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LaCie d2 SATA Hard Drive

We test two of them in a RAID-0 configuration on a Mac G5 By Charlie White

(6/6/05) LaCie d2 SATA Hard Drive reviewLaCie recently began shipping the d2 SATA Hard Drive ($275 street price for each including PCI card), a serial ATA 7200 RPM 250 GB drive that can be used either separately or together in an array configuration on either Mac or PC. Lets strap together a pair of these hard drives in a RAID-0 striped array and see how fast theyll go. For our testing, we installed the included SATA PCI card into our Mac G5 2.7 GHz test machine. These were some great-looking drives with performance to match. And, they were easy to set up and quiet, too. Lets take a look.

The LaCie d2 is available in various configurations. One that we didnt test is called a triple interface external hard drive, which can be connected via FireWire 400, FireWire 800 and USB 2.0. These drives are hard to beat for their plug-and-play convenience. However, the fastest speed for these LaCie d2 hard drives can be obtained by using an internal PCI SATA+power card, and then plugging two of these drives into that card, configured as a disk array. This PCI card has two inputs for SATA drives, and an added convenience are two jacks from which power can be brought to two individual drives, eliminating the need for cumbersome AC adapters or external power supplies.

The two d2 disk enclosures, each containing a Maxtor 250GB 7200 RPM disk (which is, by the way, the same one included with the Mac G5) with a 16 MB buffer, arrived in separate packages, each weighing 3.31 pounds. Taking each disk out of its box, even though small at 6 inches square and a little less than 2 inches thick, they were surprisingly hefty. With a beautiful brushed aluminum finish, along with the signature cobalt blue LaCie on-off switch thats common to the d2 family of external disk enclosures, the two disks have an appearance that coordinates well with the Mac G5 aluminum case. Another design flourish is the metal base that attaches to the bottom of drive, allowing it to stand up vertically. Using the included Allen wrench, after a bit of tinkering the bases were attached to their two drives and all were ready to go. 

Before we get to the benchmark testing, allow me one paragraph of discontent, and then Ill move on to the actual product. Since there were two separate packages, I couldnt help but notice how many plastic bags and twist ties were used as packing material for these two drives. Sorry I have to pick on LaCie for this?because almost all manufacturers are guilty of it?but why do power cables require plastic bags? Must they be kept poppin fresh? The whole packaging philosophy in the United States and around the world has gone nuts. For these two drives, there were a total of about 10 plastic bags, eight twist ties, six boxes include the packing box, and numerous pieces of Styrofoam. The drives, cables and accoutrements will be fresh and crisp as the landfills fill up with useless garbage. All this packing material is about as useful as a screen door in a submarine.

Now that Ive gotten that out of the way, assembling the array was a simple matter of plugging everything in and then configuring the Mac OS X-native RAID utility, which is nearly effortless without requiring any extra software or even looking at a manual. Software is also included for PC users to accomplish the same thing without too much trouble. Included with each disk is an internal SATA PCI card that conveniently allows you to plug in two d2 discs and also their power cables. After I installed that PCI card into our test Mac (only one PCI card was required although there was one included with each drive), I turned on the two drives and booted up the machine. My first impression of the d2 drives was of complete and total quiet. I mean, these babies were so quiet I couldnt hear them at all. And those cobalt blue on-off switches? Well, I think they look positively ominous, even like a nuclear cooling pool, and I mean that in a positive way (see graphic above). But looks aside, how did they perform?

Immediately after boot-up, I saw both discs dutifully appearing on the Mac desktop as if they had been there all along. Hey, this was going to be easy! First, I wanted to see how fast each disk was by itself, before I put it into an array configuration. The first thing I wanted to do was run Xbench, a standard Mac-based benchmarking suite that tests everything on a Mac from processor to hard disk. The single disk, formatted to 233.8 GB,  turned in a strong performance, especially for a single disk. Its uncached sequential write speed (4K blocks) was 65.18MB per second, and its read speed was 43.65 MB per second.

But that was just the beginning. I was sure that after striping these two disks together using the OS X native RAID configuration utility, I would see a significant speed boost. After a quick trip to the OS X utilities folder, configuring these two disks as a RAID-0 array was done in just a minute. No software to install, no muss, no fuss?you gotta love this Mac OS X Tiger. As soon as the configuration was done, there it was. Taking the place of the two LaCie disks was one RAID array, which I named LaCie RAID. The two 250GB drives combined into one RAID-0 drive to yield 467.17 GB available. Thats plenty of space, but how fast was it? I was pleasantly surprised to see this software SATA array that I just constructed flying through the Xbench disk speed test at an extraordinary speed. The RAID disk turned in a sequential write speed (4K blocks) of 144 MB per second and a read speed of 110 MB per second?that way more than twice the speed of each disk on its own. All I can say is Hoo-RAID!

These LaCie d2 SATA hard drives are well-built and fast. For $275, you get a lot of speed and disk space for your money. If theyre not big enough, LaCie also offers a similar enclosure with a 450GB disk inside for about $450 each. The drives are easy to configure in either an array or stand-alone configuration, and offer enough speed for just about anything youd want to short of uncompressed high definition video editing. Theyre an excellent value and are highly recommended. 9.7 out of 10 stars.

Want to see what happens if you stripe four of these together into a RAID-0 array? Take a look at this article.


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Related Keywords:LaCie d2 SATA Hard Drive, PCI SATA card, serial ATA 7200 RPM 250 GB drive, array configuration, Mac, PC, hard drives, RAID-0 striped array, Mac G5 2.7 GHz, test machine, perfromance, benchmarks

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