LaCie is one vendor that takes their in house collaboration with many well-known designers very serious. Nowhere is this more evident than the 5Big series of storage solutions. Working together with Neil Poulton, as they did with the Cloudbox, LaCie has went to the drawing board and designed one of the most attractive and proven form factors in the DAS market.
The 5Big Thunderbolt from LaCie is a five bay direct attached storage solution that houses either 10TB or 20TB of raw storage space. In addition to this, we have RAID options of 0, 1 and JBOD, where normally five bay devices would have additional options such as RAID 5 and 6, but this goes to show where the target market for this device lies, creative professionals and multimedia enthusiast that want the raw power and bandwidth of Thunderbolt.
Pricing of the 5Big Thunderbolt from LaCie at this time is set at $1099.99 for the 10TB model with a larger 20TB model available for $2099.99. Warranty is listed at three years.
Packaging and the 5Big Thunderbolt
The 5Big Thunderbolt is packaged with a clean professional exterior, a large image of the DAS is placed front and center with Intel's Thunderbolt logo proudly displayed.
The outside of the accessories box doubles as the quick install guide.
Included with the 5Big Thunderbolt, you will find the power brick and software on disk, along with a single Thunderbolt cable.
The 5Big carries a professional look with its clean aluminium exterior, and much like the Drobo, a work of art for your desktop.
The back of the LaCie holds all the drive bays which in turn have locking mechanisms.
Taking a closer look at the I/O connections, here we have dual Thunderbolt ports, along with the proprietary power connection and on/off switch.
Within the 5Big Thunderbolt, we found five 2TB Seagate Barracuda hard drives.
A curious sight for myself, where I found a Noctua 120mm fan controlling the cooling side of the enclosure. Noctua is renowned for their excellence in cooling silence.
Test System Setup
Our Consumer NAS test 'system' is setup similar to what you have at home. Here we have the base of a GIGABYTE Z77X UP5 TH housing an Intel Core i5 3570K with 16GB of RAM supporting. Our Operating System of choice is Windows 8 x64 Enterprise with all available updates and patches installed on a Corsair Neutron 256GB SSD.
We also enjoy the company of a Macintosh iMac 12.2 for testing Thunderbolt devices in OS X 10.8.5
This level of testing wouldn't be possible without the help and support from several companies, many of which have little to do with NAS products. We would like to thank Corsair, GIGABYTE and Western Digital for their much-appreciated support.
The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable direct measurement of home network attached storage (NAS) performance. Designed to emulate the behavior of an actual application, NASPT uses a set of real-world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications. Traces of high definition video playback and recording, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation and more provide a broad range of different application behaviors.
Benchmarks - Single Client Throughput, Random and Sequential Workloads
Benchmarks - Single Client Throughput
HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads
2HD Video Play - 2x playback
4HD Video Play - 4x playback
HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes
File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads
File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes
Single client testing showed the mind blowing performance of the 5Big Thunderbolt. Here we have video playback results touching 601 MB/s in RAID 0, with file copy to and from the DAS reaching 412 MB/s and 523 MB/s, respectively.
Benchmarks - Random and Sequential Workloads
Our 4K Random read/write workload consists of sixteen threads all at QD16, results our measured in IOPS (Input Output Operations per Second).
Above, we can see the 5Big Thunderbolt excel in random write IOPS in RAID 0 with a result of 1374 IOPS. Furthermore, the 5Big does quite well with random read in both RAID 0 and RAID 1.
Our sequential read/write workload is centered on 1MB transfer sizes again with sixteen threads and a queue depth of 16.
Here we see more of the great performance of the 5Big Thunderbolt, especially in RAID 0 sequential read and write.
Benchmarks - Power Consumption and Acoustics
Our power consumption testing involves running the power supply from the NAS through the output on our Kill-A-Watt meter. Results are recorded at several intervals including Idle, peak and after the drives enter standby.
Above, we have our results from the power consumption testing. During our workload testing, the 5Big Thunderbolt reached a peak power consumption of 49 watts, following an idle period that initial 49 watts dropped to 36 watts. After the drives were spun down, the 5Big used a mere 5 watts of power.
Acoustics are measured from a distance of one foot with our IEC Type II Sound Level Meter.
Thanks to the collaboration with Noctua, the LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt enjoys a bit of silence with a peak reading of 31.9dBa.
Benchmarks - Thunderbolt on OS X 10.8
Benchmarks - Black Magic Design DST, Xbench and AJA System Test
Within Mac OS X 10.8.5 we used a 5GB file size with Black Magic Design DST. Above, we have the results with the 5Big Thunderbolt in RAID 0 - this is truly mind blowing as we haven't seen Thunderbolt stretch it legs like this until now.
RAID 1 results were pretty typical coming in at 219 MB/s read and 137 MB/s write.
In our Xbench testing we found yet another hint of the performance of the LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt and just Thunderbolt as an interface for storage solutions. If we take a look at the results, you will notice the 5Big really excels in uncached sequential write with 4K blocks at 1158 MB/s.
RAID 1 results were pretty similar in Xbench as we saw with Blackmagicdesign DST.
AJA System test is one of a few storage focused benchmarks for OS X. Here we have the 5Big Thunderbolt in RAID 0 streaming a 720p video file over 200 frames with read/write speed recorded for each frame.
Above, we have the same test run through with a 1080p video file over 200 frames. Notice we still have the same crash in throughput around frame 10-15, most likely due to the HDDs caching and the RAID overhead.
Above, we have the 720p test repeated with the 5Big in RAID 1. Notice how consistent this test run is compared to the heart monitor pace the RAID 0 was creating.
Again, with 1080p and RAID 1 this time around, the 5Big hold steady performance throughout the entire 200 frame series in writes.
The 5Big Thunderbolt from LaCie is a true enthusiasts dream, but before we go too far, let's discuss the build quality of the unit. When I first received the 5Big at my doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall girth of the box. After having the chance to get the LaCie into the photo booth and after unboxing, I quickly realized that this 5Big Thunderbolt is built like a tank.
In fact, as most of you know, I love tearing things down and showing you the internal workings, but I simply could not do it with this unit - I just couldn't find any way to peal it apart. The external shell appears to be made of single sheet aluminum with the innards made of high grade steel, all of this gives the 5Big a bit of weight, which is always a plus in my book.
Now onto performance, where I was blown away at the pure performance I found in RAID 0. Now we all know RAID 0 is NOT reliable in anyway and I certainly would never run anything that I deemed irreplaceable on array such as this, but for media professionals and enthusiast that want very quick access to their data or do their work straight from their external storage, the LaCie provides in every way.
Moving the 5Big over to RAID 1, we enjoyed performance that I would classify as "on par with expectations", as it was nowhere near what we saw with RAID 0, but again, it was very respectable, as most DAS devices even in this age barely touch 200 to 250 MB/s ever.
Pricing at this time for the LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt in the 10TB capacity is listed at $1099.99 with the larger 20TB model listed at $2099.99, both of which come with a three year warranty. When I first received this unit, I had the thought of doing a direct compare to the Drobo 5D I have in house, but after reading and researching both units, neither share any of the same RAID modes and thus eliminates any comparison between the two.
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