Review: Portable G-DRIVE Slim SSD USB-C is fast, light, thin and silent
posted Monday, July 24, 2017 at 9:56 AM EDT
I have a soft spot in my heart for reliable, lightweight and tough portable storage. When I’m out on location, it makes me incredibly nervous to have the only copies of what I shoot be on my laptop and on the original memory card I shot on. Though I have never had a laptop fail on me, it has happened to people I know and the feeling can be nothing short of devastating. It is perhaps why I have so many portable hard drives for different situations. My most recent acquisition has been the G-DRIVE Slim, a USB-C solid state drive (SSD) that I have used a few times now in conjunction with my MacBook Pro.
The G-DRIVE Slim is a very small, very light, silver rectangle that houses 512 GB of storage space, which is just enough for most of my on-location video projects and plenty for backing up photos. You can also pick up the 1 TB version, but that will set you back $380, while the 500 GB (advertised as 500, but it’s actually 512) is $200. It’s not cheap, as brand-name storage rarely is, but does offer a list of pleasant features.
Key Features and Specs
- 512GB or 1TB Storage Capacity
- USB 3.1 Type-C Interface
- Up to 540 MB/s Data Transfer Speed
- Bus Powered (no batteries required)
- Compatible with Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0
- Includes USB Type-C Cable and USB Type-C to Type-A Cable
- Preformatted for Mac
- Windows Compatible with Reformatting
The Slim is pretty easy to evaluate from a physical, build-quality standpoint. It’s incredibly simple, with a steel body surrounded by a black plastic ring around the outside. It is not what I would call “rugged,” and though it can likely survive a few drops, I don’t recommend it. It also probably isn’t too friendly when it comes to liquid.
But for the most part, I don’t have those two problems when operating an external drive. Though other brands offer waterproofing or drop resistance, I can’t actually recall a time I was glad for either of those things outside of ludicrous stress-testing. So though the Slim may not be as “tough” or “rugged” as other options, you might ask yourself: does it need to be?
The Slim is second-most lightweight external SSD I’ve ever used (that ludicrously tiny Samsung one would be the first). It’s kind of mind-boggling how little this thing weighs. At just 0.28 pounds, it’s the lightest external drive I own and number two isn’t even close. It’s also thinner than my wallet at about the thickness of a pen: 5.08”x3.23”0.39” (LxWxH). Those dimensions also make it the thinnest external drive I own, and again number two isn’t even close.
As far as taking up the least amount of room in a bag or backpack, I have to say the G-DRIVE Slim takes the cake here. When compared to my other options, it’s very hard to not grab the Slim in most cases, since it’s going to make the least impact on my kit.
The Slim is totally silent during operation, with the only indication that it is even on being a small white LED near the port socket.
During especially heavy transfers and extreme tasks, the drive can warm up a bit, but it hasn’t gotten to the point where I would call it “hot.” Getting warm is expected, and it appears that however G-TECH built this slim little drive allows it to sink heat pretty well.
As mentioned in the bullet points, the G-DRIVE Slim comes packaged with at USB-C to USB-C cable as well as USB-C to USB-A (USB-3.0) so it is compatible with just about any computer out on the market. And since USB-C shares a connector type with Thunderbolt 3, it is also compatible with those cables and connectors.
So while the G-DRIVE Slim only has one port, it is rather versatile and can be accessed by just about any computer presently on the market.
You might be curious about the performance of the drive under different cable configurations, and I was as well. G-Tech only lists an overall “transfer rate” in their spec sheet rather than a broken-down read/write speed, which they say is “up to 540 MB/s.”
With the USB-C to USB-C cable, we saw pretty near that spec:
388.5 MB/s write and a 526.1 MB/s read is very impressive for a single drive through a cable, but should be expected of an SSD, which provides considerably faster speeds than a HDD. Though it’s not shown in the screenshot, I did see peaks of speeds reaching 540 MB/s, simply not sustained or the average.
With the USB-C to USB-A, speeds were not as high as with USB-C, but still rather good:
300.2 MB/s write and 430.9 MB/s read quite good, and though not performing at the peak speeds of the G-DRIVE Slim is more than enough speed to move data quickly and edit 4K video.
Finally, let’s look at how the Thunderbolt 3 cable did. Warning, after seeing these speeds, I do not recommend using a Thunderbolt 3 cable with the G-DRIVE Slim:
I double- and triple-checked these numbers to make sure they were accurate, since the results were so far below expectations. In each case, the numbers were the same. On average, Thunderbolt 3 offers only 35.7 MB/s write and a 40.4 MB/s read performance. This is some of the worst performance I’ve witnessed out of an SSD, and it’s pretty clear that the Thunderbolt 3 cable is to blame. So while the drive is (technically) compatible with Thunderbolt 3 hardware, don’t use it. Using a Thunderbolt 3 port is fine, but stick to the USB-C cable - you’ll be grateful you did.
For $200, you would hope to get a little more than just a piece of plastic and metal, and G-Tech did their best to rationalize that price point. The Slim is backed by a standard 3-year warranty and unlimited free tech support. If you’re curious about what is specifically covered in the warranty, you can read about it here. But in brief, it doesn’t cover the product if you mod it or have an accident, but it does cover the product if it simply fails in normal use. Speaking from experience, I have had a G-Tech product fail before, and the customer service and replacement of the product was swift and hassle-free.
What I liked:
- Extremely light-weight
- Very thin
- Compatible with three different cable types (USB-C, USB-A, Thunderbolt 3)
What I disliked:
- Thunderbolt 3 cable transfer speeds are abysmal
If you're in the market for a slim, fast, lightweight and unobtrusive portable hard drive that is compatible with your USB-C computing machine, I am hard-pressed to recommend one better than the G-DRIVE Slim. Though it's rather expensive, as is tradition with branded storage devices, it does its job well. You can order yours in either the 500 GB model or the 1 TB model here.
G-Technologies provided the G-DRIVE SLIM for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.