LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drives

by John Nemerovski & David Weeks

F. A. Porsche Design External FireWire and USB Hard Drives
Company: LaCie Limited

Prices: From $129 (see reviews for details)

LaCie continues to support our favorite computers with a strong presence in Apple Stores, at Macworld Expos, and in the Macintosh print media. Recent advertising campaigns feature attractive young people in “lifestyle poses” (LaCie’s wording, not ours) promoting their stylish Porsche Design family of external drives.

Competitors were not impressed during informal conversations at January’s Macworld Conference and Expo. One well-known retailer’s CEO said: “I’ll gladly go head to head against LaCie’s Porsche products any day of the week.” He wasn’t convinced that these affordable, lightweight drives are worthy of the highly-regarded LaCie name. Neither was David Weeks, our lead reviewer.

David’s comments come first, with insights and tech specs on both Porsche / LaCie drives.


Before running the hardware benchmarks on the two La Cie drives, I took a few minutes to examine the drives themselves. La Cie styles each model in this line quite similarly. Let’s look at each drive in turn.

LaCie USB Mobile 80 GB Hard Drive
Company: LaCie Limited
Price: $319 US

First comes an 80 gigabyte Pocket Drive. The 2.5″ mechanism is encased in an attractive gun-metal grey housing, with connectors at the back end of the case. This pocket drive has USB 2 or 1.1 only, so it’s of limited appeal to the great majority of Macintosh users whose high speed connectors are exclusively FireWire. OS X now supports USB 2, but you’ll still need a PCI card to provide the hardware capability if your Macintosh doesn’t work with the faster version. An installer disk loads LaCie’s OS 9 software, which is not necessary for OS X computers.

A quick glance at Froogle (a splendid Google offshoot for pricing information) shows that PowerBook users can find USB 2 PC cards for $55 and up. Desktop Mac owners can obtain internal USB 2 cards for $20. I found mine at CompUSA, and it played perfectly out of the box.

While not as fast as FireWire, USB 2 performs adequately, as the benchmarks show.

Results 28.34

System Info
Xbench Version 1.1.3
System Version 10.3.2 (7D24)
Physical RAM 1024 MB
Model PowerMac3,6
Processor PowerPC G4x2 @ 1.42 GHz
Version 7455 (Apollo) v3.3

  • L1 Cache 32K (instruction), 32K (data)
    L2 Cache 256K @ 1.42 GHz
    L3 Cache 2048K @ 237 MHz
    Bus Frequency 167 MHz
    Video Card ATY,RV250
    Drive Type TOSHIBA MK8025GAS

Disk Test 28.34
Sequential 19.61
Uncached Write 34.37 14.33 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 33.57 13.75 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 8.22 1.30 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 42.67 17.24 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 51.08
Uncached Write 46.77 0.70 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 58.01 13.08 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 48.75 0.32 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 52.16 10.73 MB/sec [256K blocks]

While XBench was testing the drive, I took a few minutes to examine the unit more closely. La Cie provides a small power/activity light on the front of the case, but it’s recessed so far in that you can’t see it unless you are looking directly at it; the light’s invisible if you look at it from off to the side.

The high-impact plastic case is rather insubstantial and lacking in solidity. I could easily flex the case with light finger pressure. I didn’t get any confidence that this case could stand up to rigors of daily transportation in a laptop bag.

All told, I see no reason why at Mac user would buy a flimsy USB 2 drive, especially a PowerBook user looking for portable storage.

David’s rating 2 out of 5

John Nemo says:

While I agree with David’s observations, I praise LaCie for making this USB porta-drive exclusively bus-powered. All previous USB disks we’ve seen have required an electrical current to function. Given its ease of use, high-capacity, low price, and portability, I’m comfortable with:

John’s rating 3 out of 5

Whoa! During our second round testing the portable Porsche, we learned that David’s heavy duty G4 + USB 2 card powers the drive, but his brand new USB 2-native 15″ PowerBook doesn’t. How strange. We’ll contact LaCie to learn if the problem is with their drive or his laptop, and provide an addendum as soon as possible. ANSWER: It’s an Apple bug, which David confirmed after extensive research: specific to PowerBooks and bus-powered USB devices. Be aware!

LaCie FireWire 80 GB Hard Drive
Company: LaCie
Price: $129 US

David says:

Next comes LaCie’s 80 gigabyte FireWire desktop drive. While this unit uses two Mac-friendly FireWire 400 connections, it also suffers from lightweight construction, and the poorly-placed activity light. This drive performs better than the its little sibling, but don’t waste a stamp writing home about great performance, because the drive has merely average specs.

Results 78.24

System Info
Xbench Version 1.1.3
System Version 10.3.2 (7D24)
Physical RAM 1024 MB
Model PowerMac3,6
Processor PowerPC G4x2 @ 1.42 GHz
Version 7455 (Apollo) v3.3
L1 Cache 32K (instruction), 32K (data)
L2 Cache 256K @ 1.42 GHz
L3 Cache 2048K @ 237 MHz
Bus Frequency 167 MHz
Video Card ATY,RV250
Drive Type WDC WD80 0BB-00CAA1

Disk Test 78.24

Sequential 72.25
Uncached Write 83.07 34.63 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 80.93 33.14 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 57.54 9.11 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 73.59 29.73 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 85.31
Uncached Write 80.83 1.21 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 90.30 20.37 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 81.69 0.54 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 89.28 18.37 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Most users would be advised to spend a few more dollars for a drive with sturdier construction, and the newer, faster FireWire 800 ports.

La Cie stamps “Designed by F.A. Porsche” on this line of drives. F.A.Porsche is the creative house that designs the bodies on Porsche sports cars. If I were F.A. Porsche, I’d be reluctant to have my name on a series of drives with middle of the road performance.

David’s rating 2.5 out of 5

John adds:

We may be splitting hairs here, David, but millions of current Mac owners will be glad to be able to purchase an inexpensive external FireWire 400 drive such as this one. Its limitations and assets balance one another, leading to:

John’s rating of 3 out of 5


John Nemerovski

David Weeks

Leave a Reply