LaCie's limited edition Blade Runner hard drive probably doesn't look like any external storage device you've seen before. Made of aluminum, LaCie packs a 4TB, 5,400-rpm USB 3.0 hard drive into a body that resembles a radiator with a liquid-metal center. LaCie's $289 hard drive is visually alluring, but there's more than aesthetics behind its price tag.
A collaborative effort between hard drive maker LaCie and French designer Philippe Starck, the LaCie Starck Blade Runner will be manufactured in a limited amount: only 9,999 units will hit the market.
The 4TB USB 3.0 external hard drive is encased in cage-like blades made of silver metal that protect its ambiguously shaped core. The Blade Runner's unconventional design makes for a refreshing break from traditional hard drives. The device sports a simple and clean look despite its ribbed body, which adds an industrial flair to the device.
The drive's form is more than a signature design, though; it also serves to keep the device cool by dissipating heat. Viewing the Blade Runner from various angles also exposes different parts of its center, creating a new visual effect from each direction.
This isn't the first time LaCie has teamed up with a designer to add some flavor to a product. The company collaborated with Scottish designer Neil Poulton to create the Wireless Space hard drive back in 2010.
Along one side of the Blade Runner, you'll find a "+" button, a trademark of Starck's work, that glows orange when the drive is turned on. The Blade Runner's underside features four rubber pegs, with LaCie and Starck's names branded in a square indent in the center. Here, you'll also find a USB 3.0 port and a power jack.
Owing to its metal-crafted body, this 2.75 x 5.5 x 7.6-inch external desktop hard drive weighs a cumbersome 4.6 pounds -- more than twice the weight of an Ultrabook like the Acer Aspire S7-191. Still, the Blade Runner isn't meant to be a portable storage device.
Setting up the Blade Runner is a breeze, although you must install LaCie's included software before you can begin transferring files. LaCie will automatically launch a setup assistant to guide you through this process.
First, LaCie prompts you to format the hard drive. You can choose to configure the drive for Windows computers only, set up a network among Windows computers and other operating systems such as OS X, or create one large network to exchange data among different operating systems. You can always reformat the drive later using LaCie's Desktop Manager.
After you format the drive, you'll be asked to register the storage device. This will activate LaCie's two-year warranty and free support-service, but you can still choose to proceed without registering.
LaCie's Blade Runner comes with utilities that allow you to easily back up files, store data in the cloud and enable security features.
With the Desktop Manager, you can configure multiple LaCie devices on the same network. However, you can only configure a few settings using this Desktop Manager, which allows you to edit launch preferences, enable power-save mode or reformat your drive.
The Genie Timeline Free program guides you through a two-step process to back up your files. After choosing a drive with free space, the desktop app's Smart Selection feature divides your files into easily navigable categories. Clicking any of these tiles, such as My Documents or Desktop, will tell Genie Timeline to back up all files in those sections.
LaCie also offers up to 10GB of free cloud storage for one year through its Wuala service. With this iOS and Android app, you can store, access and share files in the cloud, and sync information across multiple computers. After the free, one-year period is over, Wuala offers 5GB of cloud storage for free. If you need more storage, you can choose from plans that range from 20GB ($3.99 per month) to 100GB ($11.99 per month).
The Blade Runner's built-in Private Public utility implements military-grade AES 256-bit encryption to protect your files. You can choose to enable this encryption through the Private Public desktop app.
The Blade Runner offers more than just looks. The device performed extremely well as a USB 3.0 drive, recording speedy write speeds and respectable read speeds during the LAPTOP File Transfer test. The device took 52 seconds to write 5GB of mixed media files, equaling a rate of 97.9 MBps. That's significantly quicker than such portable hard drives such as Seagate's Wireless Plus (32.8 MBps) and Patriot's Gauntlet 320 (51.9 MBps).
LaCie and Stark's limited edition drive took longer to read the same file (2:03, 41.4 MBps) but still outshined Seagate's Wireless Plus (36.4 MBps). Patriot's Gauntlet performed this task much faster (59.2 MBps).
Duplicating files on the Blade Runner also proved to be a speedy task. The device took 1 minute and 29 seconds to make a clone of the 5GB file that was already on the hard drive.
The LaCie Starck Blade Runner only comes in one configuration: 4TB for $289.
With a head-turning design, impressive performance, helpful utilities and 4TB of storage space, the Blade Runner is perfect if you want to add some art to your desktop. This drive costs about $100 more than other 4TB hard drives such as the Seagate Backup Plus, but LaCie justifies the splurge with its over-the-top aesthetics and speed. Consumers looking for a hard drive and conversation piece in a single device will like the LaCie Starck Blade Runner.