Review: LaCie Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt Series portable SSD is fast and affordable

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At a Glance
  • LaCie Rugged USB Thunderbolt Series

LaCie’s impressive Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt Series portable drive has all of the features that the modern media professional could want.

The Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt drive comes formatted HFS+ and includes both the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables, so it’s ready to use as soon as you open the box. It’s also bus powered, and since it boasts both USB and Thunderbolt, users can work with it on any Mac. The drive comes with a 120GB ($200) or 256GB ($350) solid-state drive, or with a 1TB hard drive ($250), and is backed by LaCie’s 2-year warranty.

Also on the drive, you will find LaCie’s Quick Install Guide and Complete Software Suite, which allow you to easily configure the device, password protect it, and set up automatic backups. LaCie also provides 10GB of Wuala’s Secure Cloud Storage free for a year.

The Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt drive is ready for the road. The drive is housed in a protective aluminum shell and also outfitted with a thick, shock-resistant rubber sleeve to ensure that no matter where you take your drive or how it gets there, your data is safe.

For our series of lab tests, we used the 120GB SSD model, and not surprisingly, the combination of a SSD and Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 connectivity yielded impressive speeds. Via Thunderbolt, the drive posted a write speed of 189 MBps and a read speed of 385 MBps in the AJA System Test, and wrote a 10GB file at 200.9 MBps while reading the same file at 245.6 MBps. To write/read a 10GB folder, the drive scored 194.9 MBps and 236.9 MBps, respectively.

While connected via USB 3.0, the drive posted a 190.5 MBps write speed, and 381.8 MBps read speed in the AJA System Test. To write/read a 10GB file, the Rugged drive scored 186.2 MBps and 247.1 MBps respectively. When transferring our 10GB folder, the drive yielded write speeds of 190.5 MBps, and read speeds of 240.8 MBps.

After running all of our tests, the Rugged drive ended up testing a bit slower than Elgato’s 240GB Thunderbolt SSD (3.0-mouse rating), as well as LaCie’s 240GB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Edition SSD (4.0-mouse rating).

Although the Rugged USB3 yielded slower test results than the Elgato and Little Big Disk drives, it is also considerably less expensive than those two drives. The 120GB Rugged is $80 cheaper than Elgato’s 120GB Thunderbolt SSD. Even the 256GB version of the Rugged USB3 ($350) is half the price of the Elgato’s 240GB Thunderbolt SSD ($700) and much less expensive than LaCie’s 240GB Little Big Disk SSD ($580). In addition to its lighter price tag, the Rugged USB3 also offers more than just Thunderbolt connectivity, and is backward compatible with USB 2.0, so you can use it with any system new and old.

Bottom line

After testing countless drives, LaCie’s Rugged USB3 is one of my favorites to date. It’s simple to setup and use, it has Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces, it’s backwards compatible with USB 2.0, and offers SSD speed without a ridiculously high price tag. Plus, it’s small enough to take anywhere, and durable enough to take a bit of a beating. With all these features for just $200, it’s hard to find a better portable drive.

Updated 12/4/12 to correct benchmark results.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Bus-powered
    • Durable
    • Fast transfer speeds
    • Includes USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt cables


    • Slightly slower than other Thunderbolt SSDs we've tested
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