With the Rugged Mini, LaCie makes its Rugged line of portable hard drives even smaller. Built to withstand a ton (literally), the shockingly bright orange Rugged Mini combines speedy USB 3.0 read/write capabilities with damage-resistant technology. Read on to find out how this $189 1 TB drive stacks up against the competition.
The Rugged Mini features a very workmanlike aesthetic. A lifejacket-orange rubber sleeve surrounds the sides of the drive. Beneath this, the Rugged Mini somewhat disappointingly combines a classy brushed-metal aluminum surface with an unfortunately inelegant box frame, which lacks the rounded corners and generally sleek design common among most portable hard drives.
The good news is that the Rugged Mini offers greater protection than the standard portable hard drive. Thanks to its rubber sleeve, the drive is shock-resistant up to a height of 1.2 meters, can withstand up to 1 ton of pressure, and is also rain-resistant. The Buffalo MiniStation Extreme, which also features a rugged design, is shock-resistant up to a height of 2 meters, but lacks the rain and pressure resistance of the Rugged Mini.
Without its sleeve, the Rugged Mini measures 4.7 x 2.9 x 0.8 inches - comparable in size to other portable hard drives such as the Seagate GoFlex Turbo (4.4 x 3.3 x 0.5 inches). With the sleeve on, the drive measures 5.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches, just large enough to make sticking it in your pocket cumbersome. A single USB 3.0 port is located at the top of the drive.
The Rugged Mini is as heavy as it is large. At 10.6 ounces, the drive weighs 2.4 ounces more than the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme and 4.2 ounces more than the Seagate GoFlex Turbo.
Setup and Utilities
No installation was required to begin transferring files to the Rugged Mini; we simply plugged it into our notebook and dragged files onto the drive.
The LaCie Desktop Manager opens immediately after plugging the Rugged Mini into your notebook; however, we were irked to discover that we couldn't access the preloaded utilities from this screen, but instead could only change our launch preferences, tweak the Eco power management settings, or reformat the drive. Accessing the tools requires launching an executable on the drive through Windows Explorer.
The drive comes preloaded with a standard suite of software, which includes automatic backup, one year's worth of online storage from Wuala (up to 10GB), file encryption, and an Eco power management utility. Although these features are welcome, other portable hard drives such as the Seagate GoFlex Turbo offer a more robust selection of utilities. The tools themselves are unassuming. While the Genie Backup Assistant lacks the bells and whistles of the some other backup utilities such as Memeo Backup Premium, creating a backup schedule is intuitive and the process runs quickly.
As a USB 3.0 drive, the Rugged Mini performed moderately well. Copying 5GB of mixed multimedia files from the notebook to the drive took 2 minutes and 12 seconds, a rate of 38.8 MBps. This falls below the average write speed by about 6 MBps. Reading the same files from the drive took only 1 minute and 27 seconds, which at 58.9 MBps, beats the category average by slightly more than 6 MBps. Although the Rugged Mini beat the Seagate GoFlex Turbo (50.7/36.3 MBps read/write), it fell well short of the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme, which offered the fastest read/write speeds in the category (86.8/74.2 MBps).
Reading and writing a single 3GB resulted in slower performance. The Rugged Mini's write speed clocked in at 43 seconds, a rate of 71.4 MBps, which is the same as the Seagate GoFlex Turbo, but well below the Buffalo Ministation Extreme and Iomega eGo (99.1 Mbps). The LaCie drive read the same file in 36 seconds, or 85.3 MBps. That's behind the GoFlex Turbo (93.1 MBps), the MiniStation Extreme (87.8 MBps), and eGo (122.9 MBps).
Apart from our review model, the LaCie Rugged Mini is offered in three versions: A 500GB, 5,400-rpm verzion costs $109, a 500GB, 7,200-rpm version is $139, and a 1.5TB version costs $239.
Although it doesn't have the fastest speeds around, the most robust selection of preloaded software, or the sleekest design, LaCie's $189 Rugged Mini nevertheless offers solid performance and heavy-duty protection. For anyone who needs serious storage capacity but fears doing significant damage to their portable hard drive, the Rugged Mini fits the bill. Less accident-prone shoppers, however, may find other, sexier portable hard drives, such as the $169 Buffalo MiniStation Extreme, more to their liking.