• Review: LaCie RuggedKey

    You've probably seen the Lacie rugged portable hard drives around the place - bright orange rubberised things that protect your data against falls. Very useful for fragile spinning disks. I even reviewed one back in 2006! Well, Lacie have tapped Neil Poulton on the shoulder once again, and he's come up with a new flash drive, encased in the same orange rubber.

    Besides the orange rubber, selling point #2 for the Lacie RuggedKey flash drive, is support for USB 3.0 - so it's only working at it's full potential on the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. On non-USB 3.0 machines, it simply works at USB 2.0 speeds. Other inclusions designs to make buying a RuggedKey more attractive are a free data encryption app, which I wouldn't bother with - just use TrueCrypt, and some free cloud storage via Wuala (never heard of 'em) as part of the deal - which again, why bother, just use DropBox. So really, you're buying this flash drive because you want USB 3.0 speeds and you want something designed to take a beating, so that's what I will test.

    The ruggedness aspect, is well, a moot-point, to be honest. Flash storage is inherently more reliable, due to the fact there's no moving parts. The casing on the RuggedKey helps though, to absorb high impact drops or hits, where as a traditional plastic casing would snap off. Your data would still be safe, as the flash chips and the USB bridge would probably still hang around, but a snapped case would mean you need to buy another drive, as it's impractical to use a USB flash drive without its casing. If you're the kind of person who drops stuff often, this would save you money, just by not breaking each time it's dropped or snapped.

    Same goes for water resistance. The actual casing itself is not water sealed, like say, a Pelican case or something similar. AS you can see from the picture, you have to slide the drive itself out of the orange casing - water will get in. If it's dropped in a pool, or in salt water, I doubt the drive would be immune to its effects. It is better than say, a $10 flash drive from Big W though.

    Of course, the trade off for this ruggedness is the enormous size of the thing. It's big. Here it is compared to a "normal" sized flash drive:

    You can get some really really small flash drives these days, like say, the Sandisk Fit, which would be probably 90% as "rugged" as the Lacie drive, whilst being much more practical. The big size of the drive itself, out of the case, also leads to problems like this with near by peripherals:

    Upside of the size of the Lacie unit though - it's really hard to lose. It's also great for throwing around the office when you're pissed off.

    The other downside of the design is that it's a pain in the arse to get in and out of it's plastic case. My girlfriend had real difficulty getting the drive out of the case and became very frustrated with it. Due to the fact there's no hinge or cap, it won't break, but the case relies on friction to hold it into place. So it will go from being really tight and difficult to remove now, then eventually wear in and be satisfactory, but also, I can tell, say after heavy use, it could wear out, become loose and not grip the drive, rendering the case useless.

    So physical aspects aside, how does this thing perform? Well, it does pretty darn good. Here's the result of the 5GB test on Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test:

    The only other USB 3.0 flash drive I've owned is a Patriot Supersonic Xpress and it goes for around $19 (the Lacie is $39) and it's nowhere near as fast as the Lacie - here's some benchmarks of the Patriot from a guy on OCAU. The Lacie Rugged is twice as fast as the Patriot, so if speed is important, the Lacie is ahead here.

    Overall, the Lacie Rugged flash drive is what you expect. A USB flash drive encased in lots of orange rubber. It delivers on its promise of fast speeds too. It's reasonably priced at $39. I guess if you need something a little more durable than your regular USB flash drive (but not entirely invincible), it's hard to go wrong with the Lacie Rugged. But don't forget the Corsair Survivor 16GB - which is about the same price as the Lacie, and to me, looks a bit more ballsy and certainly more waterproof. But also a fair bit bigger and not as speedy as the Lacie.

    Available from plenty of resellers for $39 (16GB model), via Staticice
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