Bring on the LaCie Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0


Storage options are always tricky. Casual users use storage much differently than prosumers who need the storage to act and interact in a certain way. For instance, you may just want some offsite storage for massive amounts of photos, videos, music, and other digital media—most of us do. But there are users who need their storage to contain zero lag, like when transferring RAW Adobe Lightroom libraries or 4K footage for post-production editing. A simple 5400 rpm hard drive and a USB 2.0 connection are never going to be able to serve their purpose the way a Thunderbolt 2-enabled drive with a 7200 rpm hard drive can.

That’s where the new LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2 external hard drives come in. Available in capacities of 3TB, 4TB, and 6TB, these drives are made for hardcore professional use. Each unit contains a 7200 rpm spindle hard drive with a 64MB cache, ensuring that your read/write speeds stay consistent and stable, while still delivering up to 180MB/s read speeds for the 3 and 4TB versions, and up to 220 MB/s for the 6TB version. But there is a way to boost those speeds to 1150 MB/s, which we will discuss in just a bit.

 LaCie Thunderbolt 2 External Hard Drive

The dual Thunderbolt 2 ports and unique daisy-chaining capabilities of the Thunderbolt 2 protocol allow you to hook up six devices to the chain, so you can hook up configurations such as five LaCie hard drives and a 4K display. When working with large files in post, this ability to have multiple drives at your disposal is critical, especially with the bi-directional dual-channel transfer speed of 20GB/s—four times faster than USB 3.0. How about transferring and editing 10-bit RGB files at resolutions up to 4096 x 2160, in a fraction of the time it takes on a standard editing console without this unit? You’ll never go back.

Following the Neil Poulton aesthetic of LaCie’s other drives, the sleek unibody aluminum case not only fits in well with a post-modern design aesthetic at your workplace, it also helps to dissipate and move heat more efficiently, resulting in less drive-frying. The base also helps by raising the drive, preventing it from contacting the surface of your work space. This allows fan-free operation, and keeps the drive whisper quiet, even during standard operation. The cushioned rubberized base also prevents unnecessary vibration of the enclosure, and the hard disks all include shock mounts to minimize buzzing and movement within the unit.

You can also save some energy in the Thunderbolt mode by pressing the power button to spin down disks without interrupting daisy-chain transfers. If you’re using USB 3.0 (these drives are also equipped with USB 3.0 ports), the disk spins down automatically when the host computer goes into sleep or hibernation modes, again, saving energy and reducing wear and tear on the drive.

Understanding the needs of professional users, LaCie also provides the productivity software needed to keep your data safe and secure. All LaCie Thunderbolt 2 external drives include a backup-software suite that packs Time Machine and Windows Backup. It also includes Private-Public, a proprietary downloadable app that gives you AES 256 bit encryption for your files. This is a stand-alone application—you simply download it to a USB key or the external hard drive itself—it does not need to be installed on the host computer. When you’re out and about, you simply plug in the key or launch the app from the external mobile hard drive and enter your password to gain access to your files. It’s that easy.

So, by now you’re champing at the bit to know how to increase your speed to the phenomenal rates mentioned above. It’s a simple as installing the new LaCie 128GB d2 Thunderbolt 2 External Hybrid Storage Upgrade to your existing d2 Thunderbolt 2 external drive (and it will not work with any other external drive). This panel gives you two upgrades; it adds an integrated 128GB solid-state drive to your external unit via a PCIe Gen 2 so you have the enhanced data access and performance specifications of a solid-state drive, and it adds to the transfer speed, delivering 1150MB/s read speeds. A word of advice: always be conscious of manufacturer numbers; these speeds were tested in a lab environment using specific parameters that you may not be able to duplicate at home. Your speeds may vary greatly depending on setup, file types, and operating systems. For these purposes, LaCie reached these rates using AJA System Test with a LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2 with LaCie d2 SSD Upgrade installed, when connected to a Mac computer.

 LaCie 128GB d2 Thunderbolt 2 External Hybrid Storage Upgrade

The upgrade panel (which is installed by simply popping off the existing back panel of the d2 Thunderbolt 2 series external drives) also contains two Thunderbolt 2 ports, so daisy-chaining is still on the table, but installing it removes USB functionality, so if you’re depending on that USB connection on the external drive for something important or unique to your system, you should consider this option carefully. As far as the host computer goes, it will read two external drives from the unit—one 128GB solid-state drive and the separate hard disk capacity of 3, 4, or 6TB, in JBOD mode. The panel also contains its own thermo-regulated cooling fan.

So what would you do with a hybrid unit like this? Most video editors and Photoshop users will instantly appreciate the ability to download and transfer at those impressive speeds using the SSD, and then let the hard drive do all the archival heavy lifting. You can store your most-often used programs like Photoshop or Final Cut on the SSD for immediate access, and then use the hard drive as a giant scratch disk, or use the SSD for transferring audio tracks and the hard drive for composing or splicing tracks together.

Some bloggers and techies are already saying that this could be a challenge to the new Mac Fusion Drives, which also contain a hybrid of a hard drive and a separate SSD. Maybe so, maybe not. Only time and testing will tell. Until then, your high-end professional storage solution might steer you toward looking into these new LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2 drives.