External hard drives can be a mundane product, but this collaboration between peripherals manufacturer LaCie and world-famous industrial designer Philippe Starck seeks to buck the trend, with a device that's as beautiful as it is functional.

The LaCie Starck features a sturdy aluminium casing with mirrored metal front and rear panels. Starck himself describes it as "a symbol of strength mastered, of freedom guided, of incandescent magma heeding to the form of its cast."

The less pretentious might compare it to a shiny pebble in a metal box. Yet it's not just for looks.

Prentention aside

The drive's build does much to keep the operating temperature down. Instead of a standard LED to indicate the drive state, Philippe Starck's signature cross symbol is projected onto your desk in front of the unit.

The front panel is touch sensitive, activating shortcuts that launch an application of your choice, open a file or folder, or trigger a custom action such as mounting or unmounting the drive, or launching LaCie's Desktop Manager software.

Intego Backup Assistant is also bundled. When you first connect the drive, a wizard guides you through a formatting procedure, giving genuinely useful advice about which file format you should choose and why. This is very useful for the less experienced computer user.

In our tests, the drive averaged random read speeds of 11.6MB/s, with random writes of 18MB/s. Sequential read and write speeds were 29MB/s and 22.2MB/s respectively.

These figures place this device at the fast end of what you'd expect from a USB 2.0 drive, but they're not extraordinary. Only USB connectivity is offered, so it can't benefit from FireWire speeds.

The Starck is inexpensive given its pedigree. It's currently just £77 on Amazon, which is only about £10 more than the site's cheapest 1TB external hard drives.

Its aesthetics may not be for everyone, but its top features, performance and build quality make it great value for money.

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