LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt review: Hard drive is tough like a brick

At a Glance
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt (500GB SSD)

    Macworld Rating

At first glance, LaCie's new Rugged Thunderbolt drive doesn't look much different from it's predecessor the Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series, but the company has made some improvements to this iconic drive. The two biggest differences are the addition of a captive Thunderbolt cable and a new removable cap that conceals the cable and covers the USB 3.0 port.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt in dirt

Buried in dirt, the Rugged's rubbery cap keeps its ports clean.

The cap is made of the same orange, non-slip, rubbery material that surrounds the Rugged's edges and gives the drive an IP 54 protection rating against dust and splashing water. Removing the cap reveals a USB 3.0 port and the captive Thunderbolt cable (also orange in color). You can pull the Thunderbolt cable from under the cap and then replace the cover to protect the USB 3.0 port while connected via Thunderbolt. If you don't like or need the protective cap you can easily detach it. If you lose the cap, there's a spare included in the box. Neat.

The captive cable is a good length, enough to reach Thunderbolt ports without any straining. Returning the cable to its hiding spot is easy, and a little magnet hidden beneath the rubber holds the male end of the Thunderbolt cable in place.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt port cover Michael Homnick

A port cover keeps dust and some spraying water out.

The Rugged Thunderbolt is bus-powered over both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt—having two powered connection options is great. USB 3.0 is much more common than Thunderbolt, especially on non-Apple products. With only a single Thunderbolt port, the Rugged needs to be placed at the end of the chain.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt drop onto concrete Michael Homnick

A drop from about 4 feet onto concrete.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt falling Michael Homnick

A drop from about 5 feet onto some dirt.

LaCie also points out the height you can accidentally drop the drive from is now 2 meters instead of 1.2. I dropped the drive several times from heights above six feet, and the Rugged is still in working order. A couple of the drops were on asphalt, and there isn't any visible damage to the drive. But the punishment didn't stop there. With the cap in place, I kicked dirt all over the drive and didn't find any debris in the ports after brushing it off.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt connected via Thunderbolt Michael Homnick

There's no way to forget the cable, so long as you're down with Thunderbolt.

The performance of the drive is primo; in our real world tests of the 500GB SSD model, the Rugged Thunderbolt was among the top performing portable drives we've tested. We found little performance difference between the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces, which isn't surprising given that the Rugged Thunderbolt is a single drive product.

File write
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt342
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt (USB 3.0)360
  • Apricorn Aegis Portable 3.0356
  • Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+344
  • OWC Envoy Pro EX257
  • Seagate Backup Plus Fast229
File read
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt382
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt (USB 3.0)356
  • Apricorn Aegis Portable 3.0332
  • Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+350
  • OWC Envoy Pro EX338
  • Seagate Backup Plus Fast234

Results are in MBps; larger numbers/longer bars are better.

Mildly interesting though, USB 3.0 was slightly faster than Thunderbolt when writing files, and a bit slower than Thunderbolt when reading. Regardless, the speeds we saw using either interface were highly consistent.

Files and folders write
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt318
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt (USB 3.0)331
  • Apricorn Aegis Portable 3.0333
  • Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+300
  • OWC Envoy Pro EX243
  • Seagate Backup Plus Fast212
Files and folders read
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt334
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt (USB 3.0)309
  • Apricorn Aegis Portable 3.0294
  • Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+305
  • OWC Envoy Pro EX291
  • Seagate Backup Plus Fast171

Results are in MBps; larger numbers/longer bars are better.

Bottom line

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is a fast, portable drive with a reasonable price-per-gb. If you're working in the field (or desert or war zone) the Rugged Thunderbolt is designed to handle just about any situation. I'm surprised they don't make matching MacBook covers.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    The improvements over the last generation of LaCie's Rugged drives are more than welcome, and a well designed captive Thunderbolt cable increases the drive's portability.

    Pros

    • Captive Thunderbolt cable
    • Good shock and dust protection
    • Consistant and fast speeds

    Cons

    • Bulky case
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