graid_in_boxG-RAID Review
G-Technology
www.g-technology.com

Introduction
Monday April 12, 2010 marks the beginning of FreshDV’s fourth year broadcasting daily video coverage from the National Association of Broadcasters tradeshow. The week of NAB is always a busy one for the FreshDV crew; we run camera crews all day on the tradeshow floor, meanwhile editors ingest, edit, and output video segments for broadcast here at FreshDV and also via syndication partners. It’s nearly-live coverage from this incredibly large tradeshow, and the pace is frenetic.

For the last two years we’ve shot and edited the show in HD, downrezzing for the web on output. NAB 2009 was the year we went solid-state, shooting on the Sony EX1 platform and running media cards back and forth to the edit suite. When we transitioned to HD acquisition, we also adopted a new storage strategy. For the last two years, we’ve been using G-Tech G-RAID 2 hard drive systems for storage and editing. They are reliable, fast, and durable enough to hold up to the rigors of our crazy production schedule. Since we started using these hard drives, G-Tech has released a new version, the G-RAID 3 with even larger max capacity space and a few other options like the addition of an eSATA port (and removal of the FW400 option, except via a FW800-to-400 cable). Beyond that, it appears that the overall design and has not changed. For the purposes of this review, we’ll be talking specifically about the G-RAID 2 systems.

Design and Construction
The G-RAID 2 is a two-drive RAID system, configured in a RAID-0 striped volume array for speed. In my testing, these units deliver upwards of 65MB/s read and write speeds, so they are plenty fast for our compressed EX1 footage and ProRes 422 sources (the latter which is used for our sponsor bumpers and supporting footage/b-roll). While the beautiful aluminum exterior matches the look of Apple’s pro line of desktop towers, it’s not all about looks. The aluminum case acts as a heat sink, and is built like a tank…they are rock solid. These are solid drive systems that can literally take the heat of production.

One of the things I most appreciate about the G-RAID 2 is the multiple interface options. These drives come equipped with Firewire 800, Firewire 400, and USB 2 ports for connecting to your computer system. What’s great is the fact that there are two FW800 and FW400 ports, and the drive acts as a hub. So if you are working from a laptop system that is only equipped with a single Firewire port, you can daisy-chain multiple firewire devices via the GRAID. I can’t tell you how many times this has come in handy when working on the road. Obviously the first drive in the chain needs to be powered up to pass through connections to other devices. What’s interesting is that you can chain a single or multiple G-RAID drives to one another via FW800, and add a FW400 to the end of the chain. Very helpful.

freshdv-500x200-g-tech

Setup and Configuration
The G-RAID 2 comes with all the necessary cables and power cords you need to connect to your computer with Firewire 800. If you want to connect via USB 2 (why?), you’ll need one of those USB cables with the squarish end for the drive port. The first thing you’ll likely notice upon unpacking the drive is the large power brick. That is one of the minor annoyances of the G-RAID, as the power brick is nearly half the size of the drive. The other think you’ll probably notice upon connecting and powering up your drive system is the G-RAID’s internal fan. Heat is the mortal enemy of hard drives, so G-Tech includes a small fan in their enclosures. This adds a bit to the noise level of the drive system, and I suppose is a necessary evil. I’ll trade a little ambient noise for increased reliability any day. Setup is quick and simple, as G-Tech ships drives pre-configured to work with Mac OSX. Windows users will want to reformat the hard drive before use. Beyond that, there’s not much else to report. Setup is simple.

Drive Performance
In testing with AJA’s drive System Test utility, I was able to obtain 77.2MB/s read and 65.7MB/s write speeds. At the time of the test, the drive was 1/3 full. I also tested the drive when 3/4 full, and saw the read and write speeds drop slightly to 76.9MB/s and 63.2MB/s, respectively.

Reliability
G-Tech is a well-respected name in the industry, and I know a lot of production users who swear by their drives. But every good name is not without the occasional issue. In my case, about 6 months after acquiring my G-RAID system, I started noticing a clicking noise when powering up the drive. Soon thereafter, the drive would occasionally refuse to mount on my computer. After sending the drive in for replacement, I’ve been running this G-RAID 2 system for about 18 months with no other such issues. I use the drive as my editing scratch, for captures, renders, encoding and such. So it gets used on a regular basis on a variety of HD projects, mainly various ProRes flavors and some RED R3D sources. The only other issue I’ve run into recently is the fan on the enclosure is starting to get loud on occasion, and will need to be replaced. It’s my understanding that this is a user-replaceable part, and it’s simply some maintenance that I need to make time for in the near future. happily, our 2nd G-RAID 2 system has not experienced any such issues, and continues plugging away on a daily basis in heavy production use.

Summary and Conclusions
I’ve been very pleased with my G-RAID system for the past two years. With the exception of the above-noted issues, it’s been a rock-solid post-production companion, it’s white glow illuminating my steaming coffee mug on late-night editing jobs. We’ll be leaning heavily on a few G-RAID systems for our NAB 2010 coverage and post-production tasks, and I’ve gotta say that it’s nice to go into a stressful production schedule like this without having to worry about your storage solution.

Current G-RAID models are available in 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB storage capacities, and pricing starts at $229. Find them online at your favorite retailer. Happy editing!


2 Responses to “G-RAID Powers FreshDV’s NAB Post-Production”  

  1. 1 Aaron Szabo

    Those are solid enclosures, but they’re too slow for me!

    I’m getting:

    298mb write and 244mb read with an internal 3-1tb array raid 0 and

    150mb read and 275mb write with my SSD for the operating system and programs

    from the AJA Kona test :)

  2. 2 Emre Tufekci

    We had purchased 10 units from G-Tech last year and 8 of them failed. The problem was it took the company 4 months to just send a RMA number. There was “0″ customer support. We switched to caldigit.