Confusingly, LaCie has many similar-looking external drives that are hard to differentiate based on similar names and any scale shown in the promotional images.
All the products in the Rugged Mini series have codes that start with STMF, and the 2TB model reviewed here is the STMF2000400.
What divides this from other LaCie external drives is that it's in a new and easily pocketable form factor. This drive supports USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 mode for enhanced file transfer speeds, and it is IP54-rated for water and dust protection.
The outward appearance of this unit looks like something that might be dropped to support a pilot that has ejected over water, with a silver metallic monolith surrounded by a bold orange rubberised bumper.
It is possible to remove the bumper, but it is probably better to leave it in place. Compared with the equivalent offerings from Crucial and Kingston, this drive is larger at over 10cm long and 6cm wide. It’s also heavier at 114g, but not enough that anyone would worry about carrying it.
In the box is the drive, a 20cm USB-C cable, and that’s it. There is no USB-A cable or adapter and no pouch. Considering the cost of these products, that seems poor.
Where we’ve no such complaints with the connection performance, with support for all transfer speeds of USB, it also works with Thunderbolt versions 3 and 4.
In optimal conditions and connected to the high-specification PC, transfer speeds of 2,000MB/s are possible if you have a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port.
An effective drive with excellent performance and a slightly odd aesthetic, but it is wildly overpriced.
LaCie Rugged Mini SSD: Pricing and availability
How much does it cost? From $119.99/147.99 for 1TB model
When is it out? It is starting to be available now
Where can you get it? Direct from Crucial or through online retailers like Amazon.
It is worth stating that the disparity between the quoted prices for this product on the LaCie website and those asked by online retailers is striking.
As an example, the quoted UK cost for the 4TB capacity drive is a whopping £719.99, but it is sold by the online retailer Insight for only £505.19. That’s almost 30% less.
At Amazon.co.uk, the 500GB, 1TB and 2TB models sell for £109.90, £147.99, and £271.99, respectively, with no price or stock currently for the 4TB option.
American suppliers are awaiting stock, but B&H has $119.99, $189.99 and $349.99 as the prices of the 1TB, 2TB and 4TB, with no mention of the 500GB option.
If we look at the current prices of the main competitor for this line, the Crucial X10 Pro, that currently costs $107.99, $167.99 and $289.99 for the 1TB, 2TB and 4TB options on Amazon.com.
The question you might reasonably ask yourself if why wouldn’t you pay an extra $18 for a 4TB Crucial X10 Pro over a 2TB Lacie Rugged Mini SSD? Unless you are mesmerised by orange, that seems an unlikely decision.
As nice a brand as LaCie is, this SSD isn’t worth anything close to what they’re asking.
Value: 2 / 5
LaCie Rugged Mini SSD: Specs
LaCie Rugged Mini SSD: Design
Inflatable raft aesthetic
All Lacie’s rugged drive has this mini-inflatable-raft aesthetic, meaning these devices are metaphorically lifeboats.
The problem with this and the lack of chromatic diversity is that it is easy to end up confusing the hard drive designs with the SSDs and the mini models from the larger devices.
One aspect that shocked your reviewer was that the IP rating of this drive is highly dependent on a rubber plug that covers the USB-C port and a tiny activity LED.
Typically, on phones, tablets or rugged PCs, a plug like this is attached by some means to the device, but here, once removed, it can be easily misplaced as it is purely a friction fit.
Also, due to the orientation and length of the USB-C cable, seeing the activity LED is a challenge as it is recessed into the end where the cable connects.
The purpose of the orange bumper is to keep the SSD inside safe, and LaCie quotes an IP54 rating, the ability to withstand a one-metre drop and one metric ton of car-crushing resistance. Curiously, in some places, like the box, it says a three-metre drop, but the one metre on the product brochure.
Neither of these damage resistance capabilities appears remotely impressive since almost every external SSD we’ve seen could handle a drop of 1m or 3m, and the crushing value doesn’t make any sense. Examining the notes on the LaCie brochure, the crush test was a one-ton car, but presumably, it had four wheels that shared the mass equally. That works out at 250kg displayed over the 60 square centimetres of the drive, equally just 4.2kg per cm sq.
