G-tech or Western Digital Hard Drives
June 17, 2008 6:23 AM   Subscribe

I am looking to buy 2 1T drives. I'm doing some final cut work but mostly for media storage. I'm looking at the Western Digital 1 TB My Book Premium Edition II Triple Interface ($236) and the G-Tech Q drive which retail at $445. That's almost twice the price of the western digital.

Two questions:

Which is my best bet? The g-tech or the wdc?
Are the drives differences really represented by the price differential?

posted by captainscared to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The only difference I can see is that the G-Tech has Firewire 800. If you're doing online video editing you really want Firewire 800; if not, you probably won't care. Other than that, the real differences seem to be cosmetic.
posted by jacobian at 6:43 AM on June 17, 2008

The Western Digital external drives don't work reliably with Macs. Could be fine, could be fine for half a year and then surprise you, could malfunction out of the box. WD has had multiple years to do a firmware fix but they've chosen not to, so they either don't know how to make their drives compatible or aren't interested in it.

I've had great experiences with OWC firewire cases and I would get one of these and then just put whatever HD I wanted in there. Should cost less than the G-Tech and be much more reliable than the WD.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:47 AM on June 17, 2008

The last time I checked, G Tech used Hitachi 7KXXX drives inside. You can check reliability surveys to see how these compare relative to the WD drives.
posted by meehawl at 7:49 AM on June 17, 2008

In fact, there is a Leopard-specific firmware update for many firewire models of My Book that have trouble, so I don't know why you think they've chosen not to. The USB models all seem to work fine. I've been using them for years with Macs.
posted by Caviar at 9:53 AM on June 17, 2008

I work in fcp and video. We are literally not allowed to buy western digital at my office because their fail rate is so high. Anecdotally, we use a lot of G-tech drives, but we lost a small one recently. Standard def video editing can be done with the 400 or 800 (or even usb2, scoffers).
Different manufacturers purchase drives with different testing. So Company A may go to Hitachi and pay extra to send the drives through an extra round of testing. Drives that survive they keep, that don't survive this go back in the "not as hot" bin; Companies like lacie and western digital have bad reps because they're known to buy drives bulk from the "not as hot" bin. (In lacie's case, I think they've improved on this, but people still remember when they were worse about it).
posted by history is a weapon at 10:17 AM on June 17, 2008

The reason I think they haven't fixed their firmware problems is that people keep reporting further problems with their drives, sometimes after periods with no issues. I just recently did this exact piece of research trying to decide whether to roll the dice on an external WD because it was so cheap, and saw angry complaints about them pretty much everywhere people discuss those sorts of things. Replies from WD customer support seemed to consist of "upgrade your firmware" and when that didn't fix the issue, "it's Apple's fault." Pleased for you if you haven't had a bad experience, but I can't think of a brand I've seen more external drive failure stories on the mac associated with in recent years.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 10:49 AM on June 17, 2008

Be aware that the 1 TB WD My Book is in fact two 500 GB disks being “striped” to appear as a single logical volume. This is where some of the price differential comes from (two smaller disks are often cheaper than one larger.) I would not recommend this device with disk striping for backups: when either one of those disks fails, your data is lost. I think you can configure it to use “mirroring” instead of striping, which means your data is safely redundant, but you only have half the available space for storage.

For real-time video editing, you would do well to consider an eSATA interface—it will be several times faster than USB or FireWire. I just bought this enclosure with a bare 500 GB Seagate disk from Newegg for around $130. The enclosure comes with an eSATA adapter that plugs into the motherboard (and it works on Macs.) For simple backups and long-term storage, any interface should be fine.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 11:20 AM on June 17, 2008

As stated above, the drives are less about the "external" package hoohah than it is the actual hard drive inside the enclosure.

I also cut on FCP and I just bought a Hitachi 1 gig 7K1000 from Newegg and got a really nice enclosure with Firewire 800 from OWC.

Not nearly as cheap as one of the total package external drive things from Western Digital/Seagate/Lacie, but still cheaper than a G-Raid.

Remember, as an editor you live and die by your media, so you can save a couple bucks, but reliability, speed, and peace of mind are worth the extra cash.
posted by CharlieChu at 11:40 AM on June 17, 2008

I am using WD disks (in daily pro media) and their failure rate is more or less as expected, approx 10% of disks die at any random moment within their life expectancy.

Google Research: Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population

Also take notice, many people doesn't seem to know this - when an external disk dies, it is very often the enclosure and the cheap interface technology that breaks down, NOT the disk itself. So pop out the disk and insert it into something else (tower or custom enclosure). With some of the WD disks this is hard and/or impossible.

Another experience I have made with the WD disks over time, is that they don't like FW hubs, and that WD is cheap/saving money on the power supplies. Sometimes when a disk dies, and it is on a 6.5 V power supply, giving it a 7 V power supply from a another WD disk immediately ressurects it.. YMMV

Needless to say I hope, but duplicate/backup EVERYTHING regardless of manufacturer and keep a copy offsite. All disks die.
posted by gmm at 9:27 PM on June 17, 2008

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