Review: LaCie 2Big Dock aims to be your go-to Thunderbolt 3 working drive
posted Monday, December 4, 2017 at 2:25 PM EDT
I’ve been talking about storage a lot lately both privately among friends and here on Imaging Resource. Of all the members of the IR team, I’m probably the one who compiles the most data the fastest thanks mainly to my insistence on shooting 4Kp60 whenever possible (I love me some high quality, slow motion goodness). But that of course comes at a cost: how to manage my data. LaCie recently unveiled a new working drive, the LaCie 2Big Dock, and I’ve been using it over the last month in tandem with my MacBook Pro.
The LaCie 2Big dock combines two Seagate IronWolf Pro 7200 rpm SATA III enterprise-class six terabyte drives into one array that also sports a front-facing USB 3.0 Type-A, CF and UHS-II SD port.
On the backside of the array you’ll find two 40 gigabit per second Thunderbolt 3 ports and one 5 gigabit per second USB Type-C port. The array, when set to RAID 0 (which is the default), is slated to offer speeds of up to 440 MB/s. If you are upgrading or already have upgraded to a Thunderbolt 3 ecosystem, the two ports on the rear of the 2Big allow you to daisy-chain up to five additional Thunderbolt 3 peripherals together. Additionally, the USB-C port provides 27W of power for charging laptops, and the Thunderbolt 3 provides 15W. For the MacBook Pro, that doesn’t cover the needed 60 to 65W to fully charge, but it will slow down the rate at which the computer burns through its battery somewhat.
Finally, there is also a DisplayPort interface that supports up to 4K displays. So you can use the DisplayPort for up to 4K, and the Thunderbolt for up to two 4K monitors or one 5K monitor.
It’s designed to be an data ingestion tool as well as working drive, and for those purposes, I have found it woks pretty darn well. I tested the devices speed with both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-Type C connections, and as expected, Thunderbolt 3 is what you are going to want to use to get the max transfer rates out of this guy:
As you can see in the test results above, the drive actually exceeds the speeds promised in LaCie literature if you’re using Thunderbolt 3. On USB-C, they slow down noticeably, but it’s still pretty good.
Of note: If you are not planning on using RAID 0, it doesn’t really matter if you choose to go with USB-C or Thunderbolt 3; the speeds are about the same:
However, what isn’t the same is the performance of the SD card reader. You get vastly different speeds if you use Thunderbolt 3 instead of USB-C (in the tests shown below, a 300 MB/s UHS-II card was used):
USB-C is much, much slower. It seems that if you choose to use USB-C, you are for some reason only getting UHS-I speeds instead of what is possible with the fully-capable UHS-II reader.
I did not test the CF speeds because I actually don’t own any CF cards anymore. This is probably ok, since CF as a platform isn’t fast and doesn’t really require much in terms of hardware support. I actually question why LaCie opted to put CF support into this device, as it’s a very outdated card format that isn’t being released in many new cameras and is in the process of pretty much being put out to pasture. I suppose it is nice for anyone who hasn’t upgraded their camera hardware in the last 5-7 years and still needs support for their card readers though. I can respect that.
The USB 3.0 Type-A port on the front is rather curious, and likely was included to allow for quick Thumb Drive access. In case you were curious, if you plug in a wired mouse into that port while the 2Big Dock is plugged into your laptop, it does work, which is kind of handy.
In order to test its speed, I plugged a USB 3.0 CFast card reader into it with a CFast 2.0 card installed, and this is the result:
Again, USB-C was painfully slower than Thunderbolt 3. At this point, I’m ready to say that if you are considering this device, only get it if your computer supports Thunderbolt 3. Otherwise you’re going to be using a device that's considerably hampered versus its potential. If you do have Thunderbolt 3, then this thing is pretty sweet.
You can choose to lay out the 2Big in either RAID 0 or RAID 1 via the included free LaCie Disc Manager software. It’s a fast, rather painless process that you should probably only really ever have the need to do one time, if ever. If you’re seriously reformatting the RAID array of your drives regularly, I have no words. That seems weird and unnecessary.
Now, this isn’t a device that you should be using for any type of long-term, non-backed-up storage operations. This is an offloading and working drive first and foremost, which is why I recommend leaving it on RAID 0. If for any reason you plan to store anything on this drive that isn’t backed up elsewhere, it would be an incredibly bad idea to use RAID 0. With RAID 0, if one drive fails, all data is lost. The STRIPE of the two drives together adds up to faster speeds since they’re sharing the workload, but it is also completely insecure. RAID 1 will give you one layer of redundancy, protecting your data if one drive fails, but you end up with (as noted above) far less impressive transfer speeds.
