G-Technology G-RAID Mini Review

External USB 3 hard drives are pretty common these days and GNC has reviewed several models in the past. However, this is the first portable RAID unit that I’ve had on my desk. On show here is the G-Technology G-RAID mini and with a pair of 2.5″ drives, the G-RAID mini offers a choice of RAID 0 or RAID 1 in a very attractive silvery metal case.  Let’s take a look.

G-RAID mini Shadow

The G-RAID mini comes in the usual blue and white G-Technology packaging and in the box is the unit itself, a power supply, a travel case, a Firewire 400-to-800 cable, a Firewire 800 cable  and a USB3 cable. The travel case isn’t anything to write home about but it’s good to have the full range of cables. The G-RAID mini weighs in at just under a 1 kg so it’s pretty hefty but this an all metal case – there’s no cheap plastic here. It’s also surprisingly small at only 149 x 83 x 38 mm, as you’ll see from the ruler below. Overall, it’s a solid, well-built unit.

G-RAID mini Front

Looking over the unit, round the back are a USB 3 port, two Firewire 800 ports and the DC in jack. On the underside, there’s a cooling fan and on the front, there’s white LED in the G-Technology logo, which flashes with disk access. There’s a hidden “drive failure” LED which goes red if a drive dies, but you’ll see the LED flicker when the mini powers up. The G-RAID mini needs supplementary power from the PSU when connected up via USB, but it’s not need when the Firewire ports are used.

G-RAID mini Rear

RAID ConfigThe G-RAID mini can be configured either as RAID 0 with both drives contributing to one large logical volume or else as RAID 1 with the drives mirroring each other. There’s a simple configuration tool that let’s you chose which it’s going to be. Changing the RAID level completely erases the drive so it’s best to decide early what configuration you want.

The utility is available for Windows and Mac, but once the G-RAID mini is setup, it works as any device that understands USB storage, e.g. Linux boxes or Chromebooks.

So that’s the basics out the way. What’s the performance like? I ran through my usual selection of tests with hdparm, dd and bonnie++ in both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations. Remember, while these tests are indicative of performance, they are for my setup only.

RAID 0 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read)  155 MB/s  33 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write)  178 MB/s  37 MB/s 22 MB/s
bonnie++ (write)  173 MB/s  37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read)  171 MB/s  49 MB/s 55 MB/s

 

RAID 1 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read) 126 MB/s 32 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write) 117 MB/s 38 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (write) 114 MB/s 37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read) 154 MB/s 51 MB/s 53 MB/s

In either configuration, the G-RAID mini is fast, especially when connected up via USB 3 in RAID 0. Looking at the data, it’s clear that at USB2 and Firewire 400 speeds, there’s no performance difference between RAID 0 and RAID 1. Simplistically the data connection rate is the limiting factor.

However, with USB3 bonnie shows that write speeds fall by a third in the RAID 1 configuration, with reading affected by only a 10% fall. This is not unexpected as extra work is required to write the data in a mirror setup. Regardless, it’s still 3 times faster than USB2.

In summary, the G-RAID mini is an ideal companion for power users with the latest ultrabooks or MacBook Pros where performance is matched to good looks. It’s not cheap with an on-line price of around £275 for the 2 TB version but the protection against single drive failure will be important to those with high profile or travelling roles where having the data available is crucial. The G-RAID mini is an attractive and well-built unit with great performance and it will appeal to both those who need either high-performance or protection against drive failure.

Buffalo Claim Fastest USB 3 Drive

Buffalo LogoThe folks over at Buffalo Technology have announced a screamingly fast external drive, the DriveStation DDR. By adding a 1 GB DDR3 cache to a standard SATA drive, they’ve created a USB3 hard drive with SSD transfer rates. Write speeds are doubled from around 170 MB/s to over 400 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book, and read speeds are similarly improved.

DriveStationDDR

 

Obviously, the benefits of the cache aren’t so clear with large data transfers but the greatest use of external hard drives is storing photos or music files and these are typically MBs rather than GBs in size. Consequently, these kinds of files are ideal for the fast data transfer rate of the DriveStation DDR. Think about transferring your latest photos from your camera to the DriveStation DDR – it’s ideal.

