PROS / Fully loaded software and security features ensure easy automated data backup and protection against information theft.
CONS / There is no phone number to get in touch with technical support.
VERDICT / Complaints about the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt external hard drive are difficult to come by. Its excellent software and security features, combined with an external rubber case that keeps it safe if dropped or exposed to dust and water, make it the best portable hard drive on the market.
Looks aren’t everything, but sometimes just physically inspecting a device can give you indication as to its level of its utility. The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt, winner of our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for best external hard drive, has the outer appearance of a rugged external hard drive and the internal workings of a high-end data storage device.
What separates the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt from the rest of the external hard drives we tested and reviewed is the inclusion of not one but two cables that connect to your computer: a USB 3.0 cable and a Thunderbolt cable.
The USB 3.0 cable plugs into your computer’s USB port and is reverse compatible with USB 2.0 technology. This means the portable hard drive can be used with older computers equipped with USB 2.0 ports, although data transfer speeds will not be as fast as they are with newer technology.
The Thunderbolt cable, which is integrated into the external hard drive for convenient storage, can be used to connect with Mac and PC computers that have a Thunderbolt port. This is typically identified by the presence of a lightning bolt mark just above the port. Thunderbolt cables are capable of transferring data at double the speeds of USB 3.0, or roughly 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) under optimal circumstances.
This external drive is fully bus-powered on both USB and Thunderbolt, which means you won’t require an external power source to operate the drive. The drive’s recognition time, which is a measurement of how long your computer takes to recognize it once it’s plugged in, was the shortest of the lot at a brief 4.5 seconds.
The LaCie is available in a variety of storage and hard drive configurations, including a 256GB SSD, a 500GB SSD, a 1TB SSD, a 1TB standard hard drive and a 2TB standard hard drive.
Software & Security
This is an external hard drive for PC and Mac that comes with a pre-loaded software suite you can use to schedule automated data backup. The software also allows you to perform other file management functions.
We gave the included software top marks for ease of use, hardware- and software-based encryption, the option to password protect the hard drive, and a variety of automated backup scheduling choices. An installation wizard helps greatly to set up the software on first use, and an easy-to-understand interface enables easy navigation of the backup software and settings. This includes simply laid out instructions, with visual aids such as sliders to set partition sizes, and numbered steps for completion of various simple (yet effective) scheduling tasks.
Data backups can be scheduled to occur at hourly, daily or monthly intervals. The hard drive is also compatible with online cloud storage for a second layer of protection of your critical data files. When you buy the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt, it comes with 10GB of free online storage for a full year via Wuala Secure Online Storage.
Weighing 9.2 ounces, this LaCie device is the second-heaviest portable external hard drive we reviewed. It’s also among the thickest, measuring a full inch thick, but its 5.5 x 3.5-inch body retains its portability.
Its outer body is rubberized, offering protection against accidental bumps, and it was manufactured with military-grade shock protection which protects the interior hard drive components against drops up to 4 feet. Additionally, the LaCie’s rubberized port caps ensure dust and water resistance, making it an ideal hard drive that you can take with you into virtually any environment without damaging it.
Help & Support
In the area of help and support, the LaCie Rugged also scores high marks. The portable hard drive is protected by a three-year limited manufacturer warranty that covers you against defects in workmanship and electronic failure.
Technical support can be reached via online ticket submission, but there is no telephone number to speak to a live party. FAQs and other helpful resources are available on the manufacturer’s website, which help you to troubleshoot issues on your own.
When compared to all of the other portable external hard drives we reviewed and physically tested, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt emerges the clear winner for its combination of a rugged exterior capable of withstanding impact, versatile connectivity that supports both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, excellent data backup software, and near-comprehensive help and support channels. This portable external hard drive is easy to use and very durable, so it earns our top spot.