ADAM GARSTONE reviews one of the first RAIDs with just a Thunderbolt I/O on them and finds speed in a sturdy package.
G-Technology have carved an enviable niche in the post-production world. A combination of high reliability and sturdy construction make them attractive, even if they aren’t, perhaps, the most feature rich or even the fastest drives around.
Their latest product is a version of their G-RAID with Thunderbolt interfaces (only), rather than the existing product’s triple 3Gb eSATA, Firewire 800 and USB 2. 4TB, 6TB or 8TB units are available, preconfigured as RAID 0 (for speed) and formatted HFS+ for the Mac. You can reconfigure them in software as RAID 1 (for reliability) or, of course, format them for PC should you require.
Thunderbolt is gaining a lot of traction in the post world. All new Macs have it as standard, of course, and third party I/O manufacturers, like Blackmagic and AJA, are releasing startlingly able products with the interface, so the G-RAID makes a lot of sense. Thunderbolt allows you to daisy-chain devices together, so you can imagine editing in the field with a MacBook Pro, a Blackmagic Design UltraStudio 3D for video I/O and the G-RAID.
The unit itself is as sturdy as you would expect from G-Technology, being built from heavy gauge aluminium. It has a small, temperature controlled fan but isn’t overly loud, even with a couple of 7200rpm drives spinning round in there. I’m not so fond of the external power supply, or the hideous Thunderbolt logo glued to the front (sorry, Intel) but they’re tiny complaints – and, at least, an external PSU is easy to replace. One caveat though – there isn’t a Thunderbolt cable supplied in the box.
Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test showed sustained write performance of 274MBytes/s and read of over 275MBytes/s. The old unit would just about manage somewhere near that over eSATA (which has a theoretical maximum of 300GBytes/s), but it’s streets ahead of USB or Firewire 800 (and remember that Thunderbolt is standard on new MacBook Pros). This throughput equates to 2.2Gbits/s, or about ¼ of the Thunderbolt maximum, so you still have plenty of bandwidth left for video I/O. The G-RAID uses SATA II discs internally, each of which gives maximum of 2.4Gbits/s of real data – in RAID 0 they are being written to (sort of) simultaneously, so the internal theoretical maximum would be 4.8Gbits/s – so it looks like the transfer rate is limited by the disc media, not the interfaces. It’s pretty fast though.
The 4TB drive is about £445 plus VAT online, 6TB is £539 and 8TB £635. The G-RAID with Thunderbolt is fast, reliable (remember that RAID 0 is less reliable than a single drive, but they come with a 3 year warrantee) and good value for money.