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Hands-On Review: LaCie 2big Dock Thunderbolt 3—2big To Be Ignored

Editor’s Note: This hands-on review of the LaCie 2big Dock Thunderbolt 3 posted on the website of our sister publication HDVideoPro, but the drive, of course, addresses the storage needs of photographers, as well.

I like storage. I really do. Most of the projects I work on are shot in 4K and beyond, so storage is important. It doesn’t help that directors don’t have much incentive to say “cut” as they might have done when they shot on film. A recent project tied up nearly 18 terabytes of storage during finishing.

I’m always on the lookout for more storage. The more I have, the easier my job becomes—less time managing media, more time cutting. When I go to NAB, storage is one of the first things I look at. And when I visited LaCie’s booth this past April, I was excited to see their new storage options, specifically the 2big Dock Thunderbolt 3. And I’m excited all over again, because LaCie sent a unit out for a test drive.

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“2big” in the name 2big Dock indicates that it’s a 2-drive array that can be configured as one large drive with no data protection (RAID 0) or as a “mirrored” array where data is protected by duplicating it across both drives (RAID 1). You can also configure it as two separate drives.

The RAID control is via hardware, not software, which helps with performance and portability across other systems. LaCie RAID manager software is used to configure the unit. It also allows you to set up email notifications to help you monitor the health of the array. If there’s a problem, it sends you an email.

The 2big Dock uses Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives—enterprise-class drives. This means they’re designed for high performance in demanding situations. The 2big Dock is available in 8, 12, 16 and 20 TB configurations ($699-$1,299). The unit I tested was populated by two 10 TB drives, for 20 TB total. The drives are user-accessible from the front of the unit.

Let’s not overlook “dock” in the name 2big Dock. In addition to the drives, it also has SD and CF (UDMA 7) card readers, a USB 3.0 hub and a DisplayPort connector. The DisplayPort connector can handle up to 4K displays. You can also drive a monitor from this port via HDMI using a DisplayPort 1.2-to-HDMI adapter.

The 2big Dock could easily find a place in a DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) setup. Besides lots of fast storage, you have built-in card readers and a USB 3.0 hub that allows you to add other card readers; and the DisplayPort connector makes it easy to add a second monitor.

But the 2big Dock can easily fit in elsewhere, as well. The sound level was low when I placed it in my suite. On the road, the USB 3.0 hub can help ease dongle juggling if you only have Thunderbolt 3 ports on your laptop.

But what about speed? The drive comes configured for RAID 0 (and that’s how I would use it), so I tested it to see how it would perform. But before I get into the numbers, I need to talk about computer connections.

The 2big Dock has both a Thunderbolt 3 and a USB-C connection. It should be noted that the two ports can’t be used at the same time, however. This was probably my only complaint when using the 2big; it isn’t easy to tell which are the TB3 connectors and which is the USB-C since they both use the same connectors.

That issue was quickly resolved with use. The TB3 connectors are a pair, which allow for daisy-chaining Thunderbolt 3 devices while the USB-C is not.

I performed speed tests with Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 using both AJA’s and Blackmagic Design’s disk test tools. I chose 4 GB UHD ProRes (HQ) files as the test sample.

I did the test across the various connections because I think people ignore Thunderbolt 3 options if they have Thunderbolt 2 or USB 3.0. It was after running through the speed tests and using it in-suite and on location that I came up with the headline for this post. It really is 2big to be ignored.

Even if you don’t have the latest Thunderbolt, the 2big Thunderbolt 3 Dock gives you lots of storage at high speed and will perform even better when you move up to Thunderbolt 3. To have that much storage, at that speed, along with dock functions, and without breaking the bank, it’s really easy to be excited about storage.

Visit the LaCie website for more information.

Michael Guncheon is an accomplished editor who has cut a wide range of projects, including music videos for Prince, a documentary on Genesis, and numerous commercials and corporate pieces. A partner at HDMG, a Minneapolis video production and post-production company, Guncheon has written several books on DSLRs and is the author of the Kodak Digital Photo Guide. He has presented his talk on shooting with HDSLRs at Twin Cities Public Television, WGBH in Boston, PBS in New York, the Hollywood Post Alliance and at the annual SMPTE conference in Hollywood.

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