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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Rugged and durable design
Backwards compatible and future proof
Good speed for a hard drive
Setup can be frustrating
Not as convenient for Windows users
The LaCie Rugged 2TB Thunderbolt USB-C is a durable hard drive made to travel with you and protect your data. This is an excellent, though expensive and occasionally frustrating, storage option.
Whether you’re out in the wilderness filming a nature documentary, overseeing the construction of a skyscraper, or just on an extended vacation, chances are you’ll have valuable data that needs to be preserved. That is where the LaCie Rugged 2TB Thunderbolt USB-C hard drive comes in. However, though its toughness is beyond question, is it the on-the-go backup solution for you?
The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is instantly recognizable with its bright orange silicon exterior, and its appeal is certainly more than skin deep. This hard drive is rated for drops of 6.6 feet, has a one ton crush resistance, and has an IP54 rating for water and dust resistance. It’s a reassuring way to safeguard your information. It’s worth noting that the Thunderbolt’s resilience to water and dust is dependent upon the detachable silicon seal over the ports being in place, so it’s more vulnerable when in use.
It’s worth noting that the removable seal is quite easy to misplace, or to simply forget to reattach before heading out the door. This could potentially result in unforeseen mishap by the intrusion of dust and moisture, though the drive would still be just as protected from impacts.
The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is clearly meant to be connected primarily to a Thunderbolt port, as it features a built in cable that wraps around the drive in a tight groove. However, the Rugged also features a USB-C port along with USB-C and USB 3.0 cables, so it’s compatible with a wide variety of devices, old and new. Transfer speeds vary based on your connection type from 480Mb/s when connected to a USB-2.0 port all the way up to 40Gb/s when hooked up to a Thunderbolt 3 port.
At three times the cost of a non-rugged portable hard drive of identical capacity, the value of the Rugged Thunderbolt is severely undermined.
It took me two days to figure out what was preventing me from getting the LaCie Rugged up and running. I’m used to external hard drives just working right out of the box, and the included instructions didn’t lead me to believe the Rugged would be any different. I plugged it into my Windows 10 laptop, the little “device connected” jingle played, the drive whirred to life, but no file explorer window popped up. Opening “This PC” I found nothing save for my lonely internal SSD.
I tried plugging it in with the alternative included USB 3.0 cable, but no luck there either. Next, I restarted my laptop—no dice. I tried it with several other windows PCs, still unsuccessfully. The hard drive appeared in device manager, and appeared to be functioning, but none of my computers seemed to want to let me actually access it.
I plugged into a friend’s Macbook, and finally—success. It appears that my drive was shipped formatted to work with Macs but not PCs. This discovery led me to a portion of the online user manual that dealt with this particular issue. Apparently, the LaCie setup software should have run when I first plugged it into my PC, but since it didn’t run or was aborted somehow, and was formatted for use with a Mac computer, I now had to undertake the task of manually reformatting the drive.
You can find a handy guide for formatting hard drives here on Lifewire, but it’s not the sort of process I want to deal with if I can avoid it, and the experience of discovering that this is what I needed to do was long and frustrating. Your mileage may vary, but be aware that setting up the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt may require a fair bit of troubleshooting.
In our tests with CrystalDiskMark 6 we found that the Rugged Thunderbolt easily achieved its claimed maximum of 130Mb/s read/write speed when connected via USB-C or Thunderbolt. Using a USB 3.0 port we only achieved 44Mb/s speeds.It took about 8 seconds to transfer a video file of about a gigabyte to the drive, and in general the Rugged Thunderbolt is impressively fast for an external hard drive.
This is a hard drive clearly meant to aid those working in adverse conditions.
With an MSRP of $180 the Rugged Thunderbolt is certainly not a budget hard drive. Good portable hard drives of identical capacity can be bought for a third of the price. Essentially you're paying a steep premium for durability, and a further premium for that Thunderbolt connectivity. If you’re just going to be using it in an office or at home with most typical computers, then you’re probably better off with a cheaper storage solution.
Two big problems for the Rugged Thunderbolt are its price point and that it's not an SSD. Hard Drives with their spinning discs are awfully slow compared to solid state drives, and this holds the Rugged Thunderbolt back from really taking advantage of the super fast capability of its USB-C and Thunderbolt ports. LaCie itself offers a rugged SSD, albeit with half the capacity and at more than twice the price. From that perspective, the hard drive version seems like something of a bargain.
However, at three times the cost of a non-rugged portable hard drive of identical capacity, the value of the Rugged Thunderbolt is severely undermined.
A great, though expensive rugged hard drive that can be frustrating to set up.
The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt hard drive impressed me with its design and apparent durability, though only after a very rocky start. It’s a great option for backing up important information in the field, so long as you don’t mind paying a steep premium and dealing with a good deal of troubleshooting at the outset.