Solid External Drive - Expensive, but worth it

Oct 27, 2009 (Updated Nov 1, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Quality External Hard Drive, Well-Designed, Very Fast, and Durable

Cons:Too expensive compared to other drives of similar size, light is useless and annoying.

The Bottom Line: The G-Drive is worth considering as part of an overall backup strategy involving notebook and desktop computers.  It's expensive, but worth it.

*** Update Nov 1, 2009 ***
In response to a comment on this review, I ran the following tests of this G-Drive's speed.  For these tests 2GB's were transfered between the G-Drive connected via a Firewire 800 cable to either a Mac Pro desktop or MacBook Pro notebook computer.  The results were:

G-Drive to Mac Pro: 22s for 1.99GB folder, 21s for 1.97GB zip file
Mac Pro to G-Drive: 31 s for 1.99GB folder, 30s for 1.97GB zip file
G-Drive to MacBook Pro: 55s for 1.99GB folder, 47s 1.97GB zip file
MacBook Pro to G-Drive: 53s for 1.99GB folder, 47s for 1.97GB zip file

There are 3 things to note here: (1) For the Desktop computer, transfer is faster when copying FROM the G-Drive rather than TO the G-Drive, (2) For the Notebook computer, transfer is slower when transfering many smaller files instead of a single large file of the same size, (3) This Mac Pro desktop performed about twice as fast as the MacBook Pro notebook.

The 1.99GB folder contained 196 .JPGs ranging from 3 to 8.5MB and 6 .MOV files ranging from 22 to 260MB in size.  The folder was converted to a 1.97GB zip file.  Each transfer was checked by duplication, and gave the same result within 1 second.
Mac Pro: 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon, 3GB RAM, 640GB drive under OSX10.6.1
MacBook Pro: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 160GB drive under OSX10.5.8
This is my 6th external hard drive, and probably the best I've used.  It is several notches above previous drives I've purchased both in terms of quality and cost.  Still, I decided it was worth it and I'll explain why in this review.

The G-Drive I purchased is labeled the GD4 1000, which according to the folks at G-Technology, is the latest version.  It has the newer Oxford 934 chipset, which allows it to serve as a boot drive for Mac's.  The unit has a fanless cooling mechanism, which reduces the number of parts which can fail, and also reduces the noise.  They have smaller capacity (500GB & 750GB) versions than the one I got (a 1 TeraByte unit), and they have also recently come out with a 2TB one. 

Quality Enclosure
To be honest, I really did not want to buy the whole unit, but just the enclosure so that I could put my own internal SATA drive within it -- since internal drives will continue to grow in size and decrease in cost, it makes a lot of sense to me to purchase a device that will grow as my needs do.  But G-Technology does not sell just the enclosure.  However, I was able to find out from the person I called there that if the 1TB drive eventually fails, I can just put a new one in.  He did point out, however, that doing so would void the original 3 year warranty. 
     My decision to purchase the 1TB size was a balance between keeping the advantages of a warranty, getting a usable size, and yet not paying a premium for the latest size.  Also, my purchase decision was helped by finding it for $190 at, a savings of about $20 at the time.  This is about twice what you might expect to pay for a typical drive of this size from vendors like Iomega, Western Digital, LaCie, AcomData, etc...

Part of a Back-up Strategy
This drive is not just another external drive, but is part of a backup strategy which I arrived at after much consideration.  Like many households, we've found our needs for data storage skyrocket in recent years.  Years ago we used CD's and then DVD's to store and back up all our photos and other data.  That became troublesome and time-consuming, and so we moved to external hard drives, which are much faster and more convenient.  Soon we had a collection of 4 of these, each taking up space and requiring a plug (not to mention the power bricks!).  Eventually I got tired of buying so many of these and looked into multi-hard drive units, particulary RAID capable drives.  I even purchased one of these (the Drobo), but if you read my epinions review on that you'll see why I returned it and rejected that approach as well.  More on our backup strategy below.

I purchased the G-Drive because it is very fast, should be reliable, and I don't expect to need multiple external drives now.  The speed is important because I wanted to be able to work with our iPhoto library (250GB and growing) to edit photos and high quality videos on our MacBook Pro notebooks.  This is best done using an internal hard drive, but a fast external drive like the G-Drive is the next best thing.  The G-Drive supports the fastest types of connections, such as Firewire 800 and eSATA, and even HD quality videos play without glitches on our notebooks.

   Reliability is important because this drive will serve as the link between our notebooks and desktop computer (a Mac Pro containing 4 internal drive bays) which is the main component of our backup solution.  Using Carbon Copy Cloner (donation-ware) I am able to easily keep the contents of this G-Drive synchronized with one of the terabyte drives within the desktop computer.  The last component of our backup solution is yet another terabyte drive within the Mac Pro desktop which is also kept in synch with the G-Drive's contents, but is usually taken off-site (to work) just in case a disaster hits at home.
    At work they have several G-drives running constantly for back up and as network drives.  This is apparently the main market for these drives since typical consumers don't want to pay the higher prices.  I'm hoping this implies reliability, but time will tell.

Just 1 External Drive
The above strategy justifies the purchase of just one, high-quality external drive, such as the G-Drive, since the multiple drives now reside in a desktop unit, which can be upgraded when needed.  This is a better place to house multiple internal drives than the multi-bay external drive units increasingly sold by vendors since a desktop stays put, thus minimizing movements which increase wear on a hard drive.  Many of these multi-bay units feature RAID technologies which allow automatic duplication of your data as it is stored.  However, my research into these devices showed, (1) that they were slower, and (2) less reliable than the method I have chosen -- and this was key to my decision to purchase just one high quality drive.  They are slower because the data is not being duplicated, and they are less reliable because if the data structures responsible for locating your files are corrupted (by, for example, dislodging the connection during file transfers -- something that can easily happen with notebook computers), then your data can be lost on BOTH the original and duplicated drive.  That is, using a RAID backup strategy introduces another level of complexity that provides an avenue for data loss. 
      It is true that such data loss can also occur with one external drive such as the G-Drive; but this involves loss of only 1 copy of the data.  My preference is to keep things simple, and just using scheduled backups so that multiple copies are always present seems the safest and most direct method to me.  Other layers of automated backup which we also employ involve the use of our Time Capsule and Mobile Me accounts (see my epinion reviews of those for more details).

Style & Design
G-Drives are better looking than the typical external drive, and match very well with Mac hardware.  This does count for something, although more important is its stability, which minimizes harm due to movements, the many ports, which allow flexibility in how it's used, and its quietness due efficient fanless cooling.  The many cords which come with the G-Drive (USB, Firewire 400, Firewire 800, & eSATA) are also designed well.  For example, the handles on the cords (the parts you hold when plugging it in) are not overly large, although it would be better if they were even smaller.  This is a more important issue than you might think: cords designed with large handles are more prone to detaching if either the drive or computer is moved.  If detachment occurs during a file transfer there is the possibility of losing ALL the data on the drive.  See my review of the Drobo for more details.
     Unfortunately, there is one glaring (literally) design flaw on the G-drive which only becomes apparent when you see it  working in the dark: the light on this thing could serve as a lighthouse!  When will designers learn that light pollution from these virtually useless lights is unwelcome??  Am I the only one tired of cutting out black tape to cover such lights?

Clearly the biggest disadvantage of the G-Drive is its cost.  I have nothing to say about this other than: you get what you pay for, and when you consider how important your data is, it's best to pay a premium. 

As with my other epinions reviews, I will provide updates to this one, particularly if it causes trouble.

Recommend this product?

Read all comments (2)

Share this product review with your friends   
Share This!