Yesterday, LaCie announced its new external hard drives developed in collaboration with designer Philippe Starck. The Starck Desktop Hard Drive and the Starck Mobile Hard Drive are stylish, Mac-friendly aluminum USB drives that feature sturdy aluminum exteriors, unconventionally slick curves, and a wealth of enticing features that should excite hardware enthusiasts this fall.
Over the years, LaCie has worked with a number of high-profile designers to make drives that range from simple and modern F.A, Porsche designs to more whimsical designs of Ora Ito. This latest collaboration continues that trend.
When I first connected either drive, the LaCie Setup Assistant started up and asked how I would like to format the drive. I clicked on "Mac" and in seconds it was reformatted to Mac Journaled HFS and therefore also Time Machine compatible. Both the Desktop and Mobile versions of the drive come with the LaCie Mac utility Intego Backup Assistant for Mac.
The Starck Mobile features a "curvilinear" aluminum flask design and an embedded USB cable about six inches in length. Nestled cleverly in the back of the drive, the flexible rubber cable can be coiled back inside the drive for easy transport or extracted to plug into any USB port. The 2mm of resistant aluminum casing ensures the drive feels sturdier than many portable drives, but unfortunately I found this extra armor makes the drive feel much heavier than competing drives. It's still plenty portable, but you'll want to store the drive in your backpack rather than your back pocket.
While the USB connectivity ensures that nearly everyone can use the Starck lines, USB has its limitations. USB is generally slower than FireWire or eSATA connections on a Mac, so speed will not be the focus of these drives. Older model laptops may have difficulty producing enough power to spin the mechanism of the Starck Mobile. Thankfully, an included power sharing cable enables the unit to draw power from an additional USB port, thereby allowing even older laptop models to use the Starck Mobile.
While the drives' stylish looks and the focus on USB have become popular trends with developers these days, LaCie still has a few tricks up their sleeves. The Starck Desktop allows you to customize the touch-sensitive surface to open an application of your choosing. Depending on whether you lightly tap or firmly touch the curved button on the end of the drive, the Starck Desktop can be programmed to open different programs. "It's an easy, efficient way to streamline your digital life," explains LaCie CEO Philippe Spruch. Initially tapping on the button does nothing, as the shortcut button's functionality must first be configured through the easy-to-understand LaCie Desktop Manager. In seconds I was able to configure the button to launch applications of my choosing.
Like its Mobile cousin, the Starck Desktop features an aluminum exterior design though it has a stronger 3mm exterior instead of the Starck Mobile's 2mm. The Starck Desktop also features a status LED in the form of "Starck's signature symbol," according to the press materials this light glows green or orange to indicate different activity.
The Starck Desktop is available in 1TB and 2TB capacities, and the Starck Mobile in 320GB and 500GB capacities. The entry-level model for the Desktop is priced at $130 while the Mobile version is priced at $100. Both are comparatively inexpensive compared to competing USB-only drives, and the stylish looks of the drives will generate envious looks from other developers and consumers alike.
The new hard drives are in our lab for testing. Look for a complete review with benchmarks and mouse ratings coming soon.
This story, "First Look: LaCie Starck Hard Drives" was originally published by Macworld.