LaCie Portable SSD is fastest in class & singularly beautiful to behold
posted Tuesday, November 6, 2018 at 5:00 AM EDT
I think we have started to enter the golden age for traveling creators. Photographers and videographers alike now have so many options for cameras, lenses, bags and other tech that we can get just about anything we would need from many options across multiple vendors all for a relatively affordable price. Just about everything is made well, and every year it seems like we get even more outstanding choices. As a photographer that travels frequently, the last year or so has really seen a marked improvement in fast, compact and high-capacity external storage. Both G-Tech and SanDisk have released very, very good products in the compact SSD space in that time. Those two brands have been happy to pretty much own that space, but today that changes as LaCie has decided to throw their hat into that ring as well. With the announcement of the LaCie Portable SSD (not a super creative name, but that's fine), LaCie didn't seem content with just competing with the G-Technology Mobile SSD or the SanDisk SSD. From what I have seen, they wanted to make something better. With the launch of the Portable SSD, LaCie gives us a USB-C drive that matches the largest capacity SSD on the market in tandem with the best performance we've tested.
The first thing that should jump off the page at you is the design of this product: this is not the LaCie you were expecting. Instead of the rubberized orange exterior that LaCie is known for, the Portable SSD shifts the design to a matte-black rectangle that's roughly three inches by three inches in size and less than half an inch thin, and lightly ornamented by a raised metal square surrounded by a red/burnt orange metallic accent line.
This might be one of the prettiest drives I've ever seen. Not hyperbole, I legitimately think this device is totally beautiful.
The subtle color on the raised portion (which is metal, by the way) that separates it from the main body of the drive (made of plastic) did not photograph well. I did my best to show it in the images in this review, but please note that the shiny metal looks really nice in person, and kind of hard to capture in photos. Even the box art isn't quite right, as it looks more like a solid matte red line there than the more orange/copper it appears in reality. But it's really pretty, and I hope I have conveyed that.
It's not gaudy or garish with too much shiny metal (which is a design that LaCie has used before), but it isn't trying to look tough and masculine with rubberized finish, carbon fiber, or an unnecessary carabiner either. I think if this was a car, the advertisement would claim it to have "aggressive styling," thanks to that raised red/orange rim. Whatever marketing term you could coin for it, I'm satisfied just saying that it's a really good look. I'm very, very happy it doesn't employ the normal bright orange LaCie look, and just as happy they didn't try and make it look like an overpriced pair of "activewear" sunglasses either.
Though it is wider without being a lot shorter than either the SanDisk or G-Tech offerings in the same category, it is almost half as thick as the G-Tech and about the same thickness as the SanDisk. It's also very light, and feels to me to weigh maybe a hair more than the SanDisk (the G-Tech is heaviest, though at this point it's like comparing the weight of a grain of sand vs a strand of a feather; that is to say, they're all very light and to try and argue which is lighter would be a whole lot of semantics).
The drive comes in the box with both a USB-C to USB-C cable, 20 inches in length or so, and a USB-A (3.0) to USB-C cable of the same length. This is great because, out of the box, this drive is ready to use with any computer that has been on the market for the last 10 years. Out of the box, it will work with any Apple computer running macOS 10.11 or later and any Windows machine running Windows 7 or later.
I will mention that on the box, it says that it is compatible with USB 3.1, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 3. However, please do not use this with Thunderbolt 3, as I will explain below.
The Portable SSD can apparently survive a drop of up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) in non-operation mode and still be ok, but it has no rating for water resistance.
A small LED illuminates when the Portable SSD is active, and other than the USB-C port there isn't a lot else to say about the drive itself on the outside. And as good as a product looks, there isn't a lot else that matters in this space other than performance.
LaCie rates the Portable SSD to hit a maximum sequential read/write speed of 540/500MB/s, which is more than fast enough to act as a scratch disk for 4K video files. At those speeds, the drive is capable of transferring one hour of 4K 30fps video footage in less than one minute, and with the 2 TB capacity, it can store up to 65 hours of 4K 30fps video or 20,000 RAW photos. You get all that in a package the size of the palm of your hand.
Additionally, LaCie has this list of features worth mentioning:
- Pre-formatted exFAT for Apple macOS and Microsoft Windows compatibility
- LaCie Toolkit Software Suite
- Designed for on-the-go workflow with drop resistance of up to two meters
- A three-year limited warranty
- Three-year Seagate Rescue Data Recovery Plan
- One complimentary month of the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan
- USB-C and USB-C to USB-A (3.0) cables included
So yeah, if you don't already have Adobe Creative Cloud, you get a month included with this device.