Prices are on a par with standard external hard drives with MSRPs of £129 for the 2 TB version and £169 for 3 TB, which isn’t bad. Compatible with all OSes that support USB 3 and there’s no need for any special drivers. The full specs are here.

Geek News Central expects to get a review unit soon, so I’ll be putting the DriveStation DDR through its paces shortly.

Dropbox makes sharing files a bit easier

Dropbox is perhaps the most widely-known and popular cloud storage service on the market though it is far from the only option. It faces stiff competition from the likes of Box, SkyDrive, Google, Amazon and others. In an effort to stay in front, the company has been releasing regular feature updates, and today brings the latest of those.

The new sharing feature brings — now when you want to share a link to any doc, photo, folder, or any of your stuff in Dropbox, just right-click it, and select “Share Dropbox Link”.

dropbox share option

The new context menu displays an option for “Share Dropbox Link”.  Just Control-v or Command-v to paste your link wherever you want, and you’re good to go.

The update is quick and easy. Nothing complicated here, but it is a big edition in its own way. Is ti enough to keep the service ahead of its closest rivals? That remains to be seen.

Flickr Offers a Free Terabyte of Space

Flickr LogoFlickr looks a lot different today than how it used to. Yahoo! (which owns Flickr) has given Flickr a makeover that includes a brand new design. What once showed you small thumbnails of photos, with a lot of white, empty, space surrounding them, now features the photos much more prominently.

To me, it seems like Flickr’s new look resembles that of Facebook, or perhaps Pinterest. The photos are bigger, filling up the screen. Users now have a homepage that includes an activity feed that combines your friends’ recent uploads with the activity on the photos that you have uploaded. I wasn’t thrilled with the new design at first, because it takes me a long time to “re-learn” how to use social media when it visually changes. Eventually, I figure the new design will grow on me.

In addition to the very obvious design change, Flickr also announced that users will get a free terabyte of space. Their blog says:

At Flickr, we believe you should share all your images in full resolution, so life’s moments can be relived in their original quality. No limited pixels, no cramped formats, no memories that fall flat. We’re giving your photos room to breathe, and you the space to upload a dizzying number of photos and videos, for free. Just how big is a terabyte? Well, you could take a photo every hour for forty years without filling one.

In December of 2012, Flickr released a Flickr iPhone app. Today, it announces the release of the Flickr app for Android users, which can be found at the Google Play store.

Copy: Cloud Storage for All Your Files

CopyCopy a competitor to Dropbox became available to the public today. It allows you to upload your files to the Barracuda Network cloud, where you can access them from any device that you have installed the Copy application on. It will work on most platforms including Macs, Windows, Linux, iOs and Android. According to their press release Windows Mobile is coming soon. Files can either be shared publicly or privately thru an invite. The person sharing the files controls what the person receiving the shared file can do with them, whether they can just view them or actually edit to the files.

Currently you receive fifteen GB of free storage by signing up and another five GB when you down load a desktop version of the application. You can also get another two GB by sharing on Twitter. For $9.99/month or $14.99 a month you can buy two hundred and fifty GB or five hundred GB of cloud storage. They also have options specifically created for businesses. You can upload any type of file you want, text, audio and even 1080 videos. You simply drag the file or folder into the Copy of Folder or any of it’s subfolders you create. On my iPad and Android phone Copy organizes your recently modified files into different categories, so you can view just image files,  just text files or just video files. If you share a file publicly from Copy and it is in violation of the DCMA, Barracuda Network will respond to any DCMA takedown.

On an Android device I was able to upload any file, however on the iPad I could only upload images . I expect this was because of Apple’s sandboxing policy. I was able to upload a text file from the application Draft by using the open with option. Other applications do not have this option and they will have to allow Copy to have access to them like they do Dropbox. Copy does have API documentation available for developer who want to build applications that integrate with the Copy platform, it is currently in beta. Another problem is the only way to lockdown Copy is to log out of the account. There needs to be a pin to lock it down without having to log out. This addition would be especially important if Copy is to be used to store sensitive information.  Despite these complaints I do recommend trying Copy, especially if you are looking for some more free cloud storage.

 

G-Technology G-Drive Mobile Review

On review today is the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile, a 1 TB mobile external hard drive. Aimed squarely at the Apple MacBook crowd, the brushed aluminium finish and white LED compliments the host machine, and the combination of both USB3 and FireWire 800 show its Mac heritage. Of course the drive can be formatted for Windows or Linux use but the G-Drive is pre-formatted for HFS+ and is TimeMachine-compatible. As expected, the G-Drive is bus powered so there’s no power adaptor.

