Well-designed for both heat dissipation and protection
Very fast speeds over FireWire 800
Maximum capacity available in single 2.5-inch category
Visually pleasing design that matches well with aluminum-based Macs
Expensive, but a good investment for users needing speed or ruggedness
Runs hot to the touch in heavy use
The G-Drive mini is a 2.5-inch external hard drive from G-Technology which borrows many design queues from Mac Pros, including an aluminum casing and an integrated heat sink, and even a perforated front grill for air flow. The device is bus-powered, with FireWire 400, 800 and USB 2.0 connection options.
The drive is intended as a premium design, and is priced as such. It runs fanless, dissipating heat through the heat sink and the aluminum shell, resulting in a very quiet drive. The dissipation tends to produce exterior high heat in heavy use, but this may be a minimal complaint, considering that the priority is to keep internals cool.
Casing looks and feels extremely rugged, being made entirely of aluminum instead of plastic or some hybrid. It's relatively light at less than 9oz, yet it should be able to withstand up to 1,000Gs of force when operating, and up to 400Gs when active. At this this year's Macworld conference, G-Technology in fact demonstrated a drive surviving a rollover from a FedEx truck -- while bowed and slightly misshapen, it survived well enough to be work as a video server.
5400rpm drives are not typically able to deliver FireWire 800 speeds, but the 500GB G-Drive, using an Oxford 924 chipset and SATA II hard disk, produced excellent speeds in testing. Tested when empty -- the ideal for speed tests -- it delivered 2.32GB/min (38.78MBps) speeds when copying thousands of small files, jumping to 2.72GB/min (45.26MBps) when copying a few larger files. When formatted for HFS+, incidentally, the drive supplies 465.43 GB of usable drive space.
A stress test using over 40GB of photos showed a transfer of 2.43GB/min (45.26MBps) in an extended copy session. A half-full drive only saw a slight slowdown, copying the photos at a 2.23GB/min (37.16MBps) clip; the disk continued to achieve 1.63GB/min (27.17MBps) when over 90 percent of capacity.
The G-Drive arrives boxed with cables for all three interfaces, a CD-based manual, and a leather carrying case that offers good scratch protection when fit into a bag or second case. The FireWire and USB ports offer snug, sure fits when in use; also present are a DC-in port and an on-off switch at the back.
The G-Drive mini is rated for Mac OS X 10.3 or higher when using FireWire 800 or USB 2.0; FireWire 400 can be used to connect to legacy Mac OS 9.2 systems or any Mac OS X machine The drive is also compatible with Windows XP, 2000 and Vista.
The $220 price tag is high compared with the average external drive on sale at Best Buy week-to-week, but it blows those models out of the water through a much more rugged build, FireWire 800 speeds and a shape nearly as compact as its cheaper brethren. If you need a fast external drive, or want a drive that is well protected from bumps and impacts, the price is an excellent investment.