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G-Tech G-Speed Studio R Thunderbolt 2 review: A powerful storage device for professionals

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The Good The G-Tech G-Speed Studio R Thunderbolt 2 is one of the fastest storage devices on the market and ready to work right out of the box. It has a smart design and great power-management features.

The Bad It's very expensive, and emits a loud beep when turned on or off, or when going in or out of sleep mode.

The Bottom Line Professionals who need a powerful storage device for data-intensive tasks will find that the G-Tech G-Speed Studio R Thunderbolt 2 is an excellent investment.

8.5 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 10
  • Support 6

With up to 24TB of storage space, the four-bay G-Speed Studio R Thunderbolt 2 is a top-tier storage RAID system, rivaling the Pegasus2 R4 Thunderbolt 2 from Promise. And while both proved in testing to be among the fastest storage devices on the market, the G-Speed has a prettier design, looking like a large Apple Mac Pro, and better power management.

As a RAID system that hosts four internal hard drives on the inside, the G-Speed is rather noisy when working and, like the Pegasus2, it's very expensive. Available in 12TB, 16TB and 24TB capacities, the G-Speed costs some $2,200, $2,700 and $3,600, respectively. In the UK, the G-Speed R can be found for £1,300, £1,600 and £2,140, respectively. (G-Tech has not yet announced pricing for Australia, but the US prices would convert to roughly AU$2,500, AU$3,100 and AU$4,130.)

But if you've already bought the new Mac Pro and now need a storage device that's both super-fast -- enough to easily handle 4K video editing in real time -- and capacious, the G-Speed Studio R Thunderbolt 2 is still an excellent investment.

Casual users looking for other options, including those with less storage space and friendlier price tags, should check out this list of top Thunderbolt storage devices on the market instead.

The G-Tech G-Speed Studio R Thunderbolt 2 hosts four internal hard drives that can be set up in a few RAID options. James Martin/CNET

Design and setup

The G-Speed Studio has a completely new design compared to previous storage devices from G-Tech, such as the G-RAID with Thunderbolt. It now mimics the all-black tabletop cylinder design of the new Mac Pro, while being significantly larger. The device is quite light, however, thanks to its plastic body, although the top portion is made of metal. This top side also opens up to reveal the interior hard drives. There are four hard-drive slots and each can host a standard SATA 3.5-inch (desktop) internal hard drive.

When you buy the G-Speed, it'll be populated with four enterprise-grade Hitachi hard drives of 3TB, 4TB or 6TB, but you can also use your own drives. It's very easy to replace the hard drives themselves -- in fact, it was a little too easy in my trial. All I needed to do was open the top lid (which pops up when you press on it), and I could easily pull the drives out. While this is convenient, it's also not secure, since there's no option to lock the drive bay or the drives themselves into their slots.

The G-Speed has just one large white status light on the front, shaped like the letter G. This light changes to amber if something's wrong. On the back it has two Thunderbolt 2 ports, allowing you to connect a second Thunderbolt device to the host in a daisy-chain setup. Generally you can connect up to seven Thunderbolt devices together without affecting the data speed. There's no support for USB 3.0, however.

The G-Speed Studio R Utility software is very easy to use and include a slew of helpful tools. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

If you use a Mac, the G-Speed requires no setup. Out of the box, it's preformatted using HFS+ file system and includes a Thunderbolt cable. Just connect the device to the computer, plug it into power and you're done. The G-Speed will mount as one large external storage device to the host computer.

If you want to use the device with Windows, there's only one extra step, which is formatting the G-Speed into NTFS. You can do this with the built-in formatting tool within Windows and it takes just a few seconds for the process to complete.

Advanced RAID, helpful software

By default the four hard drives are merged together in RAID 5 configuration. ( Read more about RAID here.) For a four-bay storage device, RAID 5 is a recommended setup. It balances the storage space and performance while guarding the data against one of the drives failing. The G-Speed supports other RAID setups, though, including RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10.

The G-Speed is a hardware RAID system, meaning that the device manages the RAID setup by itself, without the help of the host computer. It also means that once a RAID setup is built, it can be used with any operating system without requiring a RAID rebuild.

However, this also means that if you want to change the RAID setup, you'll need to use special software, which, in this case, is the G-Speed Studio R Utility. This software is not preloaded on the device but can be downloaded from G-Tech's website. Once installed, the application offers a slew of very helpful tools to monitor and manage the storage system. You can quickly switch from one RAID setup to another (the process will erase all data), view the status of each of the hard drives in detail and perform many other functions.

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