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G-Technology G-RAID with Thunderbolt 8TB review

Big storage and hyper-fast connectivity combine in the 8TB G-Technology G-RAID with Thunderbolt.


| PC Advisor |


G-Technology majors on building external storage products in premium enclosures. The G-Raid is one such product, a smart aluminium unit closely modelled on the now-classic Power Mac and Mac Pro design, replete with wraparound aluminium sheet cover, and perforated ends and sides. Now the G-Raid is available with the world’s fastest interface for desktop computing: Thunderbolt.


As the name betrays, the G-Raid contains more than one disk – two, in fact – that can be configured in a RAID format to increase either speed or reliability.

Best performance is available by setting up in RAID 0, where data is striped between the two disks. This provides storage capacity that is the sum of the two disks inside. We reviewed the unit branded ‘8TB’, which includes two of the very latest 4TB 3.5in SATA disks. 

You can also find it in 4TB and 6TB versions, which include a pair of 2TB and 3TB disks respectively. Disks are sourced from Hitachi, perhaps unsurprising given that G-Technology is now a subsidary company of Hitachi GST.

Unlike some professional storage products, including G-Technology’s own earlier eSATA/FireWire 800 version of the G-Raid, the G-Raid with Thunderbolt includes no built-in hardware RAID controller. Instead, the volume configuration is set in software, using OS X’s Disk Utility.

Our sample was ready configured for RAID 0 out of the box. Setup thus, you can expect the very best performance, even as the disks become full, at the expense of any data security. If one of the two disks should fail, you’ll lose all your data. 

An alternative is RAID 1, which effectively mirrors data between disks. This provides the best security against data loss, although total storage is now only equal to the capacity of one single disk.


Build quality is superb, a fitting tribute to Apple’s original industrial design. From the front, a white LED glows to indicate power. And just to remind you of its calibre, a blue-and white trademark Intel flash symbol brands the drive with its Thunderbolt interface.

Around the back, we find a DC power socket for the external mains adaptor, an Apple-like stainless-steel On switch, Kensington lock slot – and the all-important Thunderbolt interface. There are two Thunderbolt ports, an important asset to allow the G-Raid to sit in the middle of a chain of Thunderbolt devices.

Lacking from the drive are any legacy ports to allow use with USB or FireWire-equipped Macs. Ownership of this drive is a commitment to the Thunderbolt connection.

Unlike the single-disk versions of G-Technology’s drives, this double-stacked unit also adds a small diameter cooling fan to keep the disks from overheating. In use, this ran relatively quietly and didn’t intrude above the sound of the disks themselves. And despite their high-spec 7200rpm rating, even the Hitachi Deskstar 4TB drives inside were not conspicuously noisy.


As a performance piece of machinery, we tested the G-Raid with Thunderbolt in its default state of RAID 0. And here, it delivered all we could hope of a two-drive hard-disk solution. More than we’d expected, in truth.

As the host Mac may have some influence on the performance of software RAID setups, we used highly specified computers for testing: Apple MacBook Pro 13in (Early 2011) 2.7GHz Core i7 with Corsair 256GB SSD and 8GB high-speed 1866MHz Corsair RAM; and a quad-core MacBook Pro 15in (Early 2011) 2.2GHz Core i7.

Measured first with a range of file sizes from 4kB to 100MB, we saw peak sequential transfer speeds reach as high as 523 MB/s (tested with 1MB data). Sequential writes were a little slower generally, peaking at 402 MB/s for 7MB-sized data, but write transfers from 2MB-10MB averaged at 360 MB/s.

Averaged across file sizes of 20MB to 100MB, the G-Raid measured 286 MB/s for reading, and 276 MB/s for writing.

At the small-file level (4kB-1024kB) with random seeking, where most forms of storage perform at their slowest, the G-Raid averaged 32 MB/s for random reads, and 49 MB/s for random writes.

These results really exceeded expectation. With any transfers that exceeded around 150 MB/s – the speed of a cutting-edge 3.5in SATA hard disk – we really started to see the powerful contribution of the RAID configuration.

Verdict

Relatively quiet in use, the G-Technology G-Raid with Thunderbolt still proved to be a powerhouse in both capacity and performance. With that huge 8TB of storage on offer, accessible at the speed of a second-generation SATA SSD, the G-Raid offers size and speed that should satisfy just about any media professional.

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