November 26, 2007
G-RAID mini 320GB/5400
2007 G-Technology Inc.
320GB/5400 - $449.00
Other Capacities Available
Review by David A. Saraceno
Introduction. Every so often, a product comes across my desk that sets the standard for its class. I had read extensively about G-Technology HDDs over the last few years, and when I got the opportunity to review its bus powered multi-interface G-RAID mini 320GB/5400, I jumped at it. The unit is priced at $449.95 and is available in higher capacities and faster configurations. That price may appear high to some, but the adage "you get what you pay for" applies here. Ten years ago, we tendered $4200.00 to MicroNet to purchase a 8 GB fast/wide SCSI array that was 20x times slower, 10x times more expensive, and had 40 times less capacity than this device. It required a SCSI card, heavy, inflexible cables, a power supply, and weighed about fifteen pounds. How far we have come.
What's In The Box. My test unit arrived in a well-packed box with the two-drive G-RAID mini HDD striped array, a small external power supply, three white FW800, FW400, and USB cables, leather carry case, and a CD with PC drivers and PDF manuals for all the G-Technology products. The 320 GB unit formats to 298 GBs. The two 160 GB drives appear as a single HDD in Apple's Disk Utility, or can be partitioned into separate volumes. To maximize data speed, keep the two drives as a single partition. The PDF manual explains formatting for Mac and PC and for cross platform use. A fully illustrated, understandable manual details the basic information for using the G-RAID mini. The drives are not user replaceable.
G-Technology elected two 5400 rpm 2.5-inch SATA Hitachi TravelStar mechanisms for the striped array -- mechanisms I consider top line. The custom hardwired controller utilizes a 924 Oxford chipset to create the striped RAID. G-Technology provides a standard two year warranty, and support is available at the company's web site. The G-RAID mini is housed in a 5.875" x 3.25" x 1.5" enclosure and weighs just over a pound. By contrast, the 4.8 ounce iPhone resides in a 4.5" x 2.4" x .46" package.
A reasonably quiet under-mount fan and integrated heat sink are used to cool the drives -- two features often omitted by other vendors and important to smoothly functioning media capture and editing. Firewire 800, 400 and USB2 ports, together with the power connection are located on the back of the unit. The FW ports are bus-powered and require no independent power on a Mac. An AC adapter is required on both Mac and PC to use the USB2 connection. Note that this not a brick-based adapter, so the unit's small form factor is retained when the power supply is attached.
Testing Parameters. All tests were done on a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBookPro with 4GB/s RAM with a NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card with 256MB SDRAM running 10.4.10 and FCP 6.0.1. I also tested the unit using the FW800 rear port connection on a MacPro, and compared performance with a Seagate internal 7200 rpm 3.5-inch drive on the desktop's internal SATA bus. I used the AJA Kona System Test, which is a free, downloadable Macintosh utility used to measure disk drive and video data copy speeds. This test application is optimized to correlate it to conditions typically encountered with video capture, playback and editing.
The G-RAID mini 320GB/5400 was reformatted consistent with the manual's directives before testing. My comparison HDDs were a 5400 rpm 2.5-inch ATA drive in a Wiebetech FW800/400 disclosure, a Hitachi 7200 rpm 2.5-inch SATA drive in a CoolDrive USB2 enclosure, and a stock Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3320620AS 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB cache SATA HDD on the SATA bus on a MacPro 2.66 GHz. The Seagate is one of the fastest media/scratch internal SATA drives currently available.
Here are the results for the G-RAID and single drive tests.
Results. The comparison charts are self-explanatory. The FW800 transfers were significantly faster than any FW400/USB2 RAID configurations and 2.5-inch individual drives. I ran the same tests with the G-RAID mini on my MacPro, and charted a 52.6 MB/s write speed and 71.6 MB/s read speed for FW800. For some reason, write speeds were slightly faster and read speeds marginally slower on the MacPro's internal FW bus. The comparison tests using the internal 3.5-inch, 7200 rpm Seagate SATA drive prorduced 73.5 MB/s write and 77.2 MB/s read speeds. The G-RAID mini held its own again the larger faster SATA drive despite its slower rpm, 2.5-inch format factor and bus powered connection.
I also produced four DVCProHD 720/24pN streams in real time on FCP 6.0.1 on the MacBook Pro. The company claims similar performance for 1080i DVCProHD streams, but I didn't test this. Interestingly, G-Technology guarantees simultaneous playback of multiple layers of video in real-time in Final Cut Pro, Premiere and Xpress Pro. Check the web site for the specifics. For field editing, there isn't a more powerful, compact and useable alternative to the mini-RAID 5400 rpm 320GB in a comparable form factor. I suspect the 7200 rpm version is faster.
Conclusion. There are several bus-powered FW800/400/USB2 devices out there, but only one product combines quality Hitachi TravelStar 2.5-inch mechanisms with a custom controller chip to create a striped RAID as fast as this one. But the accolades don't end there. The drive is solidly built, substantial, stylish, diminutive and powerful -- all at the same time. It includes a cooling fan and heat sink. Longer warranties usually mean you don't need them. G-Technology provides a two year guaranty. This drive is F A S T, supports multiple streams of 100 mbps DVCProHD, DV, HDV, XDCAM HD, ProRes 422 & uncompressed SD, and everything in between. It even rivals the fastest internal SATA 7200 rpm, 3.5-inch drive in my Mac Pro. And as I said about the price -- you get what you pay for.
Copyright ©2007 David A. Saraceno
David A. Saraceno is a motion graphics artist located in Spokane, Washington. He has written for DV Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national legal technology magazines. David also moderates several forums on 2-pop.com.[Top]
This article first appeared on lafcpug and is reprinted here with permission.
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