External storage may have become commoditised to the point where you can buy hard drives in the supermarket, but higher quality and performance solutions are still available for discerning users.
From G-Technology, now part of Hitachi, we have a perfect example. A hugely capacious 2TB hard drive that offers an unmatched range of high-speed connection options, namely eSATA, FireWire 800 (backwards compatible to original FireWire 400), and USB 2.0. It's elegantly styled and superbly finished in precision-crafted aluminium.
The style of the G-Technology G-Drive 2TB unashamedly follows that of Apple's Mac Pro desktop PCs, with a folded metal chassis in natural satin metal, replete with the same perforations. Like the Macs it blends itself with, this is form-follows-function styling for essential ventilation and cooling; but the G-Drive goes a step further in a bid to forsake extra cooling fans.
The hard disk inside is securely clamped to a sub-assembly that sports a healthy sized finned heatsink, visible from below. After several hours of heavy and continuous read/write action, we found the G-Technology G-Drive 2TB case barely got warm to the touch.
Before we pore over the G-Technology G-Drive 2TB's performance, we found one minor issue that may trouble you, depending on your sensibiliites. We envisage this drive being used on the desk by video or design professionals, who may be untroubled by a modicum of residual noise.
But in spite of the laudable fan-less design, the low-level vibration of a 7200rpm 3.5in disk was being all-too effectively passed through the stiff chassis. This thrumming resonance may well be just a tad too intrusive, for example to allow the drive to sit in the lounge as part of a home media hub. Some compliant suspension may have helped here to acoustically isolate the disk from the casework.
With three connection standards on the G-Technology G-Drive 2TB to choose from, USB 2.0 was unsurprisingly the weakest option. Comparable to a pocket USB hard drive here, it had read/write speeds of 27.4MB/s and 20MB/s respectively.
FireWire 800 has been the fastest hot-swappable data bus until very recently, and the G-Drive proved pretty quick here, averaging a 62.6MB/s read speed, but a more pedestrian write speed average of just 25MB/s - not a great deal faster than USB 2.0 in this respect.
Which leaves the real champion of speed, eSATA, an external-drive tailored version of the SATA bus that wires up hard disks inside a modern computer.
Keeping with the HDTach benchmark tool in Windows 7, the headline news is a 95MB/s average read speed (and a terrific burst capability up to 160MB/s), while writing was at a still-impressive 82.5MB/s.
The intrinsic random access seek time of the fitted hard disk was 13.3ms, and FireWire 800 showed the lowest CPU usage with a 3% miniumum.
We’re just starting to see USB 3.0 drives appear now, but very few PCs and no laptops are currently able to take advantage of the new standard. So for now, if you need your desktop storage fast, stylish and bombproof, look no further than the G-Technology G-Drive 2TB. A quieter disk mount and faster FireWire write speed would have been welcome, but for most users this versatile unit should prove the ultimate high-capacity non-RAID external drive.