LaCie 2Big Network 2 2TB Review: Attractive Design, Basic Function
At a Glance
The LaCie 2Big Network 2, with its aluminum fins and too-big blue front status indicator/sleep button has unique style. Beyond that, its best aspects are its stylish, well-written HTML interface and its ability to connect either to your router (via ethernet) or directly to a PC (via USB--an unusual trait for a network-attached box). Performance, on the other hand, though adequate for streaming media, is strictly middle-of-the-road.
The 2Big Network 2's supplied ports are a cut above the standard-issue consumer NAS configuration. You get a single gigabit ethernet port, a type B USB 2.0 port for attaching the drive directly to PCs or Macs, a type A USB 2.0 port, and an eSATA port for attaching fast external storage. The two drive bays, accessible from the rear of the unit, contain trays that are easy to remove and keep drives firmly in place with screws.
LaCie ships the 2Big Network 2 configured in RAID 0, which increases performance slightly and uses the drives to their full capacity, but leaves all data on the box at risk. Drive failure does happen, so keep the box backed up or consider switching to the supported RAID 1 mirroring configuration for data redundancy. We tested the $350 (as of March 23, 2012) 2TB version; LaCie also sells a 4TB version.
The 2Big Network 2's performance is adequate for streaming media and light home use, but not for businesses moving lots of data or backing up more than two or three PCs overnight. The unit read our 10GB mix of files and folders at 34.6 megabytes per second and wrote them at 20 MBps. It wrote our single 10GB test file at 32.1 MBps and read it at 53.9 MBps. Those numbers reflect merely average performance for a two-bay NAS box.
LaCie's HTML interface is attractive and (for the most part) well thought out, though features such as multimedia serving would have benefited from more-prominent placement. One other minor complaint: I'd like to be able to step back and forth between pages using the browser buttons; but at the moment, you must return to the main page by clicking on the Home button or the 2Big Network logo. On the plus side, the interface shelters you from some of the unnecessary complexity that boxes from QNAP and Synology may expose you to.
The 2Big Network 2 has all the software features that most users need: file sharing, iTunes and DLNA-compliant media surfing, backup, and the like. It's also one of the most Mac-friendly boxes we looked at in our roundup of 11 NAS boxes (many of LaCie's products target the Mac community), supporting Time Machine and harmonizing visually with Mac hardware. It can back up to other boxes via Rsync.
One of the 2Big Network 2's nicest design flourishes is its fail-safe power switch. The worst thing you can do with a NAS box is to cut off the power without giving the box time to close files properly. In contrast, switching the LaCie's power button to off simply initiates a polite shutdown sequence. If for some reason the box locks up, you can always pull the power cord.
For a significantly lower price than you'd pay for a Synology or QNAP box with drives, the LaCie 2Big Network 2 nails the essentials. Performance is fine for home use, though not for businesses or for situations that entail handling lots of simultaneous access.