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G-Tech G-Drive ev ATC w/Thunderbolt review: A fast, durable and flexible portable drive

The G-Tech G-Drive ev ATC w/Thunderbolt is one of the best rugged portable drives for the outdoors. Here's CNET's full review.

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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The G-Tech G-Drive EV ATC w/Thunderbolt is applicable only to those needing a tough, weather-proof portable storage device. And if you have already had other products in G-Tech's EV series, you'll likely love this new drive.

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G-Tech G-Drive ev ATC w/Thunderbolt

The Good

The G-Tech G-Drive EV ATC with Thunderbolt is fast, tough and supports both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connections. The outer shell is watertight, the internal drive can be swapped out with other drives in G-Tech's EV series.

The Bad

The drive is bulky, limited to only 1TB capacity and expensive if you're not looking for a durable drive.

The Bottom Line

Those in need of a speedy portable storage device that can handle a rough, dirty or wet environment, the G-Tech G-Drive EV ATC is an excellent buy.

Rugged enough to handle drops from up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) and water-tight, the new storage device is made for those working rough, dirty or wet environments. The drive is also flexible enough to work with a Thunderbolt or USB connection, and can even fit in other EV housing unit, such as the G-Dock EV. Performance-wise, this is of the fastest non-solid-state-based portable drives I've seen, both via Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.

All things considered, at the current street price around $150, the G-Drive EV ATC is an excellent deal, much better than the recently reviewed Sony HDD HB which is slower, more expensive and not watertight. (In Australia it's AU$320 which makes it a little less of a value proposition.)

Obviously, most home users without the need for these rugged features, will find the G-Drive EV ATC overkill and rather expensive. A standard portable drive like the WD My Passport Ultra, or Seagate Backup Plus Slim will be a better deal. For more options, check out this list of top drives on the market instead.

The D-Drive EV ATC has an integreted Thunderbolt cable wrapping around its sides. Dong Ngo

Design

Measuring 6.46 x 4.25 x 1.2 inches (16.41 x 10.80 x 3.05 cm), the G-Tech G-Drive EV ATC is bulky. This is because it has a water-tight, shock/drop-resistant outer shell that keeps the drive on the inside safe from outside environment. The drive has an integrated Thunderbolt cable that's tuck around it side, the kind of convenient design resembling that of the LaCie Rugged All-Terrain drive. This Thunderbolt cable itself comes with a lid to keep its connector safe when not in used.

G-Tech says the ATC can handle drops (on a soft surface, such as a carpet) from up to 6.6 feet (2 meters). I tried that during my testing and the drive indeed was fine after a few drops on the floor. I also tried spraying water to it with a garden hose for some 20 seconds and dropping it in a kitchen sink (the drive floated right up) for a few minutes. When dried up, it worked like normally again. By the way, though big, the ATC is quite light weighing in at just 0.82 pound (0.37 kg).

Note that the drive doesn't have any security features. This means, while it can keep your data safe from mishaps or bad weather, it can't protect your data in case of loss or theft.

Apart from Thunderbolt, you can also use the G-Drive EV ATC with an USB port. In this case, however, you need to open it up and pull out what it houses on the inside, which is the G-Drive EV RAW. The RAW drive is very compact, about the size of a typical portable drive, measuring just 5.14 x 3.29 x 0.65 inches (13.06 x 8.36 x 1.65 cm). It has one standard Micro-USB 3.0 port (the package includes a standard USB cable) and a SATA port. The latter allows it to work with other hosting in G-Tech's EV series, such as the G-Dock EV that came out two years ago. You can take the RAW drive inside the G-Drive EV ATC and put inside the G-Dock.

This kind of two-in-one design makes the G-Drive EV ATC flexible. You can use it as either a rugged, weatherproof Thunderbolt drive, or a rugged, compact USB portable drive.

On the inside, the G-Drive EV ATC houses a G-Drive EV RAW drive. Dong Ngo/CNET

Setup

The G-Drive EV ATC works right out of the box. There's no software included with the drive and there's no setup process. All you have to do is plug it into a computer. Out of the box the drive is preformatted in HFS+ for Mac but can be easily reformatted to work with Windows or other operating systems.

