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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  • Morawka - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    anand has been getting review samples of all mac products less the mini and mac pro, so yes they do send you guys review samples, your boss just gets them all :P Reply
  • ssj3gohan - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    But just to play devil's advocate again: you can drive 60Hz 4K displays with displayport. You can even daisy chain them. And I have 6 of those on my video card, and at least one on every other computer in my house. And most of my displays. Whereas nothing in my house has thunderbolt.

    And this article tells me roughly what I have been seeing otherwise: I shouldn't even start to bother with TB. For anything but very possibly macs (which I will probably never own) and OS X (which I will probably never run), it's a waste of time. And even on a mac, I'm paying a hefty premium to have the privilege of saving half a second of my valuable time transferring a 400MB file, once a day.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Even if we don't consider the daisy chaining scenario, Thunderbolt starts becoming relevant once you go beyond two bays. As one of the other readers mentions - A 5-bay RAID 5 delivers 700 MBps - simply not possible with USB 3.0

    Yes, the premium is there for now. Hopefully Intel relaxes some restrictions and makes it easier for mobo manufacturers to offer Thunderbolt ports in their products - This will also drive up DIY adoption, which, right now is close to a non-existent market.
    Reply
  • ssj3gohan - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    So, when is Intel finally going to relax their licensing and implementation specifics? It's been more than 3 years now, USB has gone through an entire major and minor revision since TB was announced. If Intel were serious about TB's chances in the open market and not just as an Apple FireWire 2.0, I would have expected it to at least be integrated into higher tier chipsets (e.g. Z87) by now. They've had more than enough time to do so.

    I don't believe in it anymore. TB is going the way of the dodo, by design.
    Reply
  • Ubercake - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Kind of already going by way of firewire, this thunderbolt is...

    But at least when firewire was released, there was an advantage over USB when the USB bus and the sharing between devices really wasn't all that great on throughput. Now, the problems of USB 1.0 are no longer present and here we are comparing what effectively equates to some new brand of firewire that can't even compete with today's USB 3.0. Thunderbolt specs are going to have to progress more quickly than USB if it's going to be practical and around any amount of time.
    Reply
  • Shadowself - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Firewire was first implemented back in 1990 as a 50 Mbps link, and at that time it's main competitors was SCSI. (But, most people don't think of it as being out there until the 400 Mbps variant submitted to the IEEE). Apple did a lot of things back in those early Firewire days to make it completely unpalatable to OEMs (not the least of which was the licensing scheme, e.g., a high base licensing fee plus a minimum of $1.00 per connector fee [making the fees for a simple 3 foot Firewire cable more than $2.00 each!]). Yet even when USB 2.0 happened for many applications the processing overhead required for USB was too high, which kept Firewire alive.

    Yes, TB needs to progress faster and more consistently. TB (or TB1 as it's sometimes called today) had two 10 Gbps channels in the full implementation. Those two channels could be bonded together in software to give an aggregate of 20 Gbps per link (with a little bit of software overhead).

    All TB2 did was aggregate those two 10 Gbps channels in hardware. That's all. Virtually zero increase in maximum throughput per link was achieved.

    TB2 *should* have doubled the signalling rate and the channel throughput AND done channel bonding in hardware to give a real, aggregate throughput of 40 Gbps. But, alas, Intel decided it was not necessary and we're stuck with what we have now in TB2.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    I think you're confused on certain points. The first release of FireWire was 400 Mbit/s, which happens to be 50 MB/s, although it also supported S100 (100 Mbit/s) and S200 (200 Mbit/s) modes. And to be precise, the base rate is actually 98.304 Mbit/s. If you want to go back to the very first drafts of the spec and talk about pre-release data rates, development initially started in 1987 and called for a 2 Mbaud/s base rate with 4b/5b encoding.

    Also, that story about the licensing is apocryphal. FireWire is a trademark held by Apple and freely licensed to third party developers of IEEE 1394 enabled devices who comply with certain guidelines. IEEE 1394 is a serial bus interface standard maintained by the IEEE P1394 Working Group based on an open host controller interface. The standards essential patents required to implement IEEE 1394 are held by 10 corporations including Apple, which was one of the lead designers of the technology, and are licensed as a package by MPEG LA at a rate of 25¢ per finished product, regardless of the number of physical ports.

    There are some interesting tidbits about the history of FireWire here: http://www.johasteener.com/what-is-firewire.html
    and here: http://www.ieee802.org/802_tutorials/04-July/1394H...

    Thunderbolt technology is progressing at a completely reasonable pace considering the installed base, and appears mostly hobbled by Intel's arbitrary licensing restrictions.

    Thunderbolt 2 added both channel bonding and DisplayPort 1.2 support, both of which were not at all possible to implement in software. The maximum, real-world, PCIe throughput per link increased from 1000 MB/s to 1380 MB/s and is limited by the PCIe 2.0 x4 back end, not the PHY.

    The laws of physics make doubling the lane rate of Thunderbolt 2 much more challenging than you seem to comprehend. Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 use a lane rate of 10.3125 Gbit/s with 64b/66b encoding. The fastest lane rates for currently shipping (and considerably more expensive) I/O technologies are 14.025 Gbit/s for 16GFC Fibre Channel and 14.0625 Gbit/s for FDR InfiniBand. Once those technologies progress to 28.05 and 25.78125 Gbit/s respectively, which should happen in the very near future, we'll probably see Thunderbolt transition to 40 Gbit/s per link. Although it is unlikely for that to happen until Intel brings PCIe 3.0 to their PCHs. Expecting a $9.95 consumer I/O controller to provide faster lane rates than what is available to data centers and HPC clusters is just entirely unrealistic.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    You really can't treat the results of this test setup with these devices as an indicator of how Thunderbolt compares to SuperSpeed USB in general. A single SATA SSD or a pair of spinning disks are really not enough to merit the use of a Thunderbolt interface. I think these devices are more for folks that either want to daisy chain multiple drives, or have 2011 Macs with Thunderbolt but not USB 3.0 ports. A pair of PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 and a 4K display are better at demonstrating what Thunderbolt 2 is all about: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7618/lacie-little-bi... Reply
  • iAPX - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    The problem of Thunderbolt is latency, that impact negatively it;'s performance Reply
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    Not so much. Thunderbolt controllers, like any other PCIe switch, do add some latency. However, when all is said and done, you're looking at around 1.5 microseconds of round-trip latency per hop. AFAIK, Thunderbolt offers lower latency than any other external I/O interface aside from External PCIe. Reply

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