by Brian Beeler

G-Technology G-DRIVE mini Review (1TB)

The G-Technology G-DRIVE mini is a 1TB portable hard drive designed for Mac users who want an elegant yet rugged enclosure with plenty of connectivity options. The HGST G-Technology brand has long been synonymous with quality, earning a special place in the hearts of Mac users and creative professionals. The G-DRIVE mini does nothing to tarnish that image, providing a combination of performance and capacity with near silent operation. 

Inside the enclosure, the mini always gets 7,200 RPM hard drives, which is not common in the portable hard drive space (most use 5,400 RPM drives) and comes out of the box formatted for Mac users. Where other drives provide the minimum amount of accessories in the box, HGST includes dual FireWire cords, a USB 3.0 cord and a black carrying pouch for the drive. The current generation of G-DRIVE mini with USB 3.0 ships in 500GB and 1TB capacities with a three-year warranty. Our review model is the 1TB capacity. The drives are shipping now with a street price of $185. 

G-DRIVE mini Specifications

  • Capacity: 1TB
    • 7,200 RPM 2.5" hard drive, 16MB cache
  • Interface: 1xUSB 3.0, 2xFireWire 800
  • Included in box: 
    • 1 USB 3.0 cable
    • 2 FireWire cables (800; 800 to 400)
    • Protective Carrying Case
  • Cooling System: Fanless, integrated heat sink
  • Size (LxWxH): 4.94" x 3.19" x .875" / 125 x 81 x 22mm
  • Weight: 1.14lbs / 0.517 kg

Design and Build

The G-DRIVE mini immediately blends in well next to any of the current generation Mac notebooks that would likely pair with a portable hard drive like this. The entire body is aluminum, with a rigid build that exudes quality throughout. Even under extreme pressure, the case barely flexes thanks to the two-piece design. 

The main body houses the HGST 7K1000 hard drive inside and a top piece that covers the drive sled is held in place with six screws. The front of the enclosure houses the G-Technology G logo and a small white access LED behind the front vents on the right side.

Underneath, the enclosure is highlighted by an impressive heatsync and the access points for the lid screws. The back houses all of the ports, including USB 3.0, twin FireWire ports and an optional power supply. The drive is bus powered but in some cases depending on how the drive is connected additional power could be required. The drive also includes a power switch, which is a nice inclusion, giving users more control over the drive's power consumption. 

The obvious missing piece is Thunderbolt, but as we've seen time and again the benefit for Thunderbolt in hard drive scenarios is nonexistent. If anything it could be argued that mobile users who use Mac platforms would prefer to standardize accessories on a single interface. Even so, since a USB 3.0 cable is included and the new Macs support that interface, the lack of Thunderbolt may be annoying to some but not likely a deal breaker for many. 

Performance

Using our consumer test platform, we measured transfer speeds from the G-DRIVE mini utilizing its USB 3.0 interface with IOMeter. Sequential read and write speeds measured 127.6MB/s and 121.2MB/s respectively, while random large-block transfers measured 55.1MB/s read and 55.9MB/s write. For bulk storage and the occasional backup, the G-DRIVE mini offers a lot of punch for a 2.5-inch external hard drive.

By comparison, the mini outpaces similarly targeted products. The Buffalo MiniStation with Thunderbolt posts 115.1MB/s on both the sequential read and write tests and large-block random access speeds of 46.3MB/s for reads and 49.1MB/s for writes. The WD My Passport Studio posts 83.2MB/s read speeds and write speeds of 73.4MB/s over FireWire 800. The G-DRIVE mini clearly posts benefits associated from the faster drive inside, making this the fastest non-flash portable hard drive we've tested to date. 

Conclusion

The HGST G-Technology G-DRIVE mini now comes in a larger 1TB capacity, with a 7,200RPM hard drive inside. Over USB 3.0 we saw chart-topping performance for hard drive based portables. Couple the performance with some of the best industrial design around and the mini is a pretty compelling package. Some users might be turned off by lack of Thunderbolt, but realistically there's no performance gain by using Thunderbolt with 2.5" hard drives as we've seen. There may however be cable efficiencies in the gear bag. Otherwise the drive is ready for Mac users out of the box, no need to reformat, and there's no doubt it will handle day-to-day abuse exceedingly well. 

Pros

  • Superior enclosure design
  • 7,200 RPM hard drive inside
  • Cables/pouch included

Cons

  • No Thunderbolt

Bottom Line

The G-Technology G-DRIVE mini is the fastest performing portable hard drive we've seen to date, with one of the best looking and most rugged enclosures. 

G-Technology 1TB G-DRIVE mini at Amazon.com

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