External hard drives used to be really boring. Most manufacturers did little more than stuff and off-the-shelf consumer hard drive into an enclosure and mark the whole thing up by 200 per cent to make a tidy profit.
But a couple of things have changed. People expect high levels of reliability SSDs and new connection busses like USB3 and Thunderbolt have upped the performance ante, and the market expects stuff that is stylish and doesn’t look like it was made in a Russian tractor factory. LaCie had a reputation for style and their Bolt3 offers performance that’s comparable to an internal drive.
The Bolt3 comes in two parts; the main body that houses a pair of 1TB M.2 SSDs that offer excellent performance and a base. The Neil Poulton designed case, that’s made of aluminium, has a slot so it can slip on the base, allowing it to sit on its corner at a jaunty angle with some magnets to ensure the 785g body doesn’t meet with sudden gravitational incident. The only thing that spoils its aesthetic is the need to plug an ugly power supply in order to give the device the juice it needs.
Configured as a RAID0 array, the Bolt2 boasts 2TB of capacity.
LaCie says the Bolt3 can ingest data at an impressive rate. It can write in excess of 1GB of data every second. Although that kind of performance is jaw-dropping, it’s the sort of write performance required if you’re into editing 4K or 6K video. And that’s the audience LaCie is pitching the Bolt3 at. This is a drive for professionals looking for premium performance.
Connectivity is via Thunderbolt 3. There’s a cable in the box and the drive sports a pair of connectors so you can daisy chain other Thunderbolt devices from it so you don’t lose a port when you connect it. For example, you can hook the Bolt3 to your Windows or macOS system and then hang a display or another drive from it.
One thing to note – if your computer runs Thunderbolt 2 you should ensure you’re running up to date firmware to ensure everything works correctly.
LaCie says it can support a pair of 4K displays or one 5K display, or daisy chain up to five drives.
Try as I did, I simply couldn’t fault the Bolt3’s performance. I copied 2GB of data to it in under 2 seconds – I suspect the biggest issue I faced was the performance of the Mac and Windows systems I used to test with. Although both were equipped with decent SSDs, the LaCie was never troubled. Asked a colleague who’s into video production to play with the Bolt3 and I thought I was going to need a crow bar and a jar of Vaseline to get it off him.
Given you can pick up 4TB of regular spinning storage for under $200 these days, the Bolt3 needs to deliver a lot to justify its hefty $2700 (no, I didn’t accidentally add an extra zero) price tag.