FINALLY, what many of you have been waiting for…the results of my independent tests of the G-Raid 3 and CalDigit VR. I’m going to cut to the chase…if you want to know what lead to this, read this blog post.

Now…for all of these tests I relied on what EVERYONE relies on to test drive speeds, the AJA SYSTEM TEST application found at www.aja.com. But I also utilized a new tool that John Flowers has been working on…the HD SPEED TEST. I used version 1.1, beta 4. This is still in beta, so keep that in mind. To read the reasoning behind this app, and how it works, click here.

And the machine this was tested on is an early 2008 MacPro 3.0Ghz with 4GB RAM, and the eSATA controller card is the CalDigit FASTA 4e card. FYI.

OK, moving on.

First up…the G-Raid 3…because it arrived first. The FIRST thing I did was run a speed test on my original G-RAID…the FIRST one, the one with PATA drives and not SATA drives. So I could have some sort of comparison. Just for kicks and giggles really. So here we go.

The original G-RAID…via firewire 800:

About 60 write and 67 read. Not bad. This is fairly decent for DVCPRO HD…I can get 3 streams. OK, let’s look at the the G-Raid 3 via Firewire 800:

68 Write and 83 Read…significant improvement.

Now, what you have been waiting for. G-Raid 3 via eSATA. Ready? Sit down.

220.5 MB/s Read, 217 MB/s Write. From TWO DRIVES! Wow. Before this you needed 5 drives to get this performance. Now, let’s see what the HD Speed Test got us:

Well, we see a variety of numbers…one for each codec type. Which one to believe? Well, I guess that depends what format you are working with….there is no “overall” ranking. Not sure why certain numbers are lower with certain formats, but as you note, when I run the AJA test I choose the highest format possible, 10-bit uncompressed 1080.

Let’s take a look at my home built Dark Tower SATA RAID. This is a 5 drive (5×500GB = 2.5TB) port multiplied device.

SAME NUMBERS as the G-RAID 3. Five drives vs two drives…both eSATA. I did not run the HD SPEED TEST on this setup.

OK…but that was a test with the drive EMPTY…which every one likes to test their drives as because, well, they are faster. But let’s take a real world stab at this. Let’s fill the drive halfway…put 1TB of stuff one it. Music, video files, pictures…the usual stuff. Now we can see some real numbers, not marketing numbers. This is where I employ both the AJA test and the HD Speed Test. First AJA:

189MB/s Read, 185MB/s Write. Still very respectable. Lets look at the HD Speed Test:

Just a small dip in performance…like 3MB/s across the board. So those are great numbers. The thing that gets me is how the AJA tool drops so much while the HD SPEED tool remains consistent. Whatever…believe the numbers you want to believe. I might be more inclined to trust the HD SPEED TEST, because the streams of RT it shows is what I get when I run my tests.

OK, moving on.

Now onto the CalDigit VR. Just like with the G-Raid, I am going to run the numbers on the S2VR Duo first…just for comparison. Bear in mind that unlike the first G-RAID that had PATA drives, this one utilized SATA drives, and I am connecting via eSATA, so it will be a bit faster. I just wanted to compare the S2VR Duo to the new CalDigit VR. So…the S2VR Duo via eSATA:

154MB/s on both Read and Write pretty much. Very good. Now the CalDigit VR…empty:

216.6 MB/s Read and 204.4 MB/s Write. Slower than the G-Raid 3. Not by much…they are close, but it is slower. There is a TURBO mode on the drive, so I turned that on and saw if there was any difference:

Slight. Nearly the same results Read, slightly better Write. But those numbers fluctuate plus or minus 4 points anyway…I ran multiple tests and they were up and down, I just chose the average numbers.

OK, running the HD SPEED TEST:

OK…looking at all the numbers we note only a slight difference. One to two points lower than the G-Raid3. Slower, but not a noticeable difference.

Moving on to the real world tests. The CalDigit VR 50% full…exact same stuff that I put on the G-Raid 3:

178MB/s Read, 173MB/s Write. A full 10MB/s slower than the G-Raid 3 at the same capacity. Close…but the G-Raid clearly wins. Now, the Flowers HD Speed Test:

IT’S FASTER! According to this test the drive is FASTER with more stuff. So it doesn’t make much sense. I am not a highly technical guy, so I’ll leave this to the technical guys to figure out. Going by the current industry standard the AJA test, the CalDigit unit is slower. But the Flower’s Test has it faster. Who to believe? I guess this will be up to debate.

According to the AJA test, the G-Raid3 wins hands down…full and half full. Clearly faster. Is that difference noticeable? Doubtfull, but…G-RAID3 wins. According the the HD Speed Test…the G-RAID3 also wins empty, but half full, the CalDigit wins. I’ll chalk this up to the fact that the HD SPEED TEST is still in Beta.

Note that both had dips in drive performance. That is due to neither of them having a dedicated RAID controller card. Without that they are on their own and prone to those dips.

OK…there was also question of the STURDINESS of these drives. Which one was the more solidly built. Let’s take a look at them just sitting there.

The CalDigit VR is clearly bigger. And yes, it is heavier. Nearly twice as heavy as the G-RAID3. The CalDigit VR weighs a whopping 6.6 pounds…the G-RAID3 a mere 3.8 pounds. If this sits on your desk that wouldn’t really matter, but if you pack this for on the road travel, or want to throw it in your backpack, that is a BIG difference. Gotta be the added components, because this drive is very versatile. The G-Raid is a simple drive…RAID-0, plug and go. The CalDigit VR has many options. But I’ll tough upon those later.

DURABILITY. Well, by holding them and pushing on them and poking them fully assembled, they are both pretty solid. Not sure what the big issue with durability is. If you drop the drive, the last thing you worry about is the integrity of the case…the drives will be jostled so much the data will be as risk. BUT, since someone called this into question, let’s open the cases.

G-RAID3


Looks solid enough…and looks exactly like the other G-Raid cases I have had. Nothing’s changed. But, why change it when it works? Looks good, feels solid, nothing lose…even the SATA cables seem secure. I see no issues with this case.

CALDIGIT VR