LaCie begins shipping first sub-$1000 Thunderbolt hard drives

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Storage manufacturer LaCie on Tuesday began shipping the first sub-$1000 external hard drives to take advantage of the high-speed Thunderbolt ports introduced across Apple's Mac product family this year.

Previously, the cheapest Thunderbolt storage solution was the 4TB, $999.99 Promise Pegasus which debuted in June.

Developed in collaboration with Intel under the codename "Light Peak", Thunderbolt I/O technology has the potential to reach transfer speeds of 10 Gbps over electrical or optical cables.

Until now, consumer-oriented Thunderbolt peripherals have been virtually nonexistent in the marketplace, curbed by the combination of high overhead costs for manufacturers and limited marketability — both of which stem from the technology's relative infancy, having been introduced just six months ago.

As such, the single offering from Promise has been used mainly by media professionals as scratch drives and for high-speed video storage. This week's introduction of a smaller, less costly option from LaCie offers the first opportunity for average consumers to begin adopting the technology as a means of high-speed data transfer in their homes.

Since July, nearly all of Apple's Mac models incorporate Thunderbolt connectivity, with the exception of the ailing Mac Pro and legacy white MacBook lines, the latter of which remains available only to educational institutions.

LaCie's new external storage devices feature a pair of 2.5" drives in Mac OS RAID configuration, boasting read speeds of up to 190 MB/s. The RAID drives are available with either two 500GB 7200 RPM or two 1TB 5400 RPM hard disk drives, each featuring two connectors. According to LaCie, users can daisy chain several Little Big Disks to maximize Thunderbolt's capabilities and reach transfer rates of 800 MB/s.

As previously reported, LaCie will be releasing an SSD version of the drive in October that increases read speeds to over 480 MB/s.

The Little Big Disk is available for pre-order at the Apple online store for $399.95 for 1TB or 499.95 for 2TB of storage. In addition, a few units have been shipped to brick-and-mortar Apple retail stores ahead of broader distribution through and the device maker's reseller channel.