Review: Glyph external drives
Issue: October 1, 2014

Review: Glyph external drives

MANUFACTURER: Glyph Production Technologies

PRODUCTS: 1TB Studio Mini: $199.95; 1TB StudioRAID Mini: $269.95; 500GB BlackBox: $99.95


- Competitive price points 
- Great looking design & craftsmanship
- Reassuring warranties 

Lately it seems that the innovation in external hard drives has really taken off again. From the awesome achievement of packing 64TBs of storage into an eight-bay Thunderbolt 2 RAID that isn’t any larger than a standard desktop tower to the lightning-fast external Thunderbolt 2/USB 3.0 SSD drives, one thing that stays consistent is the warranties. With new technology, it’s hard to test real-life reliability from years of constant use and punishment, so a good warranty is critical in my mind. 

Glyph Production Technologies offers one of the best warranties in all of external hard drives. Every drive comes with a three-year limited parts and labor warranty, meaning anything that was truly the fault of Glyph will be fixed or replaced. Each drive also has one year of advance replacement and two years of basic data recovery included with the purchase (most companies will refer you to another company for data). The advance replacement program states that within the first year, if you have a problem, they guarantee a 48-hour turnaround for all in-house repairs. What exactly would an “out-of-house” repair look like? Out-of-house repairs are typically related to data recovery that goes beyond their service. So if you really need data recovered from your drive and Glyph deems that it goes beyond the “basic” scope, you may have to send it out of house.

Back in 2012, I reviewed the Glyph GPT50, a 2TB 7,200rpm external drive. Since then, I have not had any downtime with the GPT50. In fact, the only issue I have is that it’s large: it’s a 3.5-inch disk drive, so it takes up some precious desk real estate. Luckily, in the past three years, technology has improved and Glyph has been able to adapt and create some great new (and smaller) external drives.

Glyph sent me three drives from their mobile line to take a look at: the 1TB Studio Mini, the 1TB StudioRAID Mini, and the 500GB BlackBox, all of which are constructed with 2.5-inch drives to maintain a small footprint — a feature I’ve really come to value, as my backpack is bursting with drives. All Glyph drives are tested at their New York office and pre-formatted for OS X. If you need to format for Windows, do a quick Google search and if it seems too difficult, definitely call up a professional. Trust me, I would rather be bothered with “How do I format?” instead of “Hey where do I send my drive for data recovery?” 

The first drive up is the 1TB Studio Mini. The Studio Mini is a single drive external device that is sold in 500GB, 1TB, or 2TB flavors. The 500GB and 1TB models use a 7,200rpm drive, while the 2TB uses a 5,400rpm drive. It’s small and lightweight. The Glyph Mini sits horizontal, stacks well, and looks like it belongs in a million-dollar studio. 

I really put these drives through their paces with over two months of 4K editing, transcoding and VFX rendering in Adobe Premiere, Media Encoder and After Effects. They didn't let me down. I may have also done a couple “drop” tests of three to four feet and all of the drives continued to work perfectly. For the primary testing connection I chose USB 3.0 because of how easily I can jump between OS X and Windows systems while maintaining a single fast, bus-powered connection. The Studio Mini has USB 3.0, and two FireWire 800s, as well as an eSATA connection, so you have options. It can be bus-powered by USB 3.0 or FireWire 800, but eSATA requires a power source (included). For those interested, I was testing these drives using a pretty powerful Windows 8.1 Intel i7-based system with an SSD boot drive and 16GBs of memory. 

In terms of benchmarks, I used AJA’s System Test software. It’s easy to use to get basic results, and free. The Studio Mini had an average read/write speed of 127MB/s in the read/write test with the 1GB file size at 1920x1080, 8-bit. I tested other frame sizes and file sizes, but for the most part, it all averaged out to the same transfer rate, so that is why I stuck with the 1GB, 1920x1080 test. 

The second drive I tested was the 1TB StudioRAID Mini. The StudioRAID Mini is about double the height of the Studio Mini but packs one knockout benefit: RAID configuration. In RAID 0 both drives are formatted to look like one, while in RAID 1 one drive is mirrored on the other drive for safety. It comes in three sizes: 1TB and 2TB with 7,200rpm drives, as well as 4TB with 5,400rpm drives. On the back it has eSATA, two Firewire 800s, and a USB 3.0 connection like the Studio Mini, and since it has two drives inside, it stands about .7 of an inch taller than the one-inch tall Mini. 

I performed the AJA System Test again. In a RAID 1 configuration it ran at about 106MB/s. While cutting the storage from 1TB to 500GB and adding the safety of a mirrored data set inherent in RAID 1, it was not as slow as I had imagined it would be. However, in RAID 0 it ran at around 221MB/s (same 1GB read/write at 1920x1080, 8-bit test). 

To configure the RAID, Glyph made a smart decision to go with a hardware RAID as opposed to software-controlled. While it’s simple to use, it’s not so simple that you will accidentally erase your drive by changing from RAID 0 to 1. Here is how to set your RAID: plug in your drive with the power switch off, select either RAID 0 or 1, push the “set” switch on back, power on the drive, wait :05, release the “set” switch, and you’re ready. 

Finally, the third drive is the 500GB BlackBox. On the outside it looks quite a bit different than other Glyph drives. It’s a glossy black box — go figure? Its only connection is USB 3.0, which also serves as the bus power with a 5,400rpm drive under the hood. Because it uses a 5,400rpm hard drive, it performed a little slower than the Studio Mini at about 100MB/s when performing the read/write test with a 1GB file at 1920x1080, 8-bit. This drive would be a great as a  backup, as it is quite a bit cheaper ($99 for the 500GB version) and a little thinner, but still holds Glyph's impressive warranty.   

In the end, I love all three of these Glyph mobile external hard drives and I can’t emphasize enough how valuable a great warranty is. Dealing with a hard drive manufacturer that has a bad warranty is one of the worst things you can go through — on top of losing all of your data too. If someone were to ask for my recommendation on a portable, rock-solid drive for all types of multimedia content creation, the Glyph StudioRAID Mini, with its hardware RAID, is definitely one that I would not hesitate to recommend.