To try out the Firewire 800 connectivity, I used a dual-2.3GHz Power Mac G5 with 512MB of 333MHz DDR 2 memory. The machine was very kindly provided for the purpose by computer reseller and Mac specialist Micro Anvika, which let me pop into its busy Chenies Street, London branch to conduct the testing.
Connected to one of G5's two Firewire 800 ports, the LBD copied over the data at a rate of 28.52MBps - 124 per cent faster than I got off the Firewire 400 bus on the G4. I also ran Xbench 1.2, and while the Firewire 800 configuration led by only single-digit percentages in the random read and write tests, on the sequential reads and writes, it yielded improvements of between 31.77 per cent (read, 4KB blocks) and 100.85 per cent (read, 256KB blocks). On the sequential write tests, using 4KB and 256KB blocks, respectively, the gains were 87.76 per cent and 50.28 per cent, respectively.
I also ran the test on the G5's own 3.5in, 250GB, 7,200rpm Serial ATA HDD for a rough comparison. The LDB was half the speed in random 256KB-block reads - Serial ATA is much faster than Firewire 800 - but was 17.24 per cent faster on sequential reads, suggesting the RAID 0 striping delivered a real speed benefit during the test.
All this comes at a price, mind. LaCie will want £509 (including VAT) for the 200GB LBD when it ships in the UK next month. It's also going to offer 160GB, 240GB and 320GB versions, priced at £289, £509 and £579, but these will contain 5,400rpm drives with a combined 8MB of cache - the 200GB model has a 16MB cache - so they're going to be slower.
For £289 you could also buy LaCie's own 500GB Big Disk Extreme, which also supports Firewire 800 and 400, and USB 2.0. If it's portability you want, the best-value LaCie mobile drive is its 100GB Porsche-designed Mobile Hard Drive, for which it wants £179, though you don't get Firewire 800.
But, again, it will be slower, a factor that may not matter so much to most buyers in the market for a mobile hard drive, but will be a cause for concern to users for whom high speed drives are essential, such as video professionals. For them, the LBD's mix of portability and performance will make it worthy of consideration.
With a high storage capacity for a portable drive and integrated RAID 0 to boost Firewire 800 performance, but with a steep asking price and a chunky, weighty metal carapace, LaCie's Little Big Disk is aptly named. For consumers and notebook users in business, it may prove insufficiently little in size and priced too big. But for performance-hungry professionals, it has plenty to offer in its compact, industrial-looking casing. ®