We have mixed feelings for the G-Drive mini Triple. On one hand, this portable hard drive boasts three connection options, a rugged design, and an internal hard drive that spins at a fleet 7,200rpm (most 2.5-inch drives spin at only 5,400rpm or slower). But a drive's rotation speed offers little difference in performance, particularly when operating on a FireWire 400 or USB 2.0 connection as we saw in testing. The other interface option is FireWire 800. The drive is quite friendly with Macs, but those running Windows XP will need to engage in a rather advanced reformatting process before you get up and running. We also found that when operating via USB 2.0, the drive requires you to purchase the separate power adapter. Finally, at around $250 for the 200GB model, the G-Drive mini Triple does not offer good value per GB. Thus, we are left to conclude that the G-Drive mini Triple is suited only for Mac users with FireWire 800 ports. The SimpleTech Signature Mini Black Cherry or the OWC Mercury are portable drives with broader appeal--both offer more storage space, a lower cost per GB, and better support for USB 2.0 connections.
|Drive type||External hard drive|
|Connector options||FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB2.0|
|Available capacities||160GB, 200GB, 250GB|
|Capacity of test unit||200GB|
|Drive speed||7,200rpm (200GB version) and 5400rpm (the others)|
|Dimensions (LWH)||4.9 x 3.2 x 0.9 inches|
|Notable design features||Rugged aluminum casing.|
|OSes supported||Windows XP, Vista, Mac OS X|
|Service and Support||Three-year warranty|
Design and features
The G-Drive mini Triple ships in a simple package that includes a traveling pouch, a CD with the manual in PDF format and data cables for all the connection types it supports (USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800). The drive has a power port for an optional $20 power adapter, which is not included. Unfortunately, we discovered that the USB 2.0 connection, unlike the FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 connections, needs this adapter for the drive to operate--with both PCs and Macs. (If you have a MacBook Air , which has no FireWire connection port, make sure you get the adapter when you order the drive.)
The G-drive boasts a very rugged and Mac-friendly design with an aluminum case that also works as a heat sink to dissipate the heat generated by the internal hard drive. On the front, hidden inside the case, there's a LED that glows white, indicating the status of the drive when working. In the G-Drive mini Triple series, the 200GB is the only version that spins at 7,200rpm (which is also the one we reviewed); the other models spin at 5,400rpm.
If you have a Mac running OS X, you need to simply plug the drive into a FireWire port and voila, it works. The drive is preformatted in HFS+ with Journaling and is Time Machine ready right out of the box. However, if you want to use it with Windows, it's a different story entirely.
Unlike any drives we've reviewed before, the G-Drive is preformatted using GUID Partition Table (GPT) mechanism, which is a new and more flexible way to partition hard disks that replaces the older Master Boot Record (MBR) scheme. Though more advanced and compatible with Intel's new Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) initiative, GPT is not backward compatible with MBR and therefore is not supported in Windows XP or older versions of Windows. For this reason, contrary to the instruction of the G-Drive's manual, the disk management tool within Windows XP can't manipulate the G-Drive's default partitioning method. To make this happen, you will first need to use some advanced third-party disk-partitioning software, such as Acronis DiskDirector, to reformat it into an MBR-based file system.
Windows Vista, on the other hand, supports GPT natively, and you will not have much trouble getting it to work with this operating system. However, it's important to note that Windows Vista's built-in tool doesn't change the G-Drive's partitioning mechanism. This means the drive still doesn't work with Windows XP once reformatted by Windows Vista. In order to make the drive work with both operating systems, you need to convert its partitioning scheme from GPT-based into MBR-based using some third-party software as mentioned above.
By comparison, the OWC Mercury drive is also preformatted for OS X but retains the MBR partitioning scheme and therefore can be reformatted to work with other operating systems very easily. Nonetheless, we found the G-Drive mini Triple worked well with Windows XP once successfully reformatted.