G-Drive Mobile

 

G-Drive Mobile Ports

The G-Drive Mobile has a couple of touches that set it apart from the other mobile drive offerings. To start with, it comes with all the cables that might be needed, so in the box there’s a USB3 cable, a FireWire 800 cable and a FireWire 400 to 800 cable. There’s no getting the box home only to find the cable need for your setup is missing.

G Drive Mobile Cables

Second, the packaging presents the G-Drive to best effect and the “Getting Started” instructions are printed on the inside  lid of the box. Again, it comes back to appealing to the Apple crowd who expect good design.

G-Drive Package

But enough of how it looks. How does it go? Pretty well actually. Connected up to USB 3, the G-Drive Mobile recorded the following data rates:

– hdparm gave 107 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 105 MB/s.
- bonnie++ gave 104 MB/s for writes and 141 MB/s for reads.

I’m fairly sure that those figures make G-Drive Mobile the fastest USB3 unit tested, beating the previous holder by a considerable margin. Under FireWire 400, the figures were obviously slower, but are provided here for comparison.

– hdparm gave 36 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 22 MB/s.
– bonnie++ gave 22 MB/s for writes and 55 MB/s for reads.

Price-wise, the model here costs £129.95 but if you want USB3 only, there’s a much sleeker and cheaper version at £109.95 in the Apple store. However, if you need FireWire with USB3, the model viewed above is hard to beat, giving historical compatibility with older gear while also offering fast data transfers on newer kit.

Thanks to G-Technology for providing the G-Drive Mobile to review.

MVB Disko USB File Transfer

MVB DiskoThe Disko from MVB solves that irritating problem when you have a USB memory stick, your friend has a USB memory stick, you want to share some files, but there’s no laptop or PC to make the transfer. Andy finds a solution to this problem and gets a demo of the Disko from Daniel.

Plug a USB memory stick into the Disko and you can browse the stick’s filesystem to find the files that you want to pass on. Once found, copy the files into the Disko’s internal memory and then swap the memory sticks before copying the files back out of the internal memory to the next memory stick.

The Disko also has a built-in mp3 player and FM tuner, making it a pretty handy gadget.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News for the Tech Podcast Network.

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Buffalo Launches Thunderbolt Portable SSD

Buffalo LogoFollowing on from GNC’s review of the MiniStation Air earlier this month, Buffalo have a launched the MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD. As you might guess from the name, it’s a portable SSD with a Thunderbolt connection so it’s ideal for connecting up with Apple Macs.

Combining the SSD with Thunderbolt, the MiniStation has a read performance of more than 370 MB/s and a write performance that exceeds 250 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book. And I think those are Bytes and not bits. PC users aren’t left out with a USB 3.0 connection too, though it’s not as fast as the Thunderbolt connections.

MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD

Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo, said: “The MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD combines a highly robust and aesthetically pleasing design with exceptionally fast data transfer speed. We have seen how Thunderbolt hard drives have transformed the available speed for read and write to storage devices, but with the additional of SSD in the Buffalo range, the speed stakes are raised again providing astounding performance.

The drive is bus-powered and will be available in two storage sizes, at a recommended price of £229.99 for the 128 GB product and £349.99 for the 256 GB version. There’s a .pdf spec sheet here.

Hopefully GNC will be bringing you a review of the MiniStation Thunderbold SSD in the not-too-distant future.

Buffalo MiniStation Air Review

Buffalo LogoThe Buffalo MiniStation Air is “wireless streaming storage” for smartphones and tablets that provides 500 GB of extra space. Simply, it’s a 500 GB portable hard drive with wifi and complementary apps for Android and iOS. The idea is that the MiniStation Air connects to your PC or laptop via USB 3 and gets loaded up with stacks of music and video which can then be played via an app when out-and-about. It’s a great idea, but how does it stack up against “the cloud” and other solutions such as Pogoplug? Let’s find out.

Buffalo MiniStation Air Box

The MiniStation Air itself is a small black and grey unit, 130 x 84 x 23 mm. The top is a polished black surface with four pinprick status LEDs embedded in it and the sides and bottom are a silvery-grey with buttons and connectors on two of the sides.

