Review: LaCie eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series; are you in for a surprise?

LaCie only recently released its eSATA Hub for Thunderbolt computers. It’s a very small size aluminium contraption with the typical blue LED at the front. While the form factor and design are the same as the LaCie Little Big, the eSATA Hub has no disk inside. Instead, it has two eSATA and two Thunderbolt ports. And performance-wise I was in for a surprise…

The first eSATA-to-Thunderbolt adapter that got released was the Sonnet Thunderbolt Echo Adapter (reviewed here link icon), a device that accepts a limited number of ExpressCard/34 cards. I tested with Sonnet’s top-of-the-bill Tempo eSATA card with two eSATA ports. For those who hate reading old reviews; what I said back then was that the Echo Adapter performed fine, but I was never able to get writing speeds above 80 MB/sec with my LaCie 4Big Quadra.

IT Enquirer rating

10/10
URL: lacie.com

Pros
  • 2 Thunderbolt ports
  • 2 eSATA ports
  • full eSATA speed!
Cons
  • no cables in the box
Price (approx.): €199.00

I repeated that test with some other RAID devices and always got the same write speed. It was a bit of a disappointment and I blamed the hardware RAIDs for this lacklustre performance.

Well, no more of that. The LaCie eSATA Hub fares far better, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my RAID devices! But first things first: the test.

Unpacking the LaCie eSATA Hub is a dull affair: there’s the unit, a power supply and an upright stand. An installation sheet completes the package. No cables, nothing else. All you need to do is connect a Thunderbolt cable that you already have to one of the two ports, an eSATA cable to one of the two eSATA ports, and the power cable to the mains. Then switch on the Mac and you’re supposed to be ready to go.

The results for the LaCie eSATA Hub.

In my case, the Mac froze on startup. The Sonnet Tempo driver proved to be the culprit. I started up from another disk, removed the extension from the System > Library folder, ran a DiskWarrior check to be on the safe side, and fired up again from the main disk. The Mac started up fine.

The 4Big mounted in a fraction of what it used to take with the Sonnet Echo Adapter. Opening the 4Big looked to be crispier too, but I thought my imagination was playing with me. Until I fired up BlackMagic’s Disk Speed Test. With a test file of 5GB, the 4Big suddenly proved capable of speeds up to 185 MB/sec. Read speeds were a tad faster than with the Echo Adapter too.

BlackMagic’s testing suite tells me I can edit 2K files with my 4Big now. Never had that pleasure before, and I have that RAID system since 2009!

The results with the Sonnet Echo Adapter. The difference with the LaCie are unbelievable.

I found it hard to believe the LaCie eSATA Hub would make my 4Big go faster with a factor 3, but I can keep on running these tests, the results won’t change. The dual Thunderbolt ports necessitate a power adapter but I’ll happily take a power adapter over a device that essentially removes one of the Thunderbolt ports just to drive one external eSATA device.

The LaCie eSATA Hub performs just as well with two eSATA drives, so there must be two chips inside. The device doesn’t get hot, like the Sonnet Echo did, and the blue LED is big enough to see disk activity from a distance. In one word: if you need a Thunderbolt/eSATA adapter because you don’t fancy throwing out an “old” eSATA disk or RAID system, rush out for this LaCie gem; it’s more than worth the money.

OS X PRODUCTS HAVE MOVED

New stories on OS X products are published on the front page of IT Enquirer.

Stories on enterprise systems can also be found on the frontal page.

Comments

  1. Felix Vîjiac says

    very good news! thank you! the lacie website and documentation doesn’t have such “technical” information about their products.

  2. Felix Vîjiac says

    i was wondering if it’s possible to boot from a esata disk connected through Lacie eSATA Hub.

    • Erik Vlietinck says

      I just tried it out, and yes, you can boot from an eSATA disk through the LaCie Hub for Thunderbolt ports.

      • Erik Vlietinck says

        There’s an order to connect the eSATA device to the hub, and the hub to the Mac:
        First you connect the power adapter to the hub.
        Then connect the eSATA device(s) to the hub.
        Power up the eSATA devices.
        Once they’re completely fired up, connect the Thunderbolt cable to the hub.

        To start from the eSATA device, make sure you have OS X correctly installed on the device. Then either select the device in Disk Utility as the Startup Disk, or hold down the Option key when starting the Mac.

        The eSATA device should show up in the list, ready to select it.
        LaCie recommends to ensure the eSATA device is started up before the hub reveals itself to the OS X system.
        Hope this helps.

      • pierre says

        I did all that. Still the only way to boot is by holding (for ages) the Option key and finally select the drive.

        How do you select the booting device in Disk Utility ?

        I’m on Lion and the Startup disk option is in System Preference the device is there but not operational when selected, it
        doesn’t boot the designed disk (white screen for ever).

        So any way to boot “normally”?

        Tks

      • Erik Vlietinck says

        I meant in System Preferences > Startup Disk. My mistake. When the system on your eSATA disk is properly installed it should work.