LaCie’s 2big standalone RAID drive is a striking design by Neil Poulton, a chunky aluminium enclosure with a deep blue orb at the front that pulses to show power and activity. The technology inside may not be quite as futuristic as the casing, but it’s bang up to date, with a USB 3 interface that won’t bottleneck performance — and a bundled PCI-E x1 USB 3 controller card to ensure you can make use of it.
As the name suggests, the 2big is a two-drive device. It comes populated with a pair of low-power 1TB Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B drives, drawing a total of 13W idle and 18W peak — spinning down to less than a watt when disconnected or idle for more than half an hour. There’s also a 2 x 2TB drive option for £357 exc VAT, and you can swap in new drives by simply sliding the trays out from the back of the device and transferring the screwed mountings. Frustratingly, though, you can’t buy a bare 2big enclosure, so this is useful only for upgrades and replacements of faulty disks.
With only two drives, you’ll have to choose either RAID 0 striping or RAID 1 mirroring (you’d need more drives to combine the approaches), but that still gives you a choice of priorities. There’s also a JBOD mode that presents each physical disk as a separate volume, allowing you to use the full capacity of both drives without the risk of data loss associated with striping. Building an array is as simple as flicking a switch at the rear of the 2big and pressing a button. Both controls are well recessed, so there’s no danger of hitting either by accident.
For maximum performance, RAID 0 is the way to go. In our regular file copy tests over a USB 3 connection, the 2big achieved RAID 0 read and write speeds of 141MB/sec and 112MB/sec respectively. That’s faster than any one-disk device we’ve seen, but it’s not as fast as you might hope: the A-Listed Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk scored 110MB/sec and 89MB/sec in the same tests, and costs half as much. Switching to JBOD or RAID mode saw results fall to around 103MB/sec in both directions.
And in our small file test, striping was no help at all: in all three RAID modes the 2big gave identical read and write results of 68MB/sec and 35MB/sec respectively. So if you’re looking for a high-speed storage device, the 2big is liable to disappoint. Yes, it’s faster than a conventional drive, but not by enough to justify the price.
If, on the other hand, your chief concern is data security, the 2big could be an attractive bet. In RAID 1 mode it’ll detect a drive failure and drop the offending drive, showing an error condition by switching its blue orb indicator to a deep red. It’ll then continue to work in single drive mode until you can replace the duff volume, at which point the array is automatically rebuilt. You couldn’t ask for a simpler data redundancy system, and the hardware’s covered by a generous three-year warranty.
You pay for that, though. Compare, for example, the Icy Box USB 3 RAID enclosure, which can be had for $119 from PC Case Gear. It’s not as sturdy or attractive as LaCie’s model, and you don’t have the peace of mind of dealing with a single provider; but throw in two Deskstar 1TB drives ($69 each) and a USB 3 card ($49) and the whole package is still one hundred dollars cheaper than the LaCie.
The 2big USB 3 therefore has limited appeal: in terms of performance, it’s a high price for an underwhelming gain. But if you’re a professional who’s willing to pay for a sturdy, one-piece RAID 1 solution, it ticks the boxes with sci-fi style.