Considering this is a model called ‘2 Big’ the shipping container used to house it is not as big as we were expecting. Do not get the wrong idea it is a big box. It is bigger than the 1Big variants we recently looked at. It is just not that much bigger. Of course, if you have not recently handled multiple 1Big boxes you probably will feel otherwise. We however think of it as being ‘Right Sized’ instead of being “2 big”.
Also on the positive side, the moderately increased dimensions have been put to good use. In addition to a lot of information listed on the outside, the internal protection configuration has also been scaled up compared to the 1Big Dock series. To be specific, it does use the same low-density foam packaging that allows the 2Big to ‘float’ in the center, and it even uses the same carboard accessory box to act as a secondary shield in case of sudden drops, it just is everything is a bit bigger. Basically, the 2Big RAID may be a bigger, and sometimes less expensive, model but that does not mean LaCie takes its protection any less seriously. To be blunt, this shipping container will probably shrug off anything this side of being run over by a car. In most cases we doubt the 2Big RAID inside would even notice the bumps and bruises that typically happens while a parcel is in transit. Color us impressed.
Where the LaCie 2Big RAID can be considered older and less expensive it should come as no surprise that the accessory list is a bit of a… down grade compared to the 1Big Dock series. To be precise, expect to find a single USB Type-C cable, a single USB Type-C to Type-A cable, a nice instruction manual, one free month pass for Adobe’s all access/ all software plan, and a relatively small direct plug-in power supply. The power supply is much smaller and less impressive than the ones the 1Dock series makes use of. Instead of using removable cables for various plug adapters this PSU uses slip in prong adapters – much like those that come with certain Seagate external 3.5-inch hard disk drive based models. This is to be expected as this external storage solution (more aptly described as a Direct Attach Storage solution) does not offer device charging or card reader abilities. Instead, it is simply does one thing and does it well: provide copious amounts of fairly fast storage. So, while the accessories are not quite as impressive… they are still pretty darn good.
Also included is two key pieces of software. The first is of course LaCie’s “all in one” Toolbox which in this instance allows for basic configuration of the drives in addition to the usual laundry list of features anyone who has used it before has come accustomed to. Basically, in addition to being able to setup automatic backup, sync’ing plans, and even firmware updating, you can also change the device from a dual bay RAID 0 model (aka twice the speed, twice the capacity… none of the redundancy of RAID) to a dual bay RAID 1 model (aka speed and capacity of a single drive with the second drive being used for redundancy).
In order to change this model into a two separate drives in one-unit model (aka JBOD or Just a Bunch Of Disks) you need to install the second software solution: LaCie RAID Manager. As the name suggests this software solution gives you ‘full access’ to the list of RAID capabilities that the 2Big RAID offers… in reality (with the 2Big RAID model) you only gain JBOD on top of RAID 0 and 1. This is a bit unfortunate as technically the internals should also allow for SPAN configuration. SPAN is not an acronym for anything, rather it simply means what its name implies… and that the drives are spanned. In theory, spanning technically allows for double the capacity like RAID 0 but without the whole ‘if one dies all your data is toast’ downside. In reality, while it is true that the controller will first fill the first drive to capacity before writing to the second drive few actually get it right. Mix in loss of increased performance over JBOD and few will care that the SPAN option is MIA. Instead 99.9999 percent of people will use one of the three options offered. Also on the positive side, once this software is run on a 2Big the device remembers the settings even when used on different systems and even after power loss… as it is changing the controller settings and these settings are stored internally in the equivalent of a BIOS chip – aka the changes are non-volatile in nature.
Of course, this piece of software does do more than just act as a software version of the more typical hardware configuration switch (usually found on the back of the typical entry level DAS). In addition to this main job it also allows for SMART monitoring (and testing) and generally speaking is worth the download. We are just unsure why LaCie did not feel the need to include both directly on the drive’s capacity so as to save new buyers a bit of time and bandwidth. After all, it is not like this drive comes with nothing installed on the drive. You are expected to click the appropriate .exe on first use and be walked through registering your new 2Big RAID, so why not take it a step further and also include two more files on it? In the grand scheme of things this is neither here nor there it just is an unusual choice by LaCie.
Before we move on, we do need to highlight one more thing. That is the LaCie 2Big RAID comes configured in RAID 0 ‘out of the box’ and the drives are formatted for exFAT. So, if you plan on using RAID 0 and need seamless MAC and Windows interoperability you may not even need to install anything. You can register the drive yourself and if later you decide to change things up… can download the software then. Just be aware that the device’s firmware may/will be out of date. Ours had to go through multiple updates before being good to go with the latest and greatest. As we are a suspicious lot, we did do testing before and after updating and noticed zero difference in performance so we suspect the update was more along the lines of updating drive compatibility than anything else… as 18TB’ers were recently released. On this front, people can also ignore the LaCie QVL list for hard drives with a lot less worry over compatibility (after updating the firmware). While LaCie will not certify any drive not on its list as ‘compatible’ we tried everything from BarraCuda Pro 14TB’ers to SkyHawk models to even SATA SSD (with 2.5 to 3.5inch adapters installed into the caddies) and they all ‘just work(ed)’. The last is actually very nice as when in JBOD mode you can easily have a big hard drive in on slot and a fairly fast, but smaller, SSD in the other to get the best of both worlds: capacity and performance.
