LaCie 4big quadra review

£983
Price when reviewed

There’s no denying that DAS appliances deliver the best storage performance, but LaCie’s 4big quadra aims to take direct attached storage to the next level. It wants to cover as many bases as possible, and LaCie has targeted a wide range of applications including high-speed RAID-protected storage for small servers or high-end design workstations, and general backup duties for multiple office workers.

LaCie excels in the design department, and the quadra is no exception. Build quality is exemplary, and the distinctive button on the front glows blue if all is well and red if a fault is detected. The button’s other purpose ties in with the bundled software: pressing it will fire off a predefined task.

The quadra is a silent partner on the desktop, as its cooling system generates virtually no noise. The power switch also has an Auto option that causes the app to go into standby mode when the host system is switched off or goes to sleep.

The review unit came with a quartet of 1TB SATA drives preconfigured in RAID0 stripe. Plenty of other array types are supported: RAID1, 3 and 5, hot-sparing and concatenation, where the latter combines the capacity of all drives into one volume and data is written to successive drives as each one fills up.

The quadra offers some good port permutations, as it’s endowed with eSATA, USB, FireWire 400 and 800. Plus, LaCie includes all cables. Physical installation doesn’t get any easier as you just plug in the appliance using your chosen port. For testing, we used

a Boston dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 system running Windows Vista and equipped with a quad of USB ports and a Silicon Image eSATA RAID controller. Power consumption is low, as the appliance in idle was measured drawing 30W and under very heavy load this rose by only a_single watt.

The drive is preformatted in HPFS, so we had to reinitialise it and reformat it in NTFS. Our performance tests returned the lowest speeds over USB, as copying a 2.58GB video clip between the appliance and workstation returned read and write speeds of 31MB/sec and 25MB/sec respectively. With it connected to the eSATA port we watched read and write speeds soar to 103.5MB/sec and 66MB/sec for the same copy operation, making the quadra the fastest desktop DAS box we’ve seen by quite a margin.

The Genie software offers a good range of features including scheduled full and incremental backups, but doesn’t support Windows Server OSes. Performance over eSATA was reasonable, with a full backup of 5.6GB of data returning speeds of 27MB/sec. The backup Button software doesn’t work with eSATA connections, so the payback is slower speeds with the same backup over USB delivering only 15.5MB/sec.

The 4big quadra delivers in the performance stakes and combines this with a classy design and a good range of fault-tolerant features. Considering retail prices for 1TB SATA derives are below the £100 mark, the 4TB model is expensive, but you won’t find anything faster for eSATA connections.

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