Most video professionals have either seen or at least know about G-Technology and the company's various hard drive and RAID systems. When
G-Tech announced that it was coming out with the G-DRIVE Slim, a diminutive USB-powered drive, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out because I had some special tasks I wanted to throw at it. We all know about the value of backing up, and any external hard drive can do that just fine. But for mobile professionals, an external drive can offer more functionality, and capability, than you might at first expect. Many pro video users are tower-based, but more and more laptops are getting enough desktop horsepower to make short work of HD material and editing with ease. A friend recently replaced his eight-core Mac Pro with a new Core i7 laptop, which was obviously easier to transport to location gigs, but it also ended up being considerably faster in compression and editing. What's not to love?
Well, the limitation of the single internal drive is one inherent shortcoming of editing with laptops, and our tendency to multitask with our mobile computers is another. I, for one, feel that clean installed setups are critical to optimum performance, and over time, systems get bogged down. With the ability to carry along a G-Tech external drive so easily for mobile production, I saw several opportunities:
• I could create a clean, working install of my base setup that I could reclone to my internal drive whenever things started to not work right.
• I could also create alternate installs for specific tasks: For instance, I used my laptop specifically for media wrangling and needed to directly access AVCHD, P2, XDCAM, and more to test footage coming off the cameras. Another job had me working with 4K RED for several days in a row. For optimum efficiency, I used a second partition for a clean install of core components and drivers specifically for this task.
• I could use my laptop as my main computer for other tasks at home. There, I have Roxio Toast set up to automatically download shows from my TiVo and leverage an external Elgato Turbo.264 to compress programs for my iPhone when I'm traveling. I can also use it for blogging and other tasks that seem to slow the computer down for video editing.
What's more, by partitioning the drive, I can separate these tasks and ensure that when I'm on location managing the client's footage, I have a clean, optimized system.
That was the theory, anyway. Here's what I found out about the G-DRIVE Slim in my testing.
The G-DRIVE Slim is simple enough. It's a small, USB-powered drive in a textured case that doesn't slip around on the table. For external mobile drives that I've had in the past, I've used an external case from Macally that has both USB and FireWire ports. But as the need for FireWire is diminishing, there's no real reason to use such a big case anymore. Soon enough, this will all be USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.
The cable that comes with the drive is 23" long-an average length for a drive of this sort, but I ended up wishing it were longer or shorter. When I went to stack the Slim on top of my other external peripherals, they were all further away than 23", so I had to bring them closer to neaten up my workspace. When I went to attach the drive to the lid of my laptop, I needed only a 6" cable, and 23" was way too much.
The real little issue I had with the Slim was a personal one: The LED power/activity light is on the back, where the cable plugs in, instead of on the front, where most drives have a clean face. So while the rest of my drives were happily informing me of their activity with all their cables tucked away behind the stack, the G-DRIVE Slim's LED was blinking away in the back, where I couldn't see it. Again, this could be a nonissue for many, but it bugged me.
As for noise, I had the drive right next to my work laptop, which I use in very quiet office rooms, and I found that I had to focus my attention to hear it. It's basically inaudible when it comes to drive noise, even at less than a foot away from my ear with the laptop's fans off. If there is any activity or video editing going on in the room, you'll never know the Slim is there.
I've used the G-DRIVE Slim for a good month as both an alternative startup drive and as a backup to my primary drive when undergoing the ever-insistent system updates. In both scenarios, it performed well, and I've felt better overall knowing that my primary operating setup was either not disturbed by the special needs of a job or safely backed up on the G-DRIVE Slim. This way, if I suddenly started having all kinds of issues with software or crashing, I could easily boot from the backup and reclone my internal drive back from the external.
What is the value of a backup? What is the value of peace of mind?
In terms of performance, the G-DRIVE Slim performed adequately. It was hampered only by the now-pokey high-speed USB 2.0 throughput. Read speed is 38MB/sec (megabytes per second). Write speed is 28MB/sec. My internal laptop's 1.5Gbps (gigabits per second) SATA drive tops out at about 55MB/sec., read and write speeds, so performance over USB isn't too sluggish for me. If you're equipped with a speedy internal solid-state drive, you'll definitely notice a slowdown when using USB 2.0.
But in terms of what you expect from a backup drive-getting you back up and running quickly—it's still plenty faster than digging out all the install DVDs and going through the software updates over the internet again.
At $80 MSRP, the 320GB G-DRIVE Slim is a good value. It's not the cheapest USB drive you can buy, but you have a solid company such as G-Technology standing behind it, and that should give you additional peace of mind.
Anthony Burokas (VidPro at ieba.com) of IEBA Communications has shot award-winning corporate video internationally and recorded events since the days of 3/4" tape. He is currently technical director for the PBS series Flavors of America and resides just outside of Dallas.