Most people don’t need, and won’t want to pay for, the extreme speed and durability of LaCie’s Rugged SSD Pro external solid-state drive. But if you’re a videographer, filmmaker, or other professional who works in the field—and if you have a Thunderbolt-3 equipped laptop, so you can take full advantage of the device’s performance—you may consider it a bargain even at the $419.99 list price for the 1TB version tested here, or $739.99 for the 2TB version. Our new Editors’ Choice among high-end, rugged external SSDs, the LaCie is housed in a silicone-wrapped, crush-resistant aluminum case that’s small and light enough to fit in a shirt pocket, rugged enough to meet the IP67 spec for dust and water resistance, and rated to survive a 3-meter (10-foot-plus) fall. It’s also designed to fit in an overnight express envelope and survive the trip, so you can ship it to the office or studio when data connections are slow or nonexistent.
Extremely Fast, Extremely Rugged
The Rugged SSD Pro’s speed and toughness are pretty much tied for being its most impressive feature. For the first, it marries a Seagate FireCuda NVMe SSD with a Thunderbolt 3 interface. LaCie rates the combination at 2,800MBps for both disk reads and writes, compared with the 2,800MBps for reads and 2,300MBps for writes claimed for the Samsung Portable SSD X5—another SSD that combines NVMe with Thunderbolt 3, and the only other drive we’ve tested to date with similar performance. The two were virtually tied in our tests, leaving everything else in the dust. Together, they effectively redefine what fast means for an external drive.
The FireCuda SSD also serves as a good start for ruggedness, since SSDs are inherently more rugged than platter-based hard drives. LaCie adds to that by mounting it inside an aluminum case that’s water-, dust-, shock-, and crush-resistant. It’s further protected by being wrapped in a silicone skin that has a pleasant tactile feel and just enough friction to resist slipping out of your hand. The sleek black case, with rounded edges all around, measures 0.7 by 3.9 by 2.6 inches and weighs just 3.5 ounces, making it light enough to be comfortable in a shirt or pants pocket.
For water and dust resistance, the Rugged SSD Pro’s IP67 ingress protection rating translates to the highest level for dust resistance—defined as dust-tight—and one of the higher levels for water resistance, able to survive a 30-minute immersion in shallow water. Even better, the waterproofing doesn’t rely on whether you remembered to close a flap over the Thunderbolt 3 port. The connector itself is water-resistant, so there’s no need to cover it. You can spill some water on the drive, get it rained on, or even drop it into a puddle without worrying about it. (For more on what the numbers mean, see our explainer on ruggedization ratings.) LaCie rates the drive’s drop tolerance at three meters and its crush resistance as able to survive being run over by a car weighing as much as 2,000 kilograms or 4,410 pounds.
All this puts the Rugged SSD Pro miles beyond most external SSDs—not to mention platter-based drives—for ruggedness. The SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD offers only an IP55 rating, for example. The ADATA SE800 offers an IP68 rating for one-step-better water resistance—think dropping it in a pond instead of a puddle. But it also has a lower drop tolerance, rated at only four feet.
Small Conveniences: Connections, Cables, and More
The Rugged SSD Pro offers one USB Type-C port and comes with a single USB-C-to-USB-C cable. However, the port and cable support both Thunderbolt 3 and—to some extent at least—USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 ports, which isn’t always true for Thunderbolt 3 drives, including the Samsung Portable SSD X5 in particular. This can be critical if you want to take advantage of Thunderbolt 3 speeds in the field and then send the drive to someone who may have a PC with USB 3.1 ports.
Note that the cable is only 8 inches long, which can make it hard to connect to a tower PC without leaving the drive hanging in midair, but that’s a minor issue. Very much on the plus side, there’s a status light next to the port, which makes it easy to know when the drive is operating.
Neither the LaCie website nor the drive manual explicitly says whether the drive is compatible with USB 3.1 ports with USB Type-A connectors. I asked LaCie for a clarification, and was told it isn’t. But while I was waiting for the answer, I tried it with my Dell G3 laptop’s USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port—using the supplied cable and a USB-C to USB-A adapter that supports USB 3.1—and the PC recognized the drive without any problems. So even though the connection isn’t officially supported, you may find it works with your computer anyway.
The drive comes preformatted using exFAT, so it will work with both PCs and Macs. If you won’t be moving it between different kinds of computers, you can format it in your OS’s native format—NTFS for Windows or preferably HFS+ for Macs. You can also format it using APFS, the Apple file system for SSDs, but if you do, you won’t be able to use it with Time Machine for backups.