On my desk, the LaCie 2Big sits nicely under my monitor stand and matches the steel look of it. It also goes well with any other LaCie desktop product, like the 6Big. It’s also pretty quiet, making only the occasional hard disk clicking that I generally tune out easily. In the month of testing, I have not once heard the fan.
It does have a somewhat annoying habit of not really ever being “off” in my strict definition. After un-mounting it and pushing the power button on the back of the device, it does switch off and stops clicking and humming, however the blue light on the front of the device will intermittently blink. At night, this annoys the heck out of me. In order to stop it, I often physically unplug it from the wall.
I understand the advantage of what LaCie is doing here though. The device is ready at a moment’s notice to click back on, and will auto-initiate itself when it senses a new device activating on it. When you unplug the Thunderbolt cable from one computer, it actually does shut off. If you then plug that back into a new computer, it automatically initiates. This is the same feature as the 6Big, the difference being the 6Big actually has a clickable, on/off switch that actually fully deactivates the device when off. The 2Big Dock has a button, which doesn’t fully deactivate it when you push it. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I prefer a hard clicking on/off switch so it’s fully up to me when it turns on and off. I like to save wear and tear on my devices, so when I’m not using it, I’m not wearing it out.
The 2Big also, in my opinion, doesn’t need to have as much storage capacity on it as it ships with. The smallest it comes is with two 4TB drives for a striped total of 8TB. Even at my most complex, multi-day shoots, I rarely exceed 2TB per production. In most cases, I’m come in at just under 1TB. Unless you’re shooting at much higher resolutions, or have a lot more quantity of shots, it’s going to be really hard to actually use the space you’re given on what should only be a working drive.
If you're thinking it might be for bigger productions, which could easily eclipse 4TB at a time, you would be right... if I felt like this drive catered to them. But it doesn't. The CF and SD card reading options are not "high end" production. If it had CFast, then I would agree, but it doesn't. It is clearly designed for the average photographer (from consumer to pro), and photographers are not going to fill up that much space on a per-project basis. It would be nearly impossible to shoot that much. But what about more than one project? Well...
Data should not live on the 2Big for very long. That’s not its purpose. It’s purpose is speed so you can edit effectively. Using it in any other way either hampers its abilities, or puts your data in danger due to the inherently scary nature of RAID 0.
What I’m saying is that the LaCie 2Big isn’t overpriced at $650, but you can end up paying for more than you need due to lack of options. I feel like LaCie could have offered a dual 1TB drive system for a total of 2TB striped and that would suffice for most people on the market. Given how their pricing seems to work, that would mean you would get a multi-functional, multi-ported, 2TB working drive for under $400. That seems amazing to me. But, unfortunately, you have to spend $650 on their dual 4TB system, because they don’t make it any smaller.
By only offering massive storage options (seriously, the biggest you can get it is with two, 10TB drives for a whopping 20TB RAID 0 array. That gives me anxiety just thinking about it), they’re encouraging users to leave data on the drive longer than they should. I get that size of hard drives is probably like megapixels, and the more you have, the easier it is to sell, but I really wish they scaled their options back here for the sake of their customers. People might not know what is best for them because technology is hard and confusing, but LaCie sure should.
Quiet and low profile design
Tons of connectivity options: USB-A (via the included USB-C to A cable), USB-C, Thunderbolt 2 and DisplayPort
Built-in card readers for CF and SD (up to UHS-II)
Front-facing USB-A female port
Extremely fast transfer speeds on Thunderbolt 3 while in RAID 0, and pretty good speeds even on RAID 1 via either USB-C or Thunderbolt 3
Will lightly charge laptops connected via USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 (only 27W USB-C, 15W Thunderbolt 3 of power)
Massive dip in all three front-facing port read speeds when using USB-C
Disk space offered is actually too much, and encourages storing data too long on the insecure RAID 0 format
27w/15w maximum on the Thunderbolt 3 cable prevents you from getting a single-cable solution
The LaCie 2Big Dock is really pretty darn good at its intended purpose. It’s built for a Thunderbolt 3 ecosystem, and within that system it works really well. If you use the 2Big Dock strictly as an ingestion and working drive, it’s one of the better all-in-one systems available thanks to the host of connectivity options and excellent speed performance.
It falters in spreading its wings outside of that ecosystem though, with speeds dipping considerably on USB-C connections, especially with the front-facing ports which send its transfer speeds down to a snail’s pace. It’s also odd that LaCie forces you to buy so much storage, when it’s not supposed to be used as a long-term storage device. These characteristics combine into a bit of a head scratcher, but don’t take away from the fact that at it’s core, it’s still a good product. Though you might have to spend more money than you need to thanks to the beefed-up capacities, if you put the LaCie 2Big Dock into your Thunderbolt 3 system, it works excellently.