Professional video editors and filmmakers have raved about G-Technology’s hard drives for over a decade. These users — day-one adopters of Apple’s Mac Pro and MacBook Pro computers — need a lot of hard disk space, fast interfaces, and above all else, reliability. Losing part or all of a project can kill a movie, so nothing is left to chance on the storage side. I’m not a video professional, but as a father, my family photos and home videos are some of my most valuable possessions, and I don’t want to lose them to a hard drive failure. Numerous recommendations led me to Hitachi GST subsidiary G-Technology’s G-Drives years ago, and now there’s a new entry-level model that’s affordable enough for everyone: G-Drive USB ($160-$400, available here for $150 and up).
G-Drive USB offers all the capacity, speed and reliability G-Tech drives are known for, but in a smaller enclosure with fewer ports on the back. I’ve been testing one for the past month, and it’s as excellent as the five earlier G-Tech drives I’ve used since 2006. G-Drive USB isn’t the cheapest hard drive around, but when you care about long-term reliability, it’s worth paying a premium for peace of mind.
I’ve loved the industrial designs of LaCie hard drives for a long time, but from my perspective, if the actual hard drive mechanism isn’t certain to be reliable after a couple of years — a known but somewhat undiscussed issue with many brands of hard drives — the casing doesn’t matter. G-Technology’s desktop hard disks offer the best of both worlds: a substantial-feeling, Mac-matching perforated aluminum enclosure, plus a 7200RPM hard drive inside, backed by a 3-year warranty.
Apart from four clear white rubber feet on the bottom and a glowing white G status light on front, G-Drive USB is completely made from metal, and if you love Apple’s Mac designs, beautiful in its own right. Measuring 5″ wide by 7.7″ deep by 1.26″ tall, it’s a half-inch shorter and 1.5″ shallower than the standard G-Drive, a substantial savings in size that makes the USB version easier to move around if needed. G-Technology has slimmed the unit as much as is practical to house a full-sized hard drive — the only mechanical disk size we’d trust with important files, photos, and videos. Smaller laptop hard drives tend to compromise reliability for size, which isn’t wise for backups or important files.
G-Drive USB currently comes in four different capacities: 2TB ($160, here for $150), 3TB ($180, here for $170), and 4TB ($200, here for $190) models with 165MB/second peak transfer rates, plus a 6TB model ($400, here for $350) with a 226MB/second peak transfer rate. Every model has the same USB 3.0 port on the back, and ships with a USB 3.0 cable that’s backward-compatible with USB 2.0 devices. You also get a slim power adapter that — unlike some G-Drives — only occupies one power outlet.
The USB 3.0 interface is what enables G-Drive USB to sell at $40 to $150 discounts versus older, comparable-capacity G-Drives, which include Firewire 800, USB 3.0, and sometimes eSATA connectors and cables. Yet USB 3.0 can beat Firewire 800 in raw performance. I purchased a 4TB G-Drive USB with the 165MB/second peak transfer rate, and reliably achieved 140MB/second read and write speeds when using a MacBook Pro with USB 3.0 ports. That’s twice as fast as the 69MB/second write and 55MB/second read speeds I get from my older 2TB regular G-Drive using Firewire 800, and still almost twice as fast as my newer 3TB G-Drive (78MB/second read, 73MB/second write). G-Drive USB’s performance drops when connected to older USB 2.0 Macs — I saw 32MB/s read and 26MB/s write speeds — which is to say that modern Macs will get over four times better performance from the same device, though all of these speeds are totally fine for consumer-grade backups. G-Tech notably promises the same 165MB/second peak transfer rate for a Thunderbolt version of G-Drive, which sells for a lot more.
From my perspective, the 4TB version of G-Drive USB is the family’s sweet spot, which is the reason I purchased it over the 2TB, 3TB, and 6TB models. It’s faster and higher-capacity than the Firewire 800 G-Drives it replaced in my office, yet also smaller, less expensive, and quieter — not silent, but whisper-quiet, with half the sound of prior G-Drives. Most importantly, I’ve never had an issue with the reliability of any G-Drive I’ve owned; the units I purchased eight years ago still work after being used for everything from backups to file storage. As Mac accessories go, G-Drive USB is as highly recommended as they come — my personal Mac accessory of the year, and a great entry point into professional-grade backup and storage solutions.