LaCie HD Max

Author: Sven Rafferty
September 16th, 2009
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Pros

  • Fast
  • Great looking unit
  • Small footprint

Cons

  • Quality issues
  • RAID1 failure in tests

The Bottom Line
LaCie has made one sleek looking external hard drive that begs for a spot on your desk to show off its good looks. However, if our data failure is any indication of troubles in mass, this is nothing more than a cheerleader on the football team that just looks hot but has no brains.

Ratings

Overall:

Speed:

Ease of Use:

Looks:

Durability:

Price:

Recommended
Maybe

Full Review
LaCie has been a well known accessory company for Apple for many years long before other companies pushing PC ware started dabbling into the Mac world. That experience has given a lead over those late comers that LaCie has enjoyed and used to push its products into a new realm of sleek looks. The HD Max is definitely one nice looking unit without a doubt with its shinny black case that reminded me of Darth Vader’s helmet when I first took it out of the box. The Dark Side had nothing to do with this cool looking external hard drive as LaCie tapped award-winning industrial designer Neil Poulton to come up with all this black goodness. When you hook up the power and cable the USB into your computer, Mac or PC, a blue light flickers from the bottom on the front of the unit bouncing memorizing light from the surface of your mount location. The light flashes as data is accessed adding to the pretty show on your desk. When you turn the unit around, you’ll find a switch that enables RAID0 or RAID1, two USB ports, a spot for your power, and switch for that power. You’ll also note two other LEDs one for each drive that show blue or the dreaded red for, oops, something’s very wrong, red. Except for the air vents in the back of the unit, the LaCie HD Max is just one nice piece of plastic covering the rectangle RAID hard drive that is small enough to easily hold in your hand.

So it looks good, how does it perform? Well, there’s a long and short answer for that. Since this is the in-depth part of the review, we’ll give you the long answer. To start with, we selected RAID1 for our selection on the unit, because you know, if a drive goes back, at least we’ll have a back-up of the data on the other drive, right? You can also choose to go for the “Max” and select RAID0 which will combine the drives for a total of 2 TB of bit and bytes goodness. Make your selection causes the drive to do its thing and when it’s all done, up comes your drive on your desktop (for us Mac users.) I went ahead and tested the drive using QuickBench 4.0 (results below) after formatting the drive to MacOS Extended format. Since we were connected to the device via USB 2.0, the speeds were not lightening fast but it didn’t mean that the LaCie HD Max wasn’t spiffy either. I found the write speeds to much faster than the reads which makes nice for getting large chunks of data onto the drive such as movies and mass amounts of audio. I was able to copy 116 GB of movies and music in just two hours which isn’t bad at all.

In the course of a few weeks of use, I never saw any issues with the HD Max. The drive was quickly recognized by my Mac and drive performance was as good as having an internal drive for most uses. With the RAID1 protection on, it was business as usual, or so we thought. About sixty days into use of the LaCie HD Max, we were unexpectedly presented with a surprise notice from the Mac. It could not write any files to the drive. ‘Huh?’ I thought as I checked permissions. Clean. Really odd. No matter what I did to the unit, I just could not write to it. Read was not an issue what so ever. To be safe, I backed the data from the drive to a Drobo and rebooted. Horror of horror when the operating system came back up. Gone was that orange hard drive icon for the HD Max on my desktop. Gone! I went down to the unit under my desk and it had red lights lit everywhere. Front and back. Ugh. The unit was also very hot and, you guessed it, the fan wasn’t spinning in the rear. Joy.

I disconnected the LaCie HD Max and let it cool for an hour. I plugged it back in and up she came with that trance-like blue glow on the front of the unit and no red lights in the rear. The Mac unfortunately did not see the data and even worse asked if I wanted to format the drive. ‘Format?’ What happened to the mirror protection of RAID1? I have no idea and LaCie’s support engineer couldn’t say without seeing the unit. After running every test and fix we could in Disk Utility (screenshot), there was nothing we could do to “save” the data. So, we were curious and formatted the drive again in RAID1 and once again, Mac OS X saw the drive…as if she were new.

I attribute the failure to the fan dying and no longer working. Why, however, the drive came back as a blank device is what threw me off. The drives themselves seemed fine, obviously since they reformatted with no issue and passed drive tests without a hitch, so I suspect the controller fried due to heat.

Needless to say, I ditched using the drive at all since it lost all the data on it and isn’t a great redundant drive if you can’t get your data after unit failure, right? I pulled the top drive from the unit as there was no voodoo warranty disclaimer sticker on the top Samsung 1 TB HDD and placed it into the Drobo. I left the other drive as-is since, one, I’m still a bit nervous of further drive failure to which the Drobo couldn’t handle two drives at the same time going out. Two, they’re Samsung drives and I’m not a huge fan of their hardware, and three, the second drive did contain a voodoo warranty warning sticker.

So where does this leave me? On the one hand, it is a great looking unit and dang sharp at that. It’s one of the few accessory units you would actually would want to put on your desktop to show off to the world. But on the other hand, I just can’t get out of my head that I lost all my data on a drive that’s suppose to be redundant. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen as I know of one other data wipe with a Western Digital My Book RAID1 unit as well. So I guess I could say, “Hey, it’s not a perfect world we live in,” but man, that’s why you purchase a RAID1 drive, right? LaCie support offered little insight other than “send it back and we’ll replace it” kind of response so at least it backs up its warranty but, again, I just keep coming back to the fact that the data was lost.

Test Results (USB 2.0)

LaCie HD Max Results

Overall
It’s a tough call with this one. While we loved the LaCie when it was chugging along nicely for our 60 days of testing; dying in the third month did not set a good feeling for us. Now note that there hasn’t been a wave of complainants about lost data with the LaCie HD Max; however, we have read and talked to many that have questioned LaCie’s quality in the past. So consider this before purchasing. In a nutshell, if the drive was still trucking, we’d easily recommend this for its outstanding looks, compact footprint, and descent price. If it was still trucking…

Price: $279.99 (2TB)

Platform: USB 2.0 running on a Macintosh or Windows system. See site for specific OS, processor, and memory requirements.

Website: Vendor Webpage


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