First, a story. I loathe mechanical hard drives. They’re painfully slow, annoyingly finicky, and prone to failure — the consumer ones, anyway. Toss one in a cheap USB 3.0 enclosure, however, and you’ve got a bona fide recipe for disaster. I’m sure I could find millions who’d comment that their [insert external HDD here] is still humming fine after a few years, but my wife and I have blown through six failures in the past four years. Brand, capacity, bus — it matters not. These things just aren’t designed for being used in a coach airline seat, thrown around at will, and generally having their key attribute (read: mobility) being taken advantage of.
The answer? Spend way, way more for an external drive with no moving parts. But really, after you’ve seen hours upon hours of work vanish, with only a dastardly array of chirps to show for it, the price premium feels justified.
Solid state drives still aren’t as cheap as I’d like, and I’m not going to be able to have a completely restful evening until every laptop in the world is shipping with an SSD within, but at least they’ve fallen from the ranks of “outrageous” in terms of pricing.
Here’s an honest look at how the Rugged SSD stacks up in real-world use, and keep in mind that my use case is one that involves a) daily travel and b) important, valuable client work, where griping about “a dead drive” isn’t going to be a valid excuse.
- It’s actually rugged. The orange bumper covers any falls shorter than four feet, and it’s really (really) thick and bouncy.
- Thunderbolt. There’s no denying that the blocky Thunderbolt connector is infinitely less frail than USB 3.0.
- USB 3.0: I’m glad that a secondary access port is here, in the event that you forget to bring the (included) Thunderbolt cable.
- Excellent setup software: you can easily segment the drive so that a portion of it is accessible to Windows machines, while the other is Mac-only (HFS+)
- SSD reliability: With no moving parts, SSDs are genuinely engineered to be used in inhospitable places, on the road, in the air, and places that generally aren’t home.
- 2 year warranty: Trumps the general 1 year warranty that most drives arrive with.
- It’s expensive. At $500, the largest of the SSD Rugged drives comes in at $1 per gigabyte. If you’re housing precious vacation photos or client projects, however, the cost is negligible. Basically, if you’re writing this drive off as a business expense, don’t ever consider an HDD again.
- It’s big and heavy: it’s an external drive, but it’s hardly skimpy. It’s amongst the biggest and heaviest on the market, but again, it’s all relative. The smaller and lighter you get, the more likely you are to be met with a dead drive after a tumble.
- SSDs aren’t capacious enough: It feels like I’ve been waiting the bulk of my adult life for SSDs to grow up in terms of capacity.
I’ve been using / testing a 120GB LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt drive for nearly two years now. It’s been to a dozen or so countries, thrown into countless overhead bins, crammed into suitcases in a manner that most would view as outright abusive, and it’s still ticking. Recently, I picked up a 500GB version of the same drive for $500. It’s a pretty penny, particularly when you consider that the same drive can be had with a 2TB internal HDD for just $300.
But the truth is that I don’t trust mechanical hard drives, and you shouldn’t either.
Plus, there’s really no price that can be placed on peace of mind — when you’re working with unrecoverable memories and client portfolios, SSD is the only medium I’m going to rely on going forward.
Here’s to a future where petabyte-sized SSDs cost a few dollars, driverless automobiles are all the rage, and unicorns finally get the credit they deserve.