- ✓Good value for money;
- ✓good performance with mainstream applications.
- ✕Unexceptional performance with high-end applications.
LaCie’s IEEE 1394-connected hard drive offers plenty of external storage at a reasonable price. Performance isn’t its strong point, but you won’t be buying an external drive if you need the highest speed. If you want value for money, this 160GB unit costs £254.47 (ex. VAT) -- little more than the cost of the drive itself.
The 160GB Desktop FireWire Hard Drive uses LaCie’s standard external disk housing, seen on many of its drives (including removable media drives). The rectilinear blue-and-grey design allows drives to be neatly stacked on top of each other. Power and activity LEDs are the only decoration on the front panel. At the back, the IEC power connector and power switch join the two 6-pin IEEE 1394 ports. Having two ports allows you to daisy-chain this drive with other hard drives or removable storage. The internal power supply means that LaCie’s drives are larger than Maxtor’s, but this does make them more stable when stacked.
Inside the box there’s a Maxtor D540X series drive -- in fact, we've reviewed the same model as an internal Ultra-ATA/133 drive. Obviously Maxtor uses its own drives in its external units, and LaCie uses Maxtor drives in the two units reviewed here. This means that all these external drives deliver similar performance results, irrespective of interface or capacity. You can get this drive in a range of capacities -- 40, 60, 80 and 120GB as well as this, the top-end 160GB model. All except the 160GB drive are available as 7,200rpm drives, the 120GB model offering a choice of 5,400 or 7,200rpm.
External drives that don’t use the hard disk’s native interface to communicate with your PC will usually deliver lower performance than an internal drive. This is because there’s an overhead involved in translating from the hard drive’s native protocol, in this case ATA/133, to the interconnect protocol, in this case IEEE 1394 (FireWire). Even with the drive working flat out, it still takes time to repackage the data, whether sending or receiving. However, different implementations of this translation can differ in performance, which is why the same drive in different external units can produce different results.
If you already have IEEE 1394, or have decided to opt for it, LaCie’s drive gives you higher capacity for a lower price than Maxtor’s unit with the same interface. The level of performance is similar, so unless you desperately need the desk space provided by the smaller Maxtor unit, go for LaCie.