So how does it handle? In our tests, which were done on both a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (for the USB-C to USB-C testing) and an iMac (for the USB-A (3.0) to USB-C speed test) using the included cables, it looks to take the crown for fastest top speeds in the category, unseating the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD by a solid margin:
These are outstanding numbers from a portable drive, so hats off to LaCie for what they have produced here. It's not just a pretty little square, it works well, too.
I mentioned Thunderbolt 3 above, and I'll show you why you should not use this drive with a Thunderbolt 3 cable:
After testing multiple drives that are not rated for Thunderbolt with a Thunderbolt cable, this is actually pretty much par for the course. As much as Thunderbolt is a hardware solution, it is also software. If a product has not been licensed for Thunderbolt 3, yes it will technically work (in that you can connect to it using a TB3 cable) but you will see massive performance dips as a result. So while yes, technically, Thunderbolt 3 cables will work, do not use them. Lacie says that Thunderbolt 3 is supported for this SSD, but this drive is not officially licensed for Thunderbolt 3 and the Thunderbolt logo is not displayed on the box. Only use USB-C or a USB-3.0 to USB-C cable for this drive if you want to get anywhere near its full potential.
It is worth noting that the LaCie Portable SSD is rated by the manufacturer to hit 540 MB/s, the G-Drive Mobile SSD is rated to hit 560 MB/s and the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is rated to hit 550 MB/s. It is therefore worth noting that the LaCie Portable SSD is the only one of these three drives to come close to their factory rating, falling just 10 MB/s short in our testing. This is in contrast to the other two drives which both fell well short of their factory ratings and both are slower, in real-world testing, than the LaCie Portable SSD.
All that said, at this point, it's all very close. All three drives are very fast, but the LaCie Portable SSD is currently the fastest portable drive we have tested, despite the on-box spec being the slowest of the three. So the takeaway here is to ignore those box specs and look at actual performance.
Knowing all this, it becomes a bit more forgivable that the LaCie is the most expensive option of the group: the 2TB model will retail for $579.99, the 1TB for $289.99, and 500GB for $129.99. That's $25 more for the highest-capacity model than the same capacity for the G-Drive Mobile SSD, and $179 more than the SanDisk SSD. Being priced similar to the G-Technology drive makes sense given that both G-Tech and LaCie are considered high-end, professional product lines while the SanDisk SSD here is marketed more as a consumer device.
But that's all marketing. If the size, performance and capacity of all the drives are pretty close, does marketing matter? I'll let you decide.
- Stunning design shirks the normally garish and gaudy look of normal LaCie products, especially their orange rugged drives
- Small, thin and light
- Fastest portable SSD we have tested yet
- Large capacities, with three separate options from 512GB to 2TB.
- Silent operation
- Compatible with both USB-C and "traditional" USB-A (3.0) via included cables
- The most expensive portable SSD of its competitors
I love this drive. Judged by performance and looks alone, it slays the competition and sets a new standard for pure class and design. It's a funny thing to put a lot of emphasis on, since photographers are usually so utilitarian, but when it comes to hardware product like this, it speaks to my love of beautiful tech products like few things out there do. Maybe it's that red/orange line, being my two favorite colors especially when contrasted with black, but this LaCie Portable SSD just makes me smile to hold.
Unfortunately, that great style and class-leading performance comes with a high price, and it's higher by a great deal more than its competitors by ratio of how much it out-speeds them. I think LaCie has a hard sell here, asking customers to pay either $25 more in one case, or $180 more in another for a product that yes, looks better and yes, performs better... but is it enough for the consumer to notice? I absolutely recommend this drive, but I also still recommend the G-Drive and SanDisk Extreme drives discussed at length in this review and in their own reviews (here and here). The bar has been set high by LaCie in terms of design and performance, but even the above-average consumer out there likely won't be willing to part with such a huge chunk of change over what they perceive to be a small benefit. It doesn't help that the box specs of the LaCie Portable SSD come in under both the G-Drive and the SanDisk SSD, even though it outperforms both in our testing. Not everyone who is in the market for these drives is going to read this review, and going on manufacturer specs alone, LaCie has an uphill battle especially since it's so much more expensive.
But dang, does the drive ever look good and perform well.