Buffalo MiniStation Air

This is a USB 3.0 device which is immediately apparently from the shape of the connector. (Apologies for using stock photos but my own photos were all rubbish).

Buffalo MiniStation Air USB3

Connecting the MiniStation Air to the PC was simply a case of plugging it in with the device appearing as a removable drive. Copying media files took no time at all thanks to the USB 3 connection. It works with USB 2 as well, things just take a bit longer.

Once the Air is loaded up, it can be disconnected from the PC and then powered up on its own. At this point, the MiniStation Air is broadcasting a wifi signal (802.11n/g/b) and it’s easy to connect to it using the SSID and passkey details provided on the bottom of the Air.

Browsing the MiniStation Air

To get the MiniStation Air to work fully with smartphones and tablets, Buffalo provide an app for both Android and iOS which can be downloaded from the application app store. I was only able to test out the Android version, but once installed, it’s easy to browse the files and folders on the Air.

Music PlayerPlaying music or watching videos is just a case of tapping on the file. Photos and music are handled within the app, but videos are handed over to the default video player on the device. Movies started up within a couple of seconds (if that) and music started almost instantly. The music player is basic and as with many of these devices, doesn’t correctly pick up track tags, so albums are arranged alphabetically rather than in track order.

There isn’t a full “HD” app for the tablets, but there is some differentiation between tablets and smartphones. For example, on a tablet, pictures are previewed alongside the folder but this doesn’t happen on a smartphone, even when rotated to landscape. However, the four expanding arrows in the toolbar at the bottom shows that this isn’t a native tablet app.

Tablet Preview

The Edit part of the app allows files to be up- and downloaded from the MiniStation Air. It’s the usual check-box / select operation affair but for the small numbers of files that are likely to be transferred this way, it’s fine.

The Settings area provides access to the SSID and passkey plus other details such as hostname and workgroup. Nothing particularly unexpected here but the MiniStation Air has one last trick up its sleeve. The Air can be connected to another wifi network, preferably one that has a connection to the Internet. This means that although the smartphone is connected to the Air’s wifi, an onward connection to the Internet is provided for other queries or web surfing while listening to music. It’s pretty slick and very handy. It’s also something Buffalo should make a bit more obvious.

Performance-wise, it says that the Air can support eight simultaneous connections with three HD streams. I tested two HD simultaneous streams and it worked flawlessly. Battery life is claimed to be “up to 4 hours” and I wouldn’t disagree – I saw over three hours with a mix of video and music. The Air is powered and recharged via USB so it’s easy enough to hook it up for extended operation.

Any problems? Not really. A couple of wishes, though. First, a Windows / Mac app to use the MiniStation Air wirelessly would be good. Second, some kind of security on the device would be handy as being portable, it’s going to be awfully easy to lose. Finally, an SSD version with longer battery life but perhaps less storage would be interesting but probably too expensive to be considered.

Overall, the MiniStation Air is a good product that will appeal to those smartphone and tablet users who need more-than-average storage…much more than average. The Air is available now from all good retailers with a street price of £100-£120.

The MiniStation Air app was tested on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone and a Motorola Xoom 2 ME tablet.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the MiniStation Air.

 

ioSafe Announces “Disaster-Proof” NAS Device

Having a NAS (network attached storage) device in your home is a smart solution for backup, but it’s far from all you need.  Obviously, in the event of a disaster like fire or flood, not only can your home computers be wiped out, but in-home backup will be gone along with it.  Now ioSafe is looking to solve that problem with a new piece of hardware that is being billed as “disaster-proof”.

The ioSafe N2 is both fire and water-proof storage for the home and small business.  The hardware can store up to 8 terabytes of content, contains a 2 GHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0, SD memory card slot, provides local and remote access and can be used as a media server and email server.

The product is being brought to market via a crowd-funding site called Indiegogo.  “Interesting point to note: the NAS project is to be funded via crowd-funding site Indiegogo. ioSafe is a small, 20-person company and this will help with the costs of bringing the product to market.”

To find out more, you can head over to ioSafe.  I still recommend a second, cloud-based, storage solution for a fail-safe, but you can certainly rest a bit easier with the ioSafe N2 in your home or office.