For a more real-world test, I used Photoshop 8.0 CS to open nine identical 3840 x 2160, 2000dpi 16-bit per channel CMYK TIFFs - 569.7MB of image data in total. Opening the folder off the G4's 4,200rpm Ultra ATA-100 internal hard drive took 2m 5.25s; it took 1m 42.16s to open them from the Rugged. Of course, owners of notebooks or desktops with higher spin-speed drives and/or Serial ATA connections won't see the same benefit.
If the Rugged's performance seems reasonable, its price is another matter. LaCie is offering the drive for £179/$200, for which you get 80GB of raw storage, some shock-resistance and a trio of connection options. Freecom is offering its ToughDrive 80GB silicone-wrapped USB 2.0-only HDD for around £116 - less than two-thirds of the price of the Rugged, though it's based on a slower, 4,200rpm drive.
That leaves the Rugged buyer spending an extra £63 for the two Firewire ports and the orange colour-scheme. If you own a PC or a Mac with USB 1.1 ports, that's something you're going to have swallow, but it's hard to tell someone with a USB 2.0-era computer that it's worth paying the extra for Firewire 400 connectivity. The extra speed of Firewire 800 probably justifies the premium, but with Apple's new MacBook Pro lacking the Firewire 800 port that graced the machine's predecessor, it's questionable how much of a benefit that will be to high-end Mac notebook owners in the longer term.
LaCie does offer a USB 2.0-only version of the Rugged, for £139/$170, only £23 more than the slower, smaller-cache ToughDrive. I'd pay that for the extra speed, which on my system would amount, I'd say, to data transfers that are around 24 per cent faster.
You either like LaCie's Rugged colour scheme or you don't. Yes, it's cool, but even Mac users may prefer something a little more soberly styled and cheaper. The Rugged costs more than rival products, but the difference isn't so great to make it a deal-breaker. The higher price brings you better performance, for Mac users a Mac OS-friendly back-up application - not a feature usually found on competitors' products - and, in the case of the triple-interface version, Firewire 400 and 800 connectivity. Unlike some cheaper mobile drives, LaCie also provides a way to power the drive if your USB port's not up to scratch. ®