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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  • Kevin G - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Thunderbolt has its niche of being a means to host PCIe devices externally. For laptops, this is a pretty nice feature but for systems like the Mac Pro, it doesn't make sense when internal PCIe could have been an option. The other catch is that the one specific devices users would like to connect via Thunderbolt is not officially supported: GPUs. Reply
  • AlValentyn - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    What it tells me is that TB over an add-on card with Windows is slow. Not that TB is slower than USB. That's false statement as TB2 is 20Gb/s, while USB3.0 is 5Gb/s.

    You don't see USB3 driving 60Hz 4K displays, or getting over 800MB/s on RAIDs, and SSDs.

    I'm surprised they didn't even bother with OSX, and Mac with built in Thunderbolt as well.
    Reply
  • Shadowself - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Exactly.

    Even with the multi-hop (and hacked BIOS) TB2 is only 3% slower in RAID 0 mode. I suspect the greater *apparent* advantage USB 3.0 has over TB2 in RAID 1 mode has to do much, much more with LaCie's implementation of the hardware raid and translation from USB to RAID 1 versus translation from TB2 to RAID 1. Since RAID 0 is definitely more bandwidth hungry (given *zero* other bottlenecks through the entire system) then there should be no reason why TB2 is significantly slower at RAID 1 versus RAID 0. Ganesh should have caught this.

    To really test TB2 versus USB 3.0 for any external device, the test setup must include native implementations of both TB2 and USB 3.0 or else the results are hopelessly tainted.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    This review is meant to address what a Windows user looking to get on the Thunderbolt bandwagon should expect.

    I stand by my conclusions: For 2-bay devices with no daisy chaining requirements, USB 3.0 is better than Thunderbolt for Windows users. When it comes to 5 bays, things may be different.
    Reply
  • casperes1996 - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    With all due respect, the review was of the drives though. Not the drives (for Windows). I read the review as a Mac user, wanting to know the performance over TB. TRIM over TB on the Mac is also something I am now quite curious about.

    Would it be possible to perhaps get another review, or an addendum to this one, testing the drive on a Mac?

    The review was fine for what it was, but I think we are many curious about the Mac side, as it is where Thunderbolt is more proliferated.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Thunderbolt in Windows isn't any different from Thunderbolt in a Mac. It's the same protocol with the same performance. The only difference is that in a Mac Thunderbolt is "invisible" to the end-user because Apple's EFI is locked and the drivers come with the OS, whereas in Windows you can play with some settings in BIOS and the drivers need to be installed manually.

    Testing these drives in a Mac wouldn't give any different results. Like I mentioned earlier, I have the same add-on card and have been able to reach speeds of over 700MB/s with a TB1 device, so the bottleneck in these LaCie drives is elsewhere.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I'm not going to argue that you should have tested with a Mac, and I can fully understand why Anandtech would stick with a Windows based testbed for DAS devices to make results comparable (and Ganesh doesn't currently have a Mac). But saying that Thunderbolt device performance is the same under both Mac OS X and Windows is like saying that games should perform the same on both OSes, or that you get the same performance and battery life from a Mac whether you run Windows or Mac OS X.

    At just a very base level, Apple's EFI implementation may offer performance benefits over Microsoft's hybrid UEFI / Windows software stack model. Also, each OEM's hardware implementation can have performance implications. Most Macs use PCIe lanes provided by the CPU, not the PCH. Since there's apparently a requirement for add-in cards to use the PCH lanes, they're inherently at a disadvantage. Even more so in real-world scenarios when using a board that has 5 PCIe switches on the PCH lanes alone resulting in a brutally oversubscribed DMI connection.

    Thunderbolt essentially looks like nothing more than a PCIe switch to the OS, which doesn't require any special drivers at all. The Thunderbolt "driver" is all about supporting PCIe hot-plugging, tolerating up to 9 µs of round-trip latency, and enforcing Intel's licensing agreements. What you do need to worry about is the drivers for the PCIe based controllers in any device you connect. This is obviously the same whether it is a PCIe add-in card or external Thunderbolt device, and no different under Windows or Mac OS X. The most glaring omission in this article is not reporting which host controllers are in the devices and what drivers were being used for testing. As readers we have no idea whether the Thunderbolt tests were performed using Microsoft or Marvell (or whoever's) SATA host controller drivers, whether AHCI was enabled, or whether the TRIM support issue was a result of the drivers being used. On the USB side, we can only infer that a native Intel USB 3.0 port was used (since the Asmedia controller was disabled in order to provide a PCIe x4 connection for the Thunderbolt add-in card) with whatever the current version is of the Microsoft driver under Windows 8.1 Pro, and UASP was supported by both drives. These types of details really need to be presented along with the other data to live up to the Anandtech ethos. I don't just want a quick benchmark; I want to understand the underlying limitations and how they factor into the results, and to see the hardware pushed as far as it can go.
    Reply
  • Teo_ - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    The first review I can find on a quick search based on a Mac reports sequential read and write speed in RAID 0 412.7MB/s and 353.3MB/s, so I’m curious too to see the same sample folders and tasks tested on a Mac. Reply
  • GTVic - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Thunderbolt is misunderstood, there is no "translation to TB2" it is an extension of the PCI Express Bus and also supports Display Port. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    I think the performance is limited by the ASMedia chips (SATA & SATA to PCIe/TB bridge). I have the same add-on card as Ganesh and have been able to achieve speeds of around 700MB/s (this is with TB1). I'm getting a proper TB2 device soon, so stay tuned for a more thorough review of the add-on card (as well as more Thunderbolt stuff).

    As for OS X, as far as I know Ganesh does not have a Mac with Thunderbolt (and neither do I). Just because we don't test with something doesn't mean that it's due to our laziness -- Apple doesn't send review samples around like e.g. ASUS does so we would have to spend our own money to get one for testing.
    Reply

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