The interface of drives is beginning to play an increasingly important role. Data is transmitted every year more and more, whether it’s the video editing area or other segments, for example, photo processing. But even in the time of fast interfaces USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 to find a high-speed drive – the task is not trivial, because performance can be limited by the drive itself, and not by the interface. In this case, the potential of USB 3.1 Gen2 or Thunderbolt 3 will not be disclosed. Our test lab received two new drives from LaCie, which use the Thunderbolt 3 interface, but are oriented to different applications.
LaCie is now a trademark of Seagate, and after the advent of the first generation of Thunderbolt, this company actively supported the new technology. Of course, there was a certain risk, because the first generation of Thunderbolt was supported exclusively by the Apple MacBook. Over the years, the Thunderbolt interface has improved, today it has reached the third generation and has become a common standard. Thunderbolt ports are found on many laptops, PCs and motherboards.
The Thunderbolt 3 interface provides a theoretical throughput of 40 Gb / s. However, it allows the transfer of other standards, including up to four lines of PCI Express 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 2. Using the adapter, you can also transmit audio information. So Thunderbolt 3, in fact, is a technology for data transmission. In the third generation, in addition to doubling the bandwidth, Thunderbolt switched to a new format for the USB Type C connector. As a result, Thunderbolt 3 became a universal standard, especially since USB 3.1 peripherals can also be connected to Type C ports.
Thunderbolt 3 allows you to connect up to seven devices one after the other. That is, external Thunderbolt 3 devices can provide additional ports through which new devices can be connected to them through the chain. The standard Thunderbolt 3 also integrates USB Power Delivery, which allows you to feed up to 100 watts of power. A copper cable with a length of up to 3 m should be used. Direct data transmission is possible over optical cables up to 60 m. Compared to USB 3.1 Gen 2, the Thunderbolt 3 standard provides a 4x speed (10 vs. 40 Gb / s).
Let’s start with the first external Thunderbolt 3 drive from LaCie, which we’ll discuss in more detail below. LaCie Bolt³ belongs to compact drives, but it needs an additional power source, which somewhat limits mobile usage. Two M.2 SSDs inside are designed to provide a fairly high level of performance. Thus, LaCie Bolt³ is not aimed at maximum capacity, but at maximum speed.
The capacity of LaCie Bolt³ is 2 TB, that is, two M.2 SSDs with a capacity of 1 TB each are installed inside the drive. The two SSDs are integrated into a RAID 0 array, but in this case the RAID array is software, that is, users can combine drives in RAID 1. But LaCie Bolt³ targets for maximum performance, therefore recommends using a RAID 0. The price of a high-speed drive is 2,299 euros in Europe.
LaCie packaged Bolt³ in an aluminum case with dimensions of 115 x 203 x 25 mm, weight is 785 g. Both factors provide mobile use of the drive. But without external power can not do. LaCie allows you to install LaCie Bolt³ on a rack, although the case can simply be placed on the desktop. In the rack LaCie Bolt³ is held by magnets. In the photos, you can see the holes on the back of the case for cooling components. LaCie added a small fan that provides fresh air if necessary, namely for prolonged loads.
The drive connection connectors are hidden behind the door. Two Thunderbolt 3 ports are available, which allows you to connect other devices in a chain. You can also see the external power connector.
On the stand there is a small ledge to place the LaCie Bolt³ in the correct orientation. The magnets of the rack are quite strong, so the drive in a similar position “on the corner” holds well. The rack should be used in case you want to demonstrate LaCie Bolt³ on your desktop to friends and acquaintances. From a practical point of view, it has no meaning.
In addition to the drive, power supply and user manual, LaCie has added the Thunderbolt 3 cable to the package. But its length is only 30 cm, so it’s only useful when LaCie Bolt³ is close to the computer or laptop.
Thunderbolt 3 is especially interesting in stationary scenarios, since the interface allows not only to connect peripherals, but also to charge the battery. Here, the essence lies in the support of USB Power Delivery technology, and when you connect LaCie Bolt³ (with the power on) to the MacBook, the laptop battery will be charged.
LaCie also provided cables. If the rear door is closed, the cables are exposed through the slot, but they can not be pulled out, as the plugs do not climb through.
In the case of LaCie Bolt³ running under macOS, software RAID is displayed. Two SSD M.2 connect via PCI Express, they can work in RAID 0 and RAID 1. In the standard configuration, LaCie Bolt³ is configured in RAID 0.
We started performance tests with the AJA System Test. In it, LaCie Bolt³ showed a write speed of 510 MB / s and a reading speed of 1.325 MB / s in the script used. So the drive does not reach maximum performance.
In the Blackmagic Disk Speed test, bandwidth is measured, after which the test displays the video formats that will be used for editing. Data recording is performed at a speed of up to 863 MB / s, reading is more than 2.000 MB / s.
The QuickBench test measures random and sequential read / write of data of different sizes. With small files, we get a transfer rate of up to 1.921 MB / s.
