Review: The G-Drive Mobile USB-C is solid, fast enough & wonderfully inexpensive
posted Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 2:30 PM EST
Keeping the many different G-Technology portable drives straight just based on their names can be a real challenge. In the past couple years we've evaluated the G-Drive Mobile SSD and the G-Drive Slim SSD USB-C, and those are separate from the G-Drive Pro SSD and the G-Drive Thunderbolt 3 which are larger, desktop backup solutions. As you can see, the naming conventions are similar and looking just at those you may think all those devices are at least similar when in reality, they all are quite different. To add a bit more confusion to that, G-Technology also released the G-Drive Mobile USB-C, yet another small and portable drive utilizing traditional HDD over the more expensive SSD options. Compared to both the Slim and the Mobile SSD, it actually finds its niche quite well next to them.
To recap, the G-Drive Slim uses an internal SSD to power a pretty-darn-fast max read speed of 526 MB/s, but caps out at a terabyte of space (which is no longer for sale at B&H) or half that at 512GB. The 512GB version is still available for $180. Based on the larger capacity no longer being available and with the success of the Mobile, it appears G-Tech may be phasing the Slim out. Speaking of the Mobile, G-Technology offers it as another SSD that also caps out at 1TB of capacity and reads at a nearly-the-same speed of 519.5 MB/s as the Slim in our testing and costs $270 for the maximum capacity. If asked today I would suggest the G-Drive Mobile over the Slim, and actually the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD over both (SanDisk and G-Technology are part of the same company now anyway).
What is clear is that both the Slim and the Mobile were designed for speed and small size over capacity, so the new Mobile USB-C here fits in well as it is, as mentioned, designed for capacity and small size, not speed.
The G-Drive Mobile USB-C is a very slim, overall pretty small, 2 or 4 TB HDD offering from G-Tech that also manages to be just about silent in operation and also cost a lot less than both the Slim or the Mobile. The 2TB capacity is just $95, while the 4TB capacity is just $150, both of which I consider to be an exceptional deal for a small drive like this.
Rather than the dark matte black/gunmetal coloring that they use on some of their products like the G-Speed and the G-Drive Mobile SSD, the G-Drive Mobile SSD has a silver face and backside framed by a white plastic rim. Though I personally enjoy the darker side of the color spectrum, the Mobile USB-C still looks nice against my MacBook Pro and my iMac thanks to that mainly silver body.
Aside from that, there isn't a lot else to talk about with regards to its design, and that is perhaps a good thing. It's thin, svelte and simple. It has one USB-C port and one small light that activates when plugged in to let you know it's connected. It also ships with two white cables, one is a USB-C to USB-C and the other is a USB-3.0 to USB-C, which means there isn't a computer out there that this can't connect to these days. As a note, it comes out of the box formatted for macOS 10.11 and up, and if you plan to use it with a Windows machine you'll have to reformat it.
G-Tech rates the drives for just 140 MB/s read speeds, but for backup drives that aren't designed to be working devices, that is easily enough. Actually, most photographers will find that the speeds offered here are a lot more than they need for even a working drive, with only video editors likely to argue that it's not fast enough. So in short, if the drive is capable of hitting G-Technology's spec, most of you reading this piece today will find it a perfect marriage of speed, capacity and cost. So does it?
Almost. I'm willing to say it's "close enough." Take a look:
Note: Speed tests performed on a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and a 2015 iMac, both running Mojave. These tests were performed on the 2TB version of the G-Drive Mobile USB-C.
In our testing, we saw the best performance when using the USB-3.0 to USB-C cable, oddly enough. There, our tests capped out at 130.1 MB/s read with a 123.5 MB/s write. With the USB-C to USB-C connection, the connection this device is named after, we saw a dip in that performance to 124.4 MB/s read and 120.8 MB/s write. These scores are both well below the promised 140 MB/s speeds G-Technology quotes on the box, but realistically they don't change much when it comes to transfer wait time. Sure, they're slower than G-Technology rates, but it's still plenty fast when looking at this drive as a storage-capacity-first piece of hardware. So while it's disappointing, it's not a deal-breaker for me especially considering the low cost of the drive.
In this last test the results once again reaffirm that if your drive isn't rated specifically to use Thunderbolt 3, don't try using a T3 cable:
This is not unexpected, as Thunderbolt will seriously hamper speeds if the drive in question has not licenced their hardware, and even if the drive did accept the T3 system you likely would not see much increase in performance. A standard, single HDD just won't output the kinds of speeds you ever would need T3 for. USB-C will suffice for even three times the performance seen here.
- Very small, very light, very simple
- USB-C connectivity, but ships with a converter cable for USB 3.0
- Silent operation
- Large capacity options: 2TB and 4TB
- Fast enough for a long term storage drive at 130.1 MB/s read and 123.5 MB/s write
- Not super fast to begin with, and doesn't hit promised speed of 140 MB/s
- Weirdly, tested faster on USB 3.0 to USB-C than it is with USB-C to USB-C
So who is this drive for? I think this is actually an outstanding competitor to those who use what I like to call the "LaCie Method." The LaCie Method of storage is keeping 10-20 LaCie drives on hand, labeled in a closet stacked in a shoebox, as a backup solution. It's not pretty, and some of you are probably cringing at the idea, but it's extremely popular. Those orange rectangles can be found in just about every office, but I'm arguing now that I think these new USB-C drives from G-Tech are a better use of space and a better deal.
A standard 4TB USB-30 LaCie hard drive with a stated transfer rate of 130 MB/s will run you $160. That's more expensive than the same 4TB option of the Mobile USB-C, and it is quoted to run slower, though odds are high that the actual performance from both is about the same. Additionally, the LaCie in question here is USB-3.0, while this new G-Drive is USB-C primary with a USB-3.0 converter cable included. So not only is the G-Drive cheaper, it's at least as fast if not a bit faster, has more connectivity options, and is smaller and lighter. The LaCie is better for shipping/dropping, but for closet storage I don't see those as critical needs.
A friend of mine stores his LaCie drives in a shoebox in his closet, and I'm saying that you may be able to fit five or six of them per box in his case, but with the G-Drive you can more than triple that with how small they are. One third the space, same capacity, speed and performance. I'll take that tradeoff any day as a photographer that lives in a tiny San Francisco apartment.
I absolutely love both LaCie and G-Tech products, but in this case G-Tech is making a pretty strong case for itself when it comes to performance and design. At least in this particular popular use case. Overall though, this is a great little drive and I'm happy to recommend it.