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.

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.

Buffalo MiniStation Air

Buffalo LogoStoring data in the cloud for access anywhere is certainly popular, but there are times when it’s better to have the your own data in your own sticky paws. Buffalo‘s new 500GB MiniStation Air gives the best of both worlds, with wireless 11n access from smartphones and tablets in a pocketable form-factor; it’s only 84 x 23 x 130 mm.

The 500 GB drive has plenty of storage for films and music which can be quickly uploaded to the unit thanks to the USB 3.0 connection. Up to three clients can connect to the MiniStation Air at the same time and each is able to stream their own media selection. The internal battery gives around 4 hours use and it can be charged via USB or a mains adaptor. Looks pretty cool too.

Buffalo MiniStation Air

Paul Hudson, Sales Director Northern Europe at Buffalo, said, “In 2011 the global smartphone and tablet market surpassed the PC market for the first time, with 448 million smartphone sales and tablet sales compared to 415 million PC sales. Despite this, there remains a very limited storage capacity for these devices compared to that for PCs. Users who want to watch movies or listen to music that is stored on their PC can now access it wirelessly on the go by syncing their mobile or tablet device up to the MiniStation Air.

Smartphone and tablet clients are available for both iOS and Android. Although I don’t have a MiniStation Air to hand, I downloaded the Android app and had a look. At first glance, the app seems a great deal better than some of Buffalo’s earlier efforts.

The Buffalo MiniStation Air will be on sale shortly in the UK for £119.99.

 

Buffalo DriveStation Velocity Review

Buffalo LogoThe Buffalo DriveStation Velocity is a 2 TB USB 3 external drive, and given the size and the interface, it’s aimed at people who want lots of data and want it quickly. Let’s get the external features of the device out of the way and then check how quick it is.

In the box, there’s only the drive, the power supply, USB 3 cable and the usual paper flimsies for getting started and warranty. There is no driver CD as the files are all on the disk, but more on this later. The drive housing itself is black plastic, with a matte finish on the larger sides and glossy piano black on the thinner side, with a disk activity light that glows blue when on USB3 and green on USB2. The unit can either stand upright or be laid on its side and stacked: I couldn’t decide what orientation I preferred but it seemed to spend most of its time lying down.

Buffalo DriveStation Velocity

Round the back it’s fairly sparse with a USB3 connector, power socket and Kensington lock socket. Observant readers will also spot that there’s no fan so the Velocity runs quietly with only the hum of the hard drive itself, possibly making this a good choice for the living room.  Even while the disk was being thrashed during the read and write tests, the case never got more than lukewarm.

Buffalo DriveStation Velocity Rear

Time for the speed tests. Connected up to USB 3, the Velocity recorded the following data rates:
– hdparm gave 133 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 92 MB/s.
- bonnie++ gave 75 MB/s for writes and 137 MB/s for reads.

Under USB 2, the figures were obviously slower but still fine for a USB 2 device.
– hdparm gave 32 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 37 MB/s.
– bonnie++ gave 33 MB/s for writes and 38 MB/s for reads.

Wow! The read speed of 137 MB/s makes the DriveStation Velocity the fastest single USB3 unit that Geek News Central has tested, which is pretty impressive.

As mentioned earlier, the driver and utility software comes installed on the disk rather than on a CD. Generally, this is great and cuts down on CD-waste, but it would be wise to take a copy of the software in case the disk needs to be re-formatted…

…which brings us to the included utility for whole disk encryption. It’s very handy for keeping your data from falling into the wrong hands in the event of theft or other loss, but the utility completely erases the disk as part of the encryption process! So it seems to me that there’s a bit of a problem here for a drive that includes encryption as a feature but then deletes the utility off the disk as step number one. There either needs to be a CD in the box or else the encryption utility needs to make a backup copy of the software locally.

Other than this small issue, I liked the Velocity. I had no trouble getting it to work, the styling was satisfactory and it performed well. In summary, if you need a quiet drive with lots of space and great transfer rates, then put the DriveStation Velocity on your shortlist. Just remember to copy the drivers and utilities off the disk before enabling encryption.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the DriveStation Velocity.

Buffalo Gets Extreme

Buffalo Technology has announced the launch of the MiniStation Extreme, a ruggedised USB3 portable hard drive. Conforming to the US Military’s MIL-STD-810F 516.5 Procedure IV, the shock protection on this drive means that it will survive a fall from over 2 m or 6 ft.

Buffalo MiniStation Extreme Portable Hard Drive 

And if securing your data against physical damage isn’t enough, the MiniStation Extreme also comes with 256-bit AES whole/full disk encryption to prevent unauthorised access to your data. There’s an integrated USB3 cable which snaps in and out of the Extreme, keeping it all neat and tidy.

Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo Technology said, “The MiniStation Extreme is a prime example of Buffalo’s commitment to product innovation. This latest addition to the MiniStation family is ideal for globetrotters who travel with their PCs and portable HDDs and demand a robust, fast and secure high performance portable storage device. The MiniStation Extreme can withstand free-fall drops of up to 2.3m making it the most robust MiniStation ever.”

The MiniStation Extreme is available in 500 GB and 1 TB sizes at £78 and £113 respectively, and comes in piano black, silver and red. No white yet for the iPhiles.

Freecom iPad 2 Competition

Just a quickie….if you liked the sound of the Freecom Mobile Drive Mg that I reviewed recently and you need a further incentive to buy one, from 1 August to 31 October 2011, every 100th customer to buy and register a Mobile Drive Mg from either an Apple Store, an Apple Premium Reseller, the Apple Online Store or from the Freecom webshop will win an iPad 2. Freecom has created a registration page with details of how to get involved and the terms and conditions of the promotion.

D-Link Unveils Latest Network Products

Andy talks to Steve at D-Link’s pre-press event and gets a rapid-fire look at the latest offerings from the company, including

  • a wireless Powerline router, bundling three functions into a single device;
  • a wireless media router that will take SD cards or USB3 external drives for delivering HD content to media streamers or players;
  • a SmartBeam Wifi transmitter, a directional antenna that can focus the wireless signal to a particular device.
  • a wireless-n IP / Internet camera, integrated with the MyDLink portal, so you can view the picture from your PC, your smartphone, your tablet.

There’s further info on all these products and more at D-Link’s special CES website.

If you’ve not used Powerline (aka Homeplug), the technology converts your home’s electrical system into a data network, so it’s good for places where wireless coverage is poor. It’s very handy.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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