We’d contest that this drive is mildly ruggedised, and to achieve its modest IP54 rating requires you not to lose the plug and to have it in place when the drive is exposed to water or dust and not ever fully immersed.
On the brighter side, this design does get limited 3-year coverage. LaCie offers a data recovery service in some countries, but not all. However, most competitor devices get five years of warranty.
Design: 4 / 5
LaCie Rugged Mini SSD: Software
No firmware tool
This product is one of many external drives from various brands pushing a one-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan.
But if you already pay for this, it probably doesn’t get you a free month, and if you don’t, it is signing you up for an extra $54.99 bill each month for Adobe’s pricey software.
I'm not sure about the value of that proposition for the majority of owners, but the other software on offer doesn’t need a subscription to use.
That is the LaCie Toolkit, which enables folders to be synced to the drive with automation. It’s the same tool that Seagate (who own LaCie) provides with many of its external drives, and it can either back up the standard folders (documents, pictures, etc.) or you can create an entirely custom selection of folders to be continuously secured.
It’s not the best software we’ve seen that does this, but it works, and it's exactly what most purchasers of the drive would want.
There aren’t any copy cloud services options or any tools to check for firmware upgrades and install them. Given the cost, the software provided is pretty basic.
Software: 3 / 5
LaCie Rugged Mini SSD: Performance
Needs USB 3/2 Gen 2x2
No hardware encryption
When we initially tested this drive, our first port of call (pun intended) was an Acer laptop that has Thunderbolt 4, with the assumption that this would yield the best performance.
It didn’t. While the drive can work with Thunderbolt, it does so via a USB compatibility mode, capping the throughput at around 1,000MB/s.
To get the full performance that the drive offers requires either USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, and without one of these, the best you can expect is the same 1,000MB/s. If you only have USB 3.2 Gen 1, you will see only 500MB/s, the same as the cheapest USB SSDs offer.
Its inability to exploit Thunderbolt properly is a disappointment, but it is also common amongst drives primarily designed for USB, as it works with the least amount of effort on the part of the drive maker. What’s more concerning is that it can’t exploit USB 4.0 either.
Using the optimal USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port reading speeds of 2049MB/s and writing speeds of 1843MB/s on CrystalDiskMark 8. That’s fast, but we’ve seen faster from fully Thunderbolt-compatible drives like the SanDisk Professional Pro-G40.
However, using the RealWorld profile reduced that performance to reading at 1871MB/s and writing at 1695MB/s.The other benchmarks supported these numbers across the board, strongly hinting that the underlying speed isn’t enough to hit those magically 2,000MB/s throughput in most circumstances.
Using the AJA System test, 64GB file mode was run to see if performance was impacted over the long haul. The test ran without any detectable loss of speed, suggesting the drive's cache is large enough to handle writing large files without choking on them.
When these results are compared to those of the most popular competitor, the Crucial X10 Pro, they show that the LaCie Rugged Mini SSD is on par with that drive in many tests. However, the X10 Pro is a significantly cheaper option, much more widely available, has a five, not three-year warranty and supports hardware encryption.
Performance: 4.5 / 5
LaCie Rugged Mini SSD: Verdict
The more this reviewer dug into the LaCie Rugged Mini SSD, the less impressive it became.
While support for USB 3.2 2x2 is admirable, it’s a niche capability because relatively few machines have that port.
Without that precise interface, the drive has 1000MB/s peak performance, which the Crucial X9 Pro can offer for $250 for the 4TB or $100 less. In addition, the X9 Pro has an IP55 rating, is smaller, is easier to carry, and comes with a more extended warranty period.
For those that want USB 3.2 2x2, the Crucial X10 Pro 4TB is still $70 cheaper.
The only hardware that’s more costly than this is the SanDisk Professional Pro-G40, and in Europe, even that is cheaper than this product.
Including some software utilities and trials doesn’t balance this equation since most of the other brands offer similar things, if not more.
Overall, a premium product must come with a USB-A cable or adapter, a better plan for what happens to the port plug, and a price that acknowledges what competitor products are selling. But alas, LaCie gave the Rugged Mini SSD none of these things.
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