In the FCP.co office we were looking at storage options as our new Macs all have Thunderbolt ports. When we found out there was over 30% off the G-Technology G-Raid 8 Terabyte Thunderbolt Drive, the credit card didn't stay in the wallet for long!
Thunderbolt storage blows the rest of the competition away. The speed, and ease of use make it a requirement on any fast peripheral, not just hard drives. So when we started to look for more storage in the office we were certain that whatever we bought, it must have that little connector with the lightning bolt on the back.
We looked at the Pegasus R4 which has been the favourite of others, but we wanted something more portable as the drive had to be easily transported off to shoots and other locations for editing.
A quick Amazon search brought up the usual list of suspects such as LaCie, Western Digital and G-Tech as you would expect. We already own a few 2TB G-Technology (Owned by Hitachi) Firewire drives and they have been very robust and not let us down. Having lost the packing boxes, (The cleaner took them by mistake) had the units travel the globe and leaving them in the car overnight in freezing conditions, we didn't need to be convinced about the quality of their drives.
What did shock us was the price. In the UK, the RRP for the 8TB Thunderbolt drive is £788.99. On the UK Amazon Store they are currently offering the drive at a 32% discount at £536.89. Looks like other people think this is a good deal too as the delivery date is a lot longer than the 24 hours it took for our unit to arrive.
Over on the Amazon Store in the US, the 8TB model is selling for $706.99 or a saving of 12% on the list price of $799.95. Which by our basic maths makes it an even better deal than we get this side of the pond!
So having been very pleased at picking the 8TB model up at such a good price, we thought we would test it against the 2TB Firewire 800 & eSATA versions we've had for a few years. We have never used the eSATA connection on the previous model as the drives have been used either with a MacBookPro or a MacPro without an eSATA board installed.
As you can see the Thunderbolt model has the same style, width and depth of the older model but is taller. It feels heavier too although not by much. You would be able to carry this in a bag through airport security but as we have found out, it will get the contents of your bags hand searched every time. The Thunderbolt badge on the top right instantly distinguishes the connectivity differences hiding round the back.
Round the back, the news is what isn't there. On the new Thunderbolt drive, that is all the connectivity you get. No USB, Firewire or eSATA although this can easily be connected to non-Thunderbolt devices with Apple converters. There is of course no Thunderbolt cable in the box, you will have to buy that separately. Amazon does give you the option of buying both together.
On the back as well are a power input, the power button, a security slot and of course a second Thunderbolt port so you can chain devices together.
It might seem a bit petty, but using the same power brick for all models is a very sensible idea. The brick is exactly the same model for both the Firewire & Thunderbolt drives. When you have more than one drive and you have to make sure the right power adaptor goes back in the right box... We have all been there!
This brick works on 100 to 240v, but we are not sure if you will get the same model if you buy the drive in the US.
So how did the unit fare? As you would expect, the unit worked right out of the box. It is already formatted for OSX so all you need to do is rename the drive should you wish.
The unit contains two 7200 RPM drives in a RAID0 configuration which means if one drive should fail, all the data would be lost. This drive will get compared to more expensive RAID5 drives such as the Pegasus R4, but you could buy two of the G-Raids for the same price with money left over.
And onto the speed. We searched and searched online for somebody to have run the BlackMagic Design or AJA speed test on this unit and we couldn't find anything. So let's put that right.
As a benchmark we started off testing the 2TB G-Raid with a Firewire connection.
Hardly stunning, the drive will just about manage two streams of 1080 ProRes, but we didn't expect much over Firewire 800.
Onto the G-Raid 8TB Thunderbolt.
A pretty healthy 300 MB/s read/write which in theory would do up to 10 streams of 1080. More than enough for a portable drive! With only two drives in the unit, we are not seeing the faster speeds that that the Pegasus R4 can produce, but this is a different type of unit. It is smaller and a lot cheaper and with reference to the R4, it has a larger capacity as it doesn't suffer the space lost due to the RAID setup. If you want more speed, RAID5 and slightly more space, go for the Pegasus R6.
So our conclusions? We think this model has hit a real sweet spot on price, space and performance. The unit went out the day after it arrived onto a shoot where it was connected all day to a Retina MacBook Pro. We ingested C300 media into Final Cut Pro X (optimising as well) at the same time as making Camera Archives and the drive never even stuttered.
The drive runs a lot quieter than the previous model, but that may be down to the new larger more efficient drives. How comfortable are we running RAID0? We have owned most makes of drive in the past, LaCie, Western Digital e.t.c and they have all failed at one point in time. We have just heard about one unfortunate company who lost a lot of data when their Drobo decided not to wake up in the morning. If your data is that important to you, then the only safe way of protecting it is to have two copies on separate drives.
Impressed? Yes we are. In fact we are looking to purchase another one as soon as the waiting time on Amazon comes down.
If we ran a rating system, it would get five clapperboards out of five.