Introduction

Consumers dealing with multimedia workflows need to transfer large amounts of data around. Be it collecting data in the field or editing media at a workstation, the necessity for fast and accessible direct attached storage (DAS) units can't be stressed enough. LaCie and G-Technology are two vendors targeting this space. Back in April, we had covered the launch of some solutions in this space. Today, we are reviewing one of LaCie's introductions, the 2big Thunderbolt 2. LaCie's Rugged Thunderbolt bus-powered DAS forms a complementary offering for in-field use. Both units offer Thunderbolt as well as USB 3.0 connectivity.

The 2big Thunderbolt 2 is meant for use on the desktop and needs an external power adapter, while the Rugged Thunderbolt comes with a protective covering that enables a IP-54 rating for ruggedness. This ingress protection rating implies that the unit is dust proof and can also withstand water splashes. Our review unit was the 500 GB SSD version, which can also withstand vibrations and shocks. The detailed specification of the two review units are provided in the tables below.

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 2 9000473U
Internal Storage Media 2x 6 TB 3.5" ST6000DX000 Hard Drives (Hot-Swappable)
Interface 2x Thunderbolt 2 + 1x USB 3.0
RAID Modes RAID 0 / RAID 1 / JBOD - Hardware Selection Button
Cooling Aluminium Chassis + Noctua 60mm Fan
Power Supply 100-240V AC Switching Adapter (12V @ 5A DC)
Dimensions 109 x 217 x 130 mm | 4.3 x 8.5 x 5.1 in.
Weight 3 kg | 6.6 lbs.
Included Software
  • Intego Backup Manager Pro for Mac
  • Genie Backup Manager Pro for Windows
  • LaCie Private-Public (Software Encryption)
Product Page LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 2
Price $999

 

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt 9000491
Internal Storage Media 500 GB SATA 6 Gbps SSD
Interface 1x Thunderbolt + 1x USB 3.0
Ingress Protection / Ruggedness
  • Dust & Water: IP 54 rated (when cover is attached)
  • Shock: drops of up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) (in non-operating mode)
  • Pressure: 1 ton
  • Theft: password protection with AES 256-bit software encryption
Dimensions 89 x 140 x 24 mm / 3.5 x 5.5 x 1 in.
Weight 280 g | 8.8 oz.
Included Software
  • LaCie Backup Application
  • LaCie Private-Public (Software Encryption)
Product Page LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt
Price $500

The gallery below shows some of the internal components of the 2big Thunderbolt 2.

Our 12 TB review unit came with two 6 TB Seagate ST6000DX000 Desktop HDDs inside. These retail for around $300 each, and have six platters spinning at 7200 rpm internally. On the board side of things, the Thunderbolt 2 controller is a well-known entity at this point of time, and doesn't appear in the gallery above. Fulfilling the hardware RAID functionality is the ASMedia ASM1092R chip which has two device ports and one host SATA port. The SATA to USB 3.0 functionality is handled by the ASMedia ASM1053E SATA - USB 3.0. We also seem to have a ASMedia ASM1156 chip on the board for which no public documentation exists yet. Our educated guess is that it performs the necessary SATA / PCIe bridging in order to bring the Thunderbolt 2 DL5520 controller into play.

The Rugged Thunderbolt was subject to a much less invasive teardown.

We found a Samsung PM851 2.5" SATA SSD inside. Ideally, to take full advantage of Thunderbolt speeds, it would have been nice to have a PCIe SSD inside, but that premium market is served by the LaCie Little Big Disk. Given the bus-powered nature and the cost, it is not a surprising to find the PM851 inside.the unit.

 

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology
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  • ssj3gohan - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    So... thunderbolt is slower, more power hungry and more expensive than USB 3.0. And it's effectively unavailable. I can see why Intel integrates USB 3.0 into their chipsets and not Thunderbolt.

    Of course, I understand that this is a function of volume; Thunderbolt doesn't really sell and is an Intel exclusive whereas USB 3.0 controllers are made by every man and his dog, so it's much more optimized both in cost and data stream efficiency, not to mention driver compatibility. But this still begs the question: why even include Thunderbolt? It's objectively worse than USB 3.0 and just needlessly increases the price of both Apple and peripheral products.
    Reply
  • mmrezaie - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    I would like to see the benchmarks under Mac OS too. They don't rely on bios drivers for thunderbolt and use their own. I think Linux will have the same driver later this year but I think on Mac thunderbolt driver is more optimised. Reply
  • Essence_of_War - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    Agreed. I'd really like to see a USB 3.0-Thunderbolt shoot-out under OS X and Linux as well!

    I don't know if this is possible Ganesh, but if you could get access to a mac with thunderbolt, it would be pretty neat to see! :)
    Reply
  • techwiz2100 - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    Yea I'm a little concerned by these numbers, I mean... Isn't the Mac Pro supposed to be able to drive a 4K display over TB2? I would imagine that's a much more bandwidth heavy application than file transfer. Also maybe the devices themselves or the add-on card are the limitations? Reply
  • Essence_of_War - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    Yeah, I think it's pretty clear that in no case is the theoretical limit of TB being saturated.

    It's possible that the speed differences are within the margin of error, but my first guess would be some sort of driver/controller issue for TB on Windows.
    Reply
  • M/2 - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    I'm a Big Mac Mini fan... I've been trying to rationalize TB, and just can't quite get there. I use external drive over the network for media and backups. I wound up buying a 4-bay USB 3.0 box for $250; with 4-4Tb drives, I have 12Tb of RAID 5 storage for under $1000. So I really don't get the price tag on a 2-bay TB drive.

    I get 230 MB/s on Blackmagic. That's not that much slower than my buddy's Promise 2 RAID, the reason being the spinning drive are the main limiting factor. And, 30+ % cheaper. And 230 is fast enough for anything I need . You really need 6 bays or SSDs to take advantage of TB.

    If I had to do it over, I'd consider the OWC thunderbay box. $450 vs. $250 for the Dyconn Quartz4 box I bought. Just depends what you're using if for. I'm almost there!
    Reply
  • M/2 - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    I may be off on the TB speeds. ..just looked at a review on owc , it's twice the speed of USB 3 on RAID 5 ... Like I said, I might decide different today Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    As I mentioned in the concluding remarks, for these particular devices, TB is useful only in the daisy chaining scenario. Otherwise, USB 3.0 is going to deliver better performance.

    Apologies for not testing with Macs. I should have probably noted in the very beginning that we are going to start monitoring Thunderbolt performance on Windows from my side. For Mac-based coverage, Anand is the best bet (for example, the LaCie Little Big Disk review that he put out earlier this year -- which I have also linked in the article).
    Reply
  • M/2 - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    Agreed! USB 3.0 beats any 1 or 2 drive configuration (IMO), simply because because the drives can 't fill the TB bandwidth (unless you're using SSDs). Sure, TB is cool, but adding USB3 would make a more versatile package.

    FYI, I see the OWC thunderbay price is now $500, up $50, people must be buying them. Still too much of a premium IMO (unless you're using SSDs and/or really need 500+ Mb/s)
    Reply
  • ciparis - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    You really need to include the Mac numbers; otherwise, nobody will be holding PC manufacturers to task in making these devices perform remotely near their potential. The current situation is abysmal, and with zero reason other than near total incompetence. Reply

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