So, we recently received an interesting piece of hardware from the external storage maker, LaCie. They are well known for their uniquely designed USB drives and external hard drives, especially the ones that look so sleep and sturdy. Even though LaCie is now a subsidiary of Seagate, it appears that the innovation is not stopping with their products. The XtremKey itself is not necessarily a new product to LaCie, however, they recently updated the XtremKey with faster internals that claim transfer speeds of up to 230 MB/s which is a pretty lofty claim for a USB 3.0 drive that also claims to be able to withstand 10m drops, 200m dives and 10 tons of weight.

First, we took a quick look at the packaging.

Packaging


Note that this drive is not waterproof, or shockproof or dustproof, but resistant. So, don’t entirely rely on the drive to be completely impervious. It also comes along with a full year of Wuala cloud storage to help you back up your 32GB drive for one year. The drive also comes with a 3 year warranty, which is an industry standard for any serious quality manufacturer.

We then took it out and started to look at the drive itself.





And when in use, with the protective metal casing, it looks like this.

And compared next to a regular USB drive…


Performance

After that, we decided that we wanted to see exactly how well this drive actually can perform.

Looking at our CrystalDiskMark score, the drive doesn’t necessarily live up to the 230 MB/s claim, but more around 200 MB/s which is still nothing to balk at. Although, I really do prefer when companies under-represent their own drive’s speeds rather than use something like ATTO to claim maximum throughput when the application only measures theoretical throughput rather than realworld throughput. CrystalDiskMark is still one of the best benchmarks out there for testing a device’s storage speed. Another good application is Anvil, which is significantly more thorough, but will support any kind of results we get here. Anvil’s benchmark is a great SSD benchmark and is probably the best measure of a drive’s true performance across a wide array of file sizes. Since LaCie claimed a sequential speed, that’s what we’ll be comparing against.

As you can see from Anvil, our results were just a smidgen lower than what we got from CrystalDiskMark, but to average things out, we’ll just say that this drive did about 200 MB/ sequential reads.

Software

When it comes to the LaCie XtremKey, you get access to LaCie’s own Wuala ‘Secure Cloud’ service, which provides you with 37GB of free storage space, with 5GB being free forever and 32GB being free for a year after you activate the code provided with the USB drive. This service is supposedly a secure cloud service, but we all now how secure the cloud really is with governmental agencies like the NSA among many others.

Nevertheless, the software is very simple and pretty much does all of the setup for you. Once you’ve installed it and entered the key provided on the drive’s packaging, you are welcomed by a new network drive that gives you 37GB of cloud access. Wuala’s own software is yet another way of accessing this cloud drive and doing more than just adding and removing files, however, I do like the simplicity of this software and how easily it sets itself up.

Since I have 40+GB on DropBox and 25GB on SkyDrive, I don’t really need another 37GB on a service that will only give it to me for a year, but it may be a nice option for people that don’t have large Dropbox or SkyDrive cloud storage accounts.

Extreme Testing

Moving on, we decided to test the durability of the drive itself. The way that we did this was by putting a fairly large HD video file on the drive and then subjecting it to our own torture tests to see whether or not it could pass muster. In this case, we’d be testing whether or not the drive could handle being in the ocean, followed by being driven over in a car, followed by being thrown in a pool, followed by being dropped. Twice. Below is a quick video we threw together so you could see it for yourself.

When we dropped the drive from 12m (not the 10m that it was rated for), we managed to leave a dent in the concrete and to leave a large silver scratch in the concrete the second time. Interestingly enough, the drive fell on the same spot both times even though we dropped it differently each time. Do note, that the scratch on the drive is the only visible scratching on the entire drive even after all of the beating we put it through.


I think the concrete lost this one…

After each test, we proceeded to test the drive and play back the video in order to confirm that it survived each test. And if you didn’t watch the video, it surely did survive each test and successfully played back the video each and every time without a single hiccup. In addition to doing all of that, we decided that we should test the speed of the drive again to see how it performed after taking such a brutal beating.

Above, you can see the speed of the drive before we did our durability testing, and after. Almost unaffected.

Value and Conlcusion

In terms of value, this drive retails for $80 on Amazon, which is honestly pretty reasonable when you consider how damn rugged the drive is and the 37 GB of free ‘secure cloud’ storage. They also have a 64 GB version which is $129.99, which I personally believe is a better size. A 64 GB USB 3.0 drive operates like a pocket SSD, especially with reads of 200 MB/s and writes of about 80 MB/s. Sure, LaCie somewhat overpromises on the speeds, which I don’t like, but they make up for the lack of promised speed with durability and the cloud storage. At $80 this is a pretty good value for your money, however, I advocate the 64 GB option for more comfort and less deleting.

Conclusion

When it comes to USB 3.0 drives, there are a lot of ‘rugged’ drives out there, but very few of them are actually capable of speeds that make USB 3.0 worth having. The LaCie XtremKey combines durability with speed in a way that we have yet to see from any other USB drive manufacturer. While it surely isn’t the fastest USB drive we’ve tested, it is without a doubt the most durable and one of the fastest. I can safely say that I recommend that you buy this drive if durability is a concern for you or if you don’t have to have the absolute fastest USB drive on the market.

As such, we’re giving this drive our Editor’s Choice Award for Prosumer for simply being damn durable and still pretty damn fast.