The G-Technology G-Drive Slim (priced at £70) is a nice looking, shiny hard drive for the Mac user. Its aluminium shell matches the one on your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, down to the shimmery metal flecks in the finish. Now that MacBooks are moving to expensive (but fast) flash storage, you'll need a large capacity external drive to store all your photo and video files, and in physical terms, this device is certainly a perfect match for your slim MacBook Air. Think of the G-Drive Slim as a 500GB sidecar for your MacBook, but is it a better buy than a commodity hard drive?
Design and features
The G-Drive Slim is compact, since it uses a 7mm tall mechanism for its 500GB drive. The drive comes encased in matte aluminium with a black metal ring around the rim of the chassis. As I’ve mentioned, the slightly shimmery finish on the G-Drive Slim is a close match for the aluminium surface on a unibody MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. The drive's chrome G-Technology logo, USB 3.0 micro-b connector, and simple LED drive light are the only adornments. The bottom of the case houses the drive's serial number and model number labels.
The drive is slimmer than most: It measures 82 x 128 x 10mm (WxDxH), which is slightly longer and wider than an iPhone 4S, but about as thin. Other drives that tout their compact portability are the Seagate GoFlex Slim and the Iomega Helium Portable Hard Drive. The G-Drive Slim will fit in your briefcase, rucksack or smaller case very easily.
The drive comes without any software installers, and it comes pre-formatted for HFS+, meaning the G-Drive Slim is ready for Time Machine out of the box. All modern Macs using OS X 10.5 or newer come with Time Machine backup, just plug in the drive and your Mac will ask you to use the drive for backup. The drive will work with third party backup solutions as well, or you can simply manually copy your files to the drive occasionally for backup or transport to other computers.
You can reformat the drive as NTFS for Windows (as we did for our PCMark testing), and of course you can also format the drive as FAT32 for use on both Mac and Windows computers (though bear in mind the restrictions such as a maximum single file size of 4GB). The drive comes with a USB 3.0 cable, which has a blue-coloured connector matching the USB 3.0 port on many systems.
The G-Drive Slim is a reasonably fast USB 3.0 hard drive, depending on the age of your Mac. Older Macs using a USB 2.0 port took 47 seconds to transfer our standard 1.2GB test folder. Newer Macs with a USB 3.0 port took 20 seconds on the same test. The Iomega Helium took 42 seconds with the same folder on USB 2.0 (the Helium is USB 2.0-only). The faster Seagate GoFlex Slim took 15 seconds to copy the folder.
We reformatted the drive to run Windows-based hard drive tests. It scored 5,328 points on PCMark05 and 1,322 points on PCMark7. This is comparable to the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt Portable HDD in USB 3.0 mode. On the AJA system test, the G-Drive Slim recorded a passable 108 MBps read and 107 MBps write throughput, much faster than the USB 2.0 Iomega Helium (which hit 37 MBps Read, and 27 MBps write), and competitive with the Buffalo MiniStation in USB 3.0 mode (110 MBps read, 96 MBps write). Both the Buffalo and G-Drive Slim should be fine for quick video editing projects and still graphics arts.
The G-Drive Slim is a likeable external hard disk. It's very compact, more so than rival drives, and it benchmarks well enough – plus it’s a great match for a MacBook Pro or Air in terms of aesthetics. On the downside, there’s no Thunderbolt support, and given its 500GB capacity, it’s a tad expensive compared to the likes of, say, the excellent Seagate Backup Plus, which doesn’t cost much more for a 1TB model (normally it’s £100, but it’s currently discounted to around £80).
That said, if you have a new Mac with USB 3.0, take a look at this drive if you're interested in paying a bit more (relatively, considering disk capacity) to match aesthetics – and you want the best in terms of portability. The drive’s three year warranty is certainly a nice extra, too.