When working as either a Thunderbolt or a USB drive, the ATC is bus-powered, meaning there's no need for a separate power adapter for it to work, instead the data connection also draws the juice from the host computer to power the drive. The drive also shares its power status with the host computer. When the computer is off or in sleep mode, the portable drive turns itself off and then back on when the computer is back online.

G-Tech G-Drive EV ATC's specs

Drive type Bus-powered portable hard drive
Connector options Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
Available capacities 1TB
Internal drive speed 7,200rpm
Dimensions As an D-Drive EV RAW: 5.14 x 3.29 x 0.65" (13.06 x 8.36 x 1.65 cm) / As a G-Drive EV ATC: 6.46 x 4.25 x 1.20
Weight 0.82 lb (0.37 kg)
Software included None
OSes supported Windows XP or later; Mac OS 10.4 or later
Warranty 3-year

Performance

The G-Drive EV ATC did well in my test. Via Thunderbolt it registered a sustained real-world copy speed of 135MB/s for writing and 124MB/s for reading. These numbers, especially the writing speed, were among the highest I've seen among hard-drive-based portable drive. Faster drives on the charts either used solid-state storage or are multiple-volume drives running a RAID setup. (Read more about RAIDs here.) At this performance, you can transfer a full feature high-def movie, which is about 10GB in storage space, to the drive in just about 80 seconds.

CNET Labs' Thunderbolt performance

Promise Pegasus2 (RAID 5) 361.92 376.02G-Tech G-Studio R (RAID 5) 259.67 455.96LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt (RAID 0) 213.51 183.76Promise Pegasus R6 (RAID 5) 210.5 177.53LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 0) 179.22 180.96WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo (RAID 0) 156 167.47Promise Pegasus R4 (RAID 5) 150.47 171.10G-Tech Gdrive EV ATC (Single volume) 135.3 124.26LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt (RAID 1) 126.96 147.2LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt (RAID 1) 121.11 141.63WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo (RAID 1) 107.73 109.15Drobo Mini (via Thunderbolt) 106.03 94.66Sony HDD HB 99.32 109.99
  • Write
  • Read
Note: Measured in megabyte per second.

In test via USB 3.0, the scores were a bit reserved with the sustained writing speed of 119MB/s and the reading speed of 139MB/s, again, very fast among its peers. Again, that this speed, you can transfer 10GB of data in less than 90 seconds. The drive also works with USB 2.0 with the speed maxing out at around 30MB/s which is the stop speed of USB 2.0 standard.

CNET Labs' USB 3.0 external drive performance

Samsung Portable T1 158.3 292.42Seagate Backup Plus FAST (RAID 0) 222.5 232.74LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain 155.7 227.43Brinell Drive SSD 156.4 220.2Segate Backup Plus Desktop 150.9 180.45G-Tech Gdrive EV ATC 119.0 138.73Sony HDD HB 121.7 128.06Seagate Expansion 125.2 127.93Seagate Backup Plus Slim (Summber 2015) 118.8 125.35Seagate Backup Plus (Summber 2015) 114.48 120.84Buffalo MiniStation Extreme 110.3 118.82Toshiba Canvio Slim II 118.8 118.49WD My Passport Ultra 118.5 117.87WD My Passport Ultra (Spring 2015) 110.2 117.34SiliconPower Armor A60 104.3 114.48Seagate Slim 110.4 111.49LaCie Christofle Sphere 105.5 111.43ioSafe SoloPro G3 109.1 110.8WD My Password Slim 107.7 107.89WD Elements 95.7 102.15
  • Write
  • Read
Note: Measured in megabyte per second, longer bars mean better performance.

Conclusion

As a rugged all-terrain drive, the G-Drive EV ATC is not for everyone. But for those working in rough environments, it's one of the best, rivaling Rugged All-Terrain from LaCie.

Keep in mind that if you don't need the the rugged weatherproof features, you can get a 2TB portable drive, such as the WD My Passport Ultra, or Seagate Backup Plus Slim for less than $100. That makes the G-Drive's current cost of $150 for 1TB seem high. However, its performance, ruggedness and versatility make it well worth the investment for those needing a storage device of its type.

That said, if you often need to carry or generate content while trekking in the wilderness, the G-Drive EV ATC is a handy portable drive that will keep your data safe.

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G-Tech G-Drive ev ATC w/Thunderbolt

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 8Support 7