports. Frustratingly there are no other interfaces like Firewire or USB and that means that if you've not got a Thunderbolt port on your computer you're stuffed.

While that might seem like a stupid statement on a drive clearly advertised as designed for Thunderbolt, it means that if you want to plug your drive into your colleagues computer you had better hope they had upgraded to a brand new Mac.

Thunderbolt and the daisy chain

Thunderbolt technology was initially developed by Intel and originally called LightPeak. You can have up to six Thunderbolt devices connected to each other in a big daisy chain. That can be six hard drives, a couple of monitors (depending on which Mac you have), or a combination of the two.

While we weren't able to test the system with multiple Thunderbolt hard drives, we were able to test it with a standard monitor with a DVI to DisplayPort adapter. While our MacBook Air took a few seconds to recognise the connection, it works as it should. 

Performance

While the Big Little Disk looks pretty, we aren't too fussed about looks here. We want performance, and the knowledge that the drive is going to perform.

Rather than opt for a standard hard disk drive giving you a 1TB of data, here you get two 120GB SSD drives that work together to deliver 240GB of storage. That will either be on-par with the hard drive in your computer - if you are a MacBook Air user - or faster, if you are a MacBook Pro user who hasn't upgraded to an SSD already.

For testing purposes we used a 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 MacBook Air with 4GB 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM running the latest build of Mac OS X - version 10.7.2.

LaCie promises average data transfer rates of around 480MB a second and we easily achieved this. It took us under five seconds to transfer a 1.45GB file from the MacBook Air SSD drive to the Little Big Disk. On the return it took six seconds.

Transferring a 43.71GB iTunes folder with 8008 files took us 3 minutes 16 seconds. That's damn fast.

Our final test was to see how quickly we could create a Time Machine image of our system with the drive connected. The system backed up our 143.73GB image with almost 1m files in 57 minutes.

Software

In the box you'll get a handful of LaCie utilities including Intego and LaCie's own Backup Software even though the drive is Time Machine compatible. MacBook Air users be warned this comes on a CD.

Verdict

There is no doubting the speed capabilities of the Little Big Disk. File transfer whether it is a single file or multiple files are fast. Thunderbolt certainly lives up to its claims.

On the design front, the Little Big Disk is small, stylish, and will look good on your desk, although we did notice some light leakage from the power light at the side of the device. Something we didn't expect on a device this highly-designed.

So what's the catch? Well the small drive isn't very portable. The accompanying power pack is still pretty large, and there aren't any other transfer options as a backup. Then there's the price. In the UK it's £750 ($899 in the US) and that's a hefty prize for something that will expand your storage, especially if you aren't too fussed about the speed. Laughably, you don't even get a Thunderbolt cable for that price.

If the price or portability isn't an issue, then this this is certainly the best way to expand your Mac with a drive that will be as fast, if not faster, than your current internal offering. Just make sure you know how you're going to use those blistering transfer speeds, because if it is just to store your MP3 collection this new super fast tech will be wasted on you.

 



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