So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
LaCie 4Big Quadra (4TB)
A fast external hard drive with a huge capacity and a hefty price tag.
- Seven possible RAID configurations, comprehensive connectivity, fast eSATA throughput speeds, nice design
- Extremely expensive, no network interface, not the fastest USB 2.0 throughput speeds, drive replacement voids warranty, MacDrive software is only a trial
If you need local storage with capacities greater than 2TB, room for expansion and fast connectivity, the 4Big Quadra is a good choice. For everyone but the rich, however, it is worth looking for a cheaper option.
Price$ 2,299.00 (AUD)
LaCie's 4Big Quadra (4TB) external hard drive provides a huge amount of storage and comprehensive connectivity. With a beautiful design and excellent performance, the 4Big Quadra's only real problem is its high price.
The 4Big Quadra has a striking design, with a brushed metal aluminium texture and glowing blue orb. The gorgeous looks aren't entirely surprising: it is designed by Neil Poulton, credited with the design of other LaCie products like the Network Space and Rugged All-Terrain Hard Disk 500GB.
The 4Big Quadra's rear panel provides access to the device's connections, a RAID switch and four hard drive slots, secured in place by large plastic screws.
There are single USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and eSATA ports, as well as two FireWire 800 ports. The inclusion of two FireWire 800 ports allows users to daisy chain up to four 4Big Quadra units to each other, increasing the amount of available storage without taking up more ports on a computer. We were disappointed at the lack of a Gigabit Ethernet connection, which restricts the device to users who need local rather than networked storage.
LaCie provides basic software with the 4Big Quadra, with Shortcut Button Preferences, Genie Backup Manager Pro and a trial version of Mediafour's MacDrive. MacDrive is the standout piece of software, allowing Windows to recognise and read/write Mac-formatted hard drives; this is handy given that the 4Big Quadra has an HFS+ Journaled file system out of the box.
Shortcut Button Preferences is also a handy inclusion. It lets you select an action to be carried out when the 4Big Quadra's blue orb is pressed, such as carry out a backup or launch an application. This function is definitely useful, but it only works when the drive is connected via FireWire or USB.
The 4TB variant of the 4Big Quadra boasts four 1TB Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B drives in RAID 0 mode, providing the best possible performance out of the box but no extra data protection. Users are able to easily change the configuration by booting the device into RAID mode, where you can change it to use RAID 1+0, Concatenation, RAID 3, RAID 3 + Spare, RAID 5 or RAID 5 + Spare. The RAID reconfiguration process takes under a minute and is painless. Users can then format the drive from within their operating system.
Though easily removable, the drives are not user-replaceable — doing so will void LaCie's warranty. Users will only need to replace drives if one of them fails or needs to be repaired. Though LaCie suggests using drives supported by the company, we used Seagate's Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB drives without any issues.
We tested the 4Big Quadra's performance with 4TB of space (3.63TB formatted) in RAID 0 configuration by transferring 18GB of data from our PC testbed using Intel's reference x58 motherboard and Core i7-965 Extreme Edition, and an Intel X25-M solid-state drive. Over USB 2.0, data was copied to the 4Big Quadra (write speed) at an average speed of 22.47 megabytes per second. From the Quadra back to the PC (read speed), a speed of 26.11MBps was recorded. During the copy transfer test — duplicating the same set of files from one location on the 4Big Quadra to another — it managed 12.16MBps. Despite the RAID 0 configuration, these speeds are actually slower than single disk external hard drives such as Seagate's FreeAgent Desk or the Western Digital's My Passport for Mac (500GB).
The 4Big Quadra really comes into its own with the eSATA connectivity, which has a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 375MBps. We didn't quite witness this speed in our tests, but the improvement over USB 2.0 was noticeable. Write speeds over eSATA averaged 48.18MBps, read speeds were 51.63MBps and the copy transfer yielded a speed of 30.03MBps.
Unfortunately, all three flavours of the 4Big Quadra — 2TB, 4TB and 6TB — have prices that are hard to justify. The 4TB version costs $2299, which seems like overkill when it has no network interface or server capabilities.
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