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We dig into the GTech GDrive Mobile ... and watch WORST tear-down vid OF ALL TIME
Portable 1TB USB 3.0 HDD with Thunderbolt to boot
Enclosure disclosure... Plus: WTF - put DOWN the screwdriver!
While connecting using Thunderbolt on Mac OS X presented no problems, using Windows is a different story. On Boot Camp running Windows 8.1 and a Thunderbolt equipped PC with Windows 7, the drive wasn’t seen. However, it would work with USB 3.0. This didn’t seem to make sense.
ASMedia driver installation sorts out Windows woes with Thunderbolt
Apple suggests turning off Fast Boot to fix Thunderbolt drive recognition problems in Windows 8, however, I’ve not found this to be a reliable remedy. So after a lot of poking around, I decided to run the driver available on the Elgato site. In the notes it mentions that it’s for an AS Media ASM 1061 controller and the GDrive has one too. With all else having failed, this seemed to be worth a shot and whaddya know? It worked too.
Testing on Windows 7 with an HP Zbook 17 also required the ASMedia driver installer to see the drive using Thunderbolt. Although the ZBook has its own Thunderbolt Manager, that could see the drive, it wouldn’t mount it unless the ASMedia driver was installed. Admittedly, GDrive supplies this formatted to HFS+ for Macs but if Thunderbolt is to catch on, it seems the drive makers need to test it on a few PCs equipped with the interface to iron out some of these issues.
Thunderbolt transfer rates on the Mac as revealed in the Apple Activity Monitor utility
Although lacking a decent transfer rate benchmark utility for Mac (suggestions in comments welcome), I ran the Apple Activity Monitor and noted results of disc image copying from there. The figures were encouraging, typically around 144 to 151MB/s and peaking at 160MB/s.
Given the expense of Elgato’s Drive+ and yet the convenience of this dual interface enclosure, I wondered if the GDrive’s HDD could be substituted with an SSD. Could simply swapping media deliver a massive performance boost or did the GTech circuitry have bottlenecks?
First, there was the need to dismantle it and just to speed things along, I browsed on YouTube for some hints and discovered what is arguably the worst take-apart on the web – it doesn’t even have sound, except some cheesy music near the end. This poor GDrive didn’t stand a chance. Still, there were a few clues there on how not to do it.
Youtube Video – note all the bent bits after it's been whacked about with the screwdriver...
The dismantling wasn’t too much of a trial, the trickiest part being the inner chassis that needs some gentle prising to release it from the catches it clips over. In place of the HGST 1TB HDD, I used the same 480GB Intel 730 SSD from when I ran my Elgato tests.
Although the Intel 730 SSD is power hungry and unsuitable for portable use, it nonetheless delivered some tasty figures for what had now become a GTech GDrive enclosure. The speeds of around 330MB/s for USB 3.0 and 348MB/s for Thunderbolt aren’t exactly taxing the SSD’s potential transfer rates, but its Thunderbolt figures match the Elgato certainly beat it with much faster USB 3.0 performance.
OK, so I’m getting a bit carried away here, but a 512GB Elgato Drive+ does cost £760. When you consider a 512GB SSD can be had for £245, the temptation to see if the GDrive could manage a similar portable performance for a total cost of just over half the price was irresistible. That said, Thunderbolt enclosures do exist and a dual drive model from Startech has just turned up for testing, so watch this space.
USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, if you can afford it
The Reg Verdict
The words “Thunderbolt” and “expensive” never seem to be very far apart and it has to be said that there are plenty of 1TB USB 3.0 drives available for £50-£60. So paying three times that amount for Thunderbolt connectivity with a slightly more expensive 7200RPM hard disk drive inside doesn’t seem to add up. Yet, as stated earlier, Thunderbolt appeared on Macs for at least a year before USB 3.0 was supported, so this GTech GDrive Mobile does have some practical advantages. Whether you’ll be willing to pay over the odds for such, even with a Thunderbolt cable thrown in, is another matter. ®