Even on just a quick glance you can see the 2Big RAID design legacy in the newer single bay 1Big Docks. In the most basic terms, you can either consider the 2Big series to be a ‘double decker 1Big’ or the 1Big to a be ‘2Big with the second floor cut off’… as they both have the exact same X and Y footprint. Make use of the exact same ~1/6th of an inch-thick aluminum alloy material for the chassis, and obviously come in precisely the same color options. They even have the exact same single blue LED ‘not a button’ on the front.
This ‘recycling’ is not a bad thing. Far from it. These two models compliment each other perfectly. So perfectly that you have plenty of options if using both a 1Big Dock SSD Pro and a 2Big RAID (i.e. a darn near perfection combination). First and most obvious, is you can have them sitting side by side without either looking odd or out of place. In our opinion where they really shine though is when you stack the 2Big RAID on top of a 1Big Dock model. Those ‘overkill’ rubber feet really make a whole lot of sense when you start thinking about stacking models together. Even with a plane jane 1Big Dock on the bottom (e.g. you bought 1Big Dock first and realized you need even more space or speed) and the 2Big RAID on top vibrations are not a concern. These models simply do not vibrate enough to be audible… and since both series make use of the excellent Seagate IronWolf Pro HDD’s… the drives will laugh at any piddly vibrations the units allow to be transmitted to each other as IronWolf Pro series was designed with twenty four bay chassis in mind.
This added flexibility in your desk space configuration can not be overstated. It really makes for a clean, professional, and elegant looking setup… and if you put a bit effort into your laptop choice can really make for a great first impression. The only minor disappointment is while the older d2 models had vertical orientation (and only vertical orientation) abilities, and much like the 1Big, the 2Big RAID is really meant to lay flat in the horizontal and not tipped up on its side. That is a step backwards as sometimes X+Y footprint matters more than the Z footprint. On the positive side, it is tall enough that it is completely stable when tipped on its side so this is more of a nitpick rather than an actual problem.
Drilling down a bit in the details, the 2Big is fairly large with dimensions of 217x118x83.3mm (or 8.543×4.646×3.673 inches for our metric challenged friends) and tips the scales in at 2.8KG (6.176Lbs). Though to be fair the second number is not as insane as it first sounds when you start thinking about moving it from (work) place to (work) place. A good chunk of that weight comes via the two 3.5-inch hard drives housed inside. To be honest it is a bit heavier than we would want to carry in say a brief case, but in the typical ‘go bag’ or pelican case it is not that much more than a single bay DAS (like the 4.85lb d2 series by LaCie ), or a good ‘all in one’ dock (like the 5.886Lb FireCuda Gaming Dock), and weighs less than a good camera tripod + ball head. So it is chunky, but not so chunky as to never be considered portable. Close, but still within the realm of reasonable(ish). Most non-professionals however, will want to stick on their work desk and leave it there. So the weight issue really will boil down to what you do for a living and what requirements a 2 Bay DAS need to satisfy.
As this is a Direct Attach Storage model and not a ‘Dock’ it should come as no surprise that it does not come with any front ports. So no USB 3.0 Type-A port, no CF, no CFexpress, and no SD-UHS II reading abilities are baked in. In fact, this model has no built-in hub features at all. This is a step backwards compared to LaCie’s d2 line of single bay DAS models which came with multiple I/O ports for ease of daisy chaining.
Thankfully, the 1Big Dock series (for example) does come with an additional Type-C port so you can easily daisy chain the 2Big off it and have the laptop ‘see’ both devices’ storage with zero concerns. It however does somewhat limit the versatility of the 2Big RAID model and we really do wish it too came with a second USB port… as you have not seen a flexible external storage configuration until you have a NVMe drive for speed, and a HDD or two for long(er) term storage with both daisy chained to your dock of choice with its own ‘internal’ storage.
Around the back all you will find is the (ironic) Kensington lock attachment point, a small oblong’ish on/off power button, the power port for the external PSU, a single USB 3.1 gen Type-C port, and the intake port for the 60mm cooling fan.
Around the front we come to the other, albeit minor, issue with the 2Big RAID model. That is the hard disk drive trays. We are not fond lovers of non-lockable hot-swap drive caddies on professional grade devices. The loss of the drives (and their precious data) is just so much greater than if they could be locked. This however is only the first issue. As you can see the blue orb on the front is only on the top drive tray. The bottom tray does not get this nice activity led. Instead you have to look at the side for a teeny tiny glow to see activity.
Yes, this does reduce the light out put and makes it much more user-friendly for dark environments, but if LaCie is going to include LEDS for both bays, both bays should get the same treatment. Worse still, is both caddies are keyed and are not interchangeable (i.e. the notches on both sides of the caddy+bay are in different locations). This means that if you do have a spare 1Big series caddy ‘laying around’ you cannot just swap out the bottom caddy in the 2Big and get a more optimal configuration. That is disappointing.
On the upside this does make it harder to install a drive in the ‘wrong’ bay. Obviously, the included controller is not smart enough to know which drive is which when dealing with conflicting data on the two drives in RAID 1 configurations… and in this vein neither is it high enough performance to ‘properly’ handle RAID 1. With high performance RAID controllers, which do not exist in this corner of the marketplace, RAID 1 should offer basically the same write performance as one HDD, and nearly double when it comes to read. In reality, performance will vary. Read will be a bit to noticeably better, but write will be a bit worse. It will only be in RAID 0 that you can expect mind blowing, darn near SATA SSD, r/w performance. This is par for the course for USB based DAS devices.