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August 2014
Issue: June 1, 2014

Review: G-Technology's G-Dock ev with Thunderbolt

By: Brady Betzel
MANUFACTURER: G-Technology

PRODUCT: G-Dock ev with Thunderbolt

PRICE: $649.95/2TBs

WEBSITE: www.g-technology.com

- dual Thunderbolt interface 
- already configured in a JBOD RAID
- ships with two 1TB hard drives

Right off the bat, I’m going to say that this external hard drive setup is exactly what every production needs. Almost every show I have worked on snail mails the footage, checks and backs up the footage (hopefully), and finally sends the footage back to the mother ship to be ingested and edited. If all goes according to plan, you should have at least one if not two backups in different locations in case of a disaster, and the ability to transfer your footage to your NLE storage of choice.
 
G-Technology apparently saw that no one was really taking advantage of this workflow and created their own with a new approach in the G-Dock ev with Thunderbolt, a member of their Evolution series of drives. The G-Dock ev with Thunderbolt is an external storage device that ships with removable hard drive modules that can work standalone by way of a USB 3.0 interface or Thunderbolt when docked. 



On the outside, the G-Dock ev with Thunderbolt ships in G-Technology’s classic brushed aluminum case, with dual external Thunderbolt ports (Thunderbolt “1.0” for those counting at home), and two removable 1TB G-Drive ev modules. Additional modules can be ordered in 500GB or 1TB flavors (SATA internal connection with a disk speed of 7,200rpm and USB 3.0 outward connections when not docked). Additional features include a Thermo-regulated Smart Fan (which is nice and quiet), along with the standard Kensington Security Slot, on/off switch, and DC power port.

I know that this shouldn’t bug me too much, but for some reason I just don’t like the push button on/off switches and would love to see a more toggle-like switch. I guess it makes me feel like I’m doing the actual powering, not the RAID. A little touch that G-Technology added to the G-Drive ev with Thunderbolt that brought my experience to the next level were the status lights next to each module when inserted into the dock. You do have to download the G-Technology Assistant Utility from their Website to enable this, but it’s handy. Sometimes I’m not sure which drive was ejected in dock situations, especially since they both look identical. Well G-Technology’s Assistant Utility lights up green when it’s ready to be ejected (using the physical eject button), red when there is an error, and amber if the RAID set has been degraded.

When I received the RAID I really hadn’t read any of the tech specs yet, just to have a fresh and open mind. So I powered it on with both drive modules inserted and plugged into a Mac Pro (late 2013 model) via the Thunderbolt connection. Immediately, the two pre-formatted drives popped up and were usable. I began throwing hundreds of gigabytes of R3D files onto the drive. Because the G-Drive ev with Thunderbolt can be a standalone dock for each drive (JBOD configuration) or formatted as RAID 0 or 1, the speeds vary a little bit depending on your format. 

For those who aren’t familiar with RAID formats here’s what you can expect:
JBOD: Just a Bunch of Disks, literally like you plugged in a bunch of different external drives.

RAID 0 (or striped): Combines a set amount of drives and throws data across all the drives in the set. This typically increases speeds as opposed to using the drives in a JBOD configuration. RAID 0 does not provide data redundancy however.

RAID 1 (or mirrored): To be used when data is very critical or you may have only one copy. You must set these up with matching sized drives, i.e. two 1TB drives. RAID 1 copies data to two drives at the same time, that way if one drive fails you have a backup on the other. This does not typically allow for performance increases. 



The G-Drive ev is a software based RAID and must be configured using software in your OS. It ships formatted for a Mac OS and relies on the Disk Utility app to set up your RAID, but it can also be formatted for Windows if you have the technical ability.  

I ran the G-Drive ev with Thunderbolt through its paces using AJA’s System Test software, FCP X 10.1, and Adobe Premiere, along with some 4K footage on a new, eight-core Intel Xeon Mac Pro with 32GBs of RAM and a 512GB SSD. First off are some tech results from the AJA System Test (16GB file averaged disk read/write test): 

- JBOD Read: 133.168 MB/sec. — Write: 131.260MB/sec.
- Mirrored (RAID 1) Read: 131.970 MB/sec. — Write: 130.830MB/sec.
- Striped (RAID 0) Read: 226.4MB/sec. — Write: 265.7MB/sec.

As expected (whether my numbers are spot on or not) the striped RAID has a significant speed advantage and definitely helps when doing some heavy editing in Premiere or FCP X. I also went ahead and did some basic tests to see what some real-world transfer speeds were like using 600GBs of R3D and ProRes files:

- USB 3.0 connected G-Drive Module (not in dock) to other USB 3.0 connected G-Drive module (also not in dock): 1 hour and 33 minutes.
- USB 3.0 connected G-Drive Module (not in dock) to G-Drive module in Thunderbolt dock: 1 hour and 23 minutes.
- USB 3.0 external Western Digital (7,200rpm) to Mirrored G-Drive ev RAID in Thunderbolt dock: 1 hour and 34 minutes.
- USB 3.0 external Western Digital (7,200rpm) to striped G-Drive ev RAID in Thunderbolt dock: 1 hour and 23 minutes.

In the end the transfer speeds were not really too different. Obviously, a striped RAID via Thunderbolt will be the fastest transfer speed. The real power is when used via Thunderbolt in your favorite NLE or VFX program. One thing to remember for those uninitiated is that if you format the G-Drive ev with Thunderbolt in a RAID configuration, you lose the ability to swap out one of the drives while the other is copying or being transferred to. 

I imagine this setup being used mainly as a conduit from set to post. I know some people will say, ‘Well why don’t you buy some cheaper external drives and snail mail them?’ I like the Thunderbolt dock as well as the drives having dual interfaces. If you like the ability to dock your drives, use them separately, or use them in a RAID configuration via Thunderbolt, then this setup is for you.

Brady Betzel is an Editor with Bunim/Murray Productions in Van Nuys, CA. He can be reached at: bradybetzel@gmail.com.