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G-Technology G-SPEED eS Pro Review

The G-SPEED eS Pro is a very high-speed disk drive array that can provide a storage capacity from 3TB to 12TB, depending on the capacity of drives used and whether one or two of the units are deployed. It is designed to support the most data-intensive video applications such as editing uncompressed HD or 2K media.

Features
Each G-SPEED eS Pro unit is constructed around multiple disk drives enclosed in a compact, sturdy aluminum enclosure which is cooled by a very quiet fan. Each unit occupies minimal space, with dimensions of only 8 x 5 x 7 inches.

The G-SPEED eS Pro connects to the NLE host via a six foot locking Mini-SAS cable. This provides very fast data transfer and is inexpensive and easy to install. The G-SPEED eS Pro comes bundled with a PCIe RAID card with two ports and one or two locking mini SAS connection cables (depending on single or dual configuration), each capable of a bandwidth of up to 12Gb/s.

A single G-SPEED eS Pro drive array unit contains four Hitachi 7,200 rpm, 3.5-inch SATA II drives, providing a total maximum storage capacity of about 6TB. You can connect up to two units to the PCI Express RAID control card, thereby achieving a maximum capacity of 12TB. Connecting two units not only provides more capacity, but almost doubles the data transfer speed as well. The G-SPEED eS Pro offers a data read and write speed that is extremely fast–around 650Mb/s even with RAID 5 configuration. This is on par with the speed of Fibre Channel at a fraction of the cost.

A Single G-SPEED eS Pro unit supports multi-stream compressed HD, ProRes 422, and single stream uncompressed HD playback. Two units support dual-stream HD playback and a single stream of 2K.

The G-SPEED eS Pro includes a browser-based GUI that makes it very easy to configure and manage the RAID system. By using the interface, you can configure the system for RAID 0, 1, 3, 5 or 6 depending on the level of data protection desired.

RAID 0 is the fastest configuration, but provides no safety back up. RAID 0 stripes all of the disks to improve speed, but if one disk fails, all of the data will be lost. RAID 5 is a popular choice, as it provides data back up without excessively curtailing speed and capacity. The RAID 5 configuration arranges the data so that if one disk fails, no data will be lost. This setting reduces total capacity by the size of one disk, but provides safety and peace of mind. RAID 6 is also an option, which preserves all of the data even if two drives fail. But the probability of two drives failing at once is so low that most users don’t feel compelled to go to that level, even though this is an option that’s nice to have when working on very critical projects where data or project loss would be catastrophic.

The G-SPEED eS Pro is designed with such speed that the data rate at RAID 5 is still blazingly fast. Figures provided by G-Technology rate the write speed for a single unit configuration as 424Mb/s at RAID 0 and 317Mb/s when set up for RAID 5. When using a two-unit configuration the write speed is 833Mb/s at RAID 0 and 664Mb/s at RAID 5. I conducted my own test of the read and write speed of a two unit G-SPEED eS Pro system and those results are discussed below.

In Use
For this review I connected two G-SPEED eS Pro units to a Mac Pro using a supplied PCI Express card with two mini-SAS ports.

The setup was easy and I encountered no problems. After installing the supplied software, I was directed to a browser-based interface that provided all of the necessary controls for choosing a RAID level and other management features. My arrays were already set at RAID 5, and I chose to keep them at there.

I don’t generally work with uncompressed high-definition material, so I asked that some HD content be placed on the drives before they were shipped. To test editing speed I worked with a rather hefty QuickTime file of 10-bit uncompressed HD media with a resolution of 1920x1080. This is the kind of material that the G-SPEED eS Pro is designed to handle. Being uncompressed, the file size amounted to 21.21GB, although the clip was only two and half minutes long.

I added the clip to the timeline in Final Cut Pro and proceeded to work with it. Despite the large data size, the editing process was as smooth as if I were editing basic DV material. I cut the clip into pieces, created dissolves and added effects from Magic Bullet Looks. Every operation was fast and effortless. The effects, which can often take a long time to render, even with DV material, rendered quickly.

To put the playback capability to the test I started stacking video layers. I added one video layer and decreased the opacity so that the two images could be seen at once. This actually played back in real time without rendering–pretty impressive performance with 10-bit uncompressed media. When I added a three or more video layers, rendering was required for playback, but the render time was fast.

I also conducted my own drive speed tests and found my results to be a little better than those of the manufacturer. I first tested all of the drives on my system to determine which was the fastest. I actually own a basic four drive RAID made by “brand X” and it showed a disk read data rate of 74Mb/s and a write speed of 33Mb/s. The fastest drive I own turned out to be an internal SATA unit, with a read speed of 93Mb/s and a write speed of 92Mb/s.

By comparison, the G-SPEED eS Pro test results showed a read data rate of 677Mb/s and a write data rate of 710Mb/s. And this while it’s set up for RAID level 5, which reduces speed in exchange for data back up.
Overall, the G-SPEED eS Pro showed excellent performance in both data intensive editing applications and in objective speed tests.

As a side note, G-technology also has 12- and 16-bay rack mount units in this product line. They offer the same speed and can be daisy-chained to provide up to nearly 200TB of storage space.

Summary
The G-SPEED eS Pro is a leap forward in ultra-fast, inexpensive and reliable RAID systems. It provides the flexibility for choosing between a full range of data protection levels, while retaining lightning speed without resorting to more complex and costly connection methods such as Fibre Channel. The G-SPEED eS Pro RAID units are solidly constructed and amazingly quiet. Balancing speed, design, flexibility and cost, this product is a real winner.