Also included with the drive is the downloadable LaCie Toolkit, a five-year warranty, and five years of Rescue Data Recovery Services. The first time you load the Toolkit, it will give you the option to reformat the drive. If you want to reformat later, you’ll have to use the built-in tools in your OS instead. The only other features the Toolkit offers are mirroring plus backup and restore, which are both part of Seagate’s Sync Plus app. Mirroring lets let you specify folders on the LaCie drive and your computer’s drive, after which it automatically syncs each folder to the other when you move files to or delete them from either one. The Backup and Restore tools let you define full or partial backups to run continuously, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or one time only, but are for Windows only. If you have a Mac, LaCie assumes you’ll use Time Machine for backing up.
How Fast? Eat-My-Dust Fast
For our formal benchmark tests, we compared the Rugged SSD Pro to the Samsung Portable SSD X5—which also combines Thunderbolt 3 and NVMe interfaces—along with four much less expensive SSDs that use a USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface: the ADATA SE800, the Crucial X8, the SanDisk Extreme Pro, and the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch.
All four of the USB 3.1 drives earned praise for speed when we reviewed them. And make no mistake: the descriptions—ranging from fast to blazingly fast—were spot-on when we wrote them. But today we’d have to add a qualifier and call them fast for the price, or fast for USB 3.1: Compared with the LaCie Rugged SSD Pro and the Samsung Portable SSD X5 connected to a Mac’s Thunderbolt 3 port, they are all downright pokey. (Of course, it’s all relative; they’re still SSDs.) And—spoiler alert—between the two Thunderbolt 3 drives, the Samsung gets bragging rights for posting the absolute best results, though the difference is too little to matter.
Note that we are showing only two tests from our usual benchmarks. When we tried running the others on our standard Intel X299-based testbed with the Rugged SSD Pro connected to the USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, we ran into problems—an issue we also saw with the Portable SSD X5. Fortunately, this isn’t much of a loss. Not only are Thunderbolt 3 ports still relatively rare on PCs, but if you’re a videographer or filmmaker, odds are you’re using a Mac, so the two tests we have results for are the only ones you probably care about.
BlackMagic 3.1 Disk Speed Test
The BlackMagic bench utility, also run on our MacBook Pro laptop, measures a drive’s throughput for playback of various video formats. For obvious reasons, this is precisely the benchmark test of most interest to videographers.
Even a quick glance at the chart shows that both of the Thunderbolt 3/NVMe drives are in a wholly different performance class than the USB 3.1 SSDs. Three conclusions stand out. First, the drives in each class all turned in similar performance to each other. Second, the Rugged SSD Pro and the Portable SSD X5 both scored nearly twice as high as the fastest USB 3.1 drive on the Disk Read test, and well over twice as high on the Disk Write test. And third, although the Samsung Portable SSD X5 delivered slightly higher scores than the LaCie Rugged SSD Pro, the difference was only about 2 percent on the Disk Read test and less than 5 percent on the Disk Write test. That’s simply too little to notice in any real-world use.
PCMag Folder Transfer Test
The drag-and-drop Folder Transfer Test on our MacBook Pro laptop consists of copying our standard 1.2GB folder from testbed to drive.
The chart shows the Samsung Portable SSD X5 LaCie taking 1 second compared with 2 seconds for all the other drives, but this is best understood as a statistical tie for all six drives. We time to a tenth of a second by hand using a stopwatch, and then round to the closest second, so a few hundredths of a second difference in reaction time can account for a 1-second difference in reported results.
Ruggedest Drive in the West (East, North, or South)
Anyone who uses an external drive with their laptop can potentially benefit from having one as rugged and as fast as the LaCie Rugged SSD Pro. But unless the speed or ruggedness is something you absolutely must have, it’s hard to justify the premium price per gigabyte. In most cases, it will make more sense to get a more affordable USB 3.1 SSD, like the ADATA SE800, Crucial X8, SanDisk Extreme Pro, or Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch.
If ruggedness is your main concern and you spend a lot of time working near bodies of water, you might want to consider the SE800 for its higher water resistance rating. But keep in mind that you have to put the SE800’s port cover on to get that higher level. Meanwhile, the LaCie matches or beats it on all other scores for ruggedness, and it’s virtually tied with the Samsung for the best performance we’ve ever measured. If you need ruggedness paired with extreme performance, the LaCie Rugged SSD Pro is the drive to get.
LaCie Rugged SSD Pro Specs
|Internal or External||external|
|Interface (Computer Side)||Thunderbolt 3|
|Internal Form Factor||NVMe|
|Capacity (Tested)||1 TB|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Read||2880 MBps|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Write||2880 MBps|
|Warranty Length||5 years|