In the case of larger files, the write speed increases to 1,000 MB / s, reads to 2.260 MB / s. The results are higher than in the case of Blackmagic Disk Speed.
If you go to the largest files, then the reading speed increases to 2.600 MB / s. We did not meet this level of performance with external storage, so LaCie Bolt³ will become a worthy replacement for internal storage, the difference is unlikely to be noticed by users.
The new 13 “and 15” MacBook Pro with Touch Bar have four Type C ports that support Thunderbolt 3. But in the case of 13-inch models, the two ports on the right panel are slower. The Thunderbolt 3 interface should theoretically operate at speeds up to 40 Gb / s. In the case of the MacBook Pro, all ports are declared for 10 Gb / s USB 3.1 Gen 2 without any restrictions.
We conducted our own tests with an external LaCie drive. We used the drive first for the left, then for the right ports, measuring the performance. On the left we used the left port, on the right – the right one.
We also looked at the external drive, which is focused on high capacity, but at the same time promises to provide high performance. LaCie offers different models with support for Thunderbolt 3: 6big and 12big, the first one we tested. LaCie 6big is available with capacities of 24TB, 36TB, 48TB and 60TB with a price of 2.899 euros.
The 12big and 6big drives can be equipped with 12 or 6 Seagate hard drives. Depending on the HDD models used, the total capacity can reach 120 or 60 TB. The data transfer rate of the drives is up to 2.600 MB / s in the case of 12big or up to 1.400 MB / s in the case of 6big, depending on the RAID array in which the hard disks work – RAID0, RAID1, RAID5 and RAID6 are supported. So the performance of the drives should be enough to mount video in the formats ProRes 422 (HQ), ProRes 4444 XQ and uncompressed 10- and 12-bit HD format.
Of course, the drive LaCie 6big is no longer called mobile. Dimensions are 161 x 225 x 237 mm, and we gain more than 16 kg, so it’s unlikely that users will want to move the RAID system from place to place. However, LaCie is well aware of the needs of the target audience of such drives – as a rule, video editing is implied. LaCie offers an optional accessory for transporting LaCie 6big.
The entire body of LaCie 6big is made of aluminum, like the inner frame. As a result, we get a decent weight. Also, six 3.5 “hard drives also weigh a lot, but the front panel gives the impression of modularity, but it’s not so.In the front there are six retractable hard disk trays.In addition to the power switch on the rear, the RAID system has a power button in front hidden behind the blue hemisphere.
As we noted, the main power toggle switch is located behind. Below you can see two Thunderbolt 3 connectors, one for connecting LaCie 6big to the system, the second for connecting other Thunderbolt devices. Below is the USB 3.1 port, through which the 6big can not officially work, but it provides access for system maintenance. The drive can be protected against theft thanks to the Kensington lock hole. The power supply is integrated in the drive, so LaCie used a standard power plug.
Inside the drive there are two 120-mm fans that provide the necessary cooling with redundancy. If one of the fans fails, the second one will continue its work. LaCie will display a warning.
Inside LaCie 6big there are Seagate hard disks. In our case, we got Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v5 with a capacity of 6 terabytes, but HDDs are also available for 8 terabytes. Meanwhile Seagate announced a new generation, which reaches a capacity of 12 terabytes.
Trays with hard disks can be removed from 6big without the aid of a screwdriver, but to remove the HDD from the trays a screwdriver is still needed. We liked the software, as well as the LED from the front of the chassis.
If you look inside the case, you can see two fans. At the back is a printed circuit board with SATA connectors. Hard drives in the trays simply slide into the depth of the case, after which they fit into the SATA connectors.
Together with LaCie 6big you will receive data cables and a power cable. The main thing here is a Thunderbolt 3 cable 1.5 m long. It allows you to install a RAID drive, for example, under a table. Although there is no special stock in length. Also included are USB 3.1 cables, one with Type C plugs at both ends, the second with one Type A.
During operation, the power button illuminates with a dull blue color. Blue LEDs can not be called popular, but this color is in good harmony with silvery aluminum. A constantly lit indicator indicates the system is ready for operation, blinking – for access operations. If the indicator light turns red, an error has occurred. A flashing red light indicates a warning that can be viewed through the utility.
On the side of LaCie 6big you can notice individual LEDs for each hard drive. They burn in the same dull blue color as the main indicator.
Due to the complexity of such a RAID system and the scope of use, LaCie appends the RAID Manager program to 6big, which reached the second version. Below, we will discuss it in more detail.
In the utility RAID Manager v2 you can see all the basic information about the system, as well as perform firmware upgrade. Note that RAID 6big has three firmware versions: RAID Firmware, System Firmware and USB Firmware. The notification pane displays the current status of the system, problems or errors.
Several options are available in the settings, such as process prioritization. If you, for example, are going to rebuild RAID, then you can raise the priority of this process. But the most important component is the administration of the RAID array itself. The utility displays how many hard disks are installed in the system and ready to work. And on LaCie 6big you can deploy not one, but several RAID arrays. The user can specify which hard disks should be added to the selected array.
For RAID 0 and RAID 1, at least two hard drives are required. For RAID 5, not less than three are required, and for RAID6, at least four. However, the most interesting here are the RAID5 and RAID10 modes with four or six hard disks. The utility immediately displays the available capacity. In the case of macOS, the drive is mapped to a single disk, unlike LaCie Bolt³, because 6big relies on hardware RAID.
Let me proceed to the performance of LaCie 6big.
In the Aja System Test, we got a reading speed of 867 MB / s and a write speed of 684 MB / s. The drive LaCie Bolt³, recall, the read speed reached 1.325 MB / s.
In the Blackmagic Disk Speed test, the results are also not the highest, 880 MB / s for writing and 692 MB / s for reading. However, this performance is enough for mounting all video formats.
The QuickBench test gives more detailed results, we start with the performance of working with files from 4 to 1,024 KBytes in size. Here LaCie 6big achieved a read speed of 1.475 MB / s – for a RAID system on six hard drives, the performance is decent. Of course, the results of random read and write operations are somewhat lower.
When transferring files of a larger size, the performance is increased. LaCie 6big showed a read speed of up to 2.372 MB / s in the case of files up to 10 MB. The writing speed was 1.580 MB /.
For files from 10 to 100 MB we get different results. The reading speed of LaCie was 2.424 MB / s, the write speed was 1.077 MB / s.
With these results, the drive is suitable for video editing. We moved the Final Cut Pro X library to LaCie 6big, after which we did not encounter any problems with the installation. Even 4K videos were installed without problems, proxy-files were created correctly. The Thunderbolt 3 interface is not a “bottleneck”.
With two external drives, LaCie Bolt³ and 6big, LaCie aimed at different uses. Both solutions are designed to provide high data transfer speed, and the Thunderbolt 3 interface is correctly selected. In the case of USB 3.1 Gen 2, we would have rested on a 10 Gbps limitation for both RAID systems. In our tests, Thunderbolt 3 with a theoretical bandwidth of 40 Gbit / s was loaded about half, no overload was observed.
Thunderbolt 3 can be called a reasonable evolutionary development. The need for high-speed interfaces of external drives arose long ago. Of course, not every user needs a transfer rate of 2.600 MB / s. But professionals have to work with large amounts of data, now they can perform many operations directly on RAID systems without any restrictions connected with external connection. So Thunderbolt 3 can be called a reliable basis.
Of course, Thunderbolt 3 drives due to their professional orientation are worth a lot. What can be seen at the price of the DAS solutions tested in this article. And the third generation here changes little.
With the LaCie Bolt³ lineup, the manufacturer introduced one of the fastest external storage devices on the market. We got a reading speed of up to 2.600 MB / s and a write speed of up to 1.150 MB / s. Therefore, the difference between external and internal drives is leveled, even if Apple’s own SSDs show a speed of up to 3.100 MB / s. So if you need high bandwidth, then LaCie Bolt³ is worth paying attention to.
The drive is enclosed in a high-quality aluminum housing. LaCie added a stand that holds the drive with magnets. Therefore, on the desktop LaCie Bolt³ in the stand will look very stylish. However, for most buyers, functionality is still more important than design and appearance. If you decide to buy LaCie Bolt³, you will get very high data transfer rates for an external drive, but the capacity is limited to 2 TB. Theoretically, instead of RAID 0, you can use RAID 1, in which case you increase the reliability of data storage, but lose 1 terabyte of space. In addition to restrictions on capacity, LaCie Bolt³ has one more obstacle: the price of 2.299 euros.
The LaCie big line is aimed at those users who need the maximum available capacity. We tested the model 6big on 24 terabytes, which also costs a lot – 2.840 euros or 199 thousand rubles in Russia. If you require a capacity of up to 60 TB, you will have to pay 7.400 euros or 505 thousand rubles. LaCie also offers a 12big line up to 96 terabytes, but the price will exceed the bar of 10.000 euros (977 thousand rubles).
The big storage is interesting not only for record capacity, but also for high data transfer speed, despite the classical technology of hard drives. In our tests in RAID 5, we got a read speed of up to 2.400 MB / s, the write speed was up to 1.077 MB / s. Depending on the RAID configuration, performance can “float”. In the case of RAID 5, we get a compromise between performance and reliability of storage. But you can choose the appropriate RAID mode through the utility.
In addition to high productivity, the quality of manufacturing can be attributed to the strengths of 6big. Of course, a system weighing 16 kg will not be easy to transfer from place to place. But the aluminum case leaves an impression of high quality, nothing is squeezed or rattled. The same goes for the hard disk trays. They are tightly fitted to the compartments, which is felt when removing and installing trays. Blue LEDs may not like everyone, but it’s already a matter of taste. However, LaCie 6big users are unlikely to want to have in the immediate vicinity, as hard drives under load noticeably rustle, although the fans are barely audible.
There remains the issue of price. But if you need a capacity of tens of terabytes with high speed, then to LaCie 6big look closely. There are some alternatives to DAS on the market. As for the NAS, even with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface, network storage can not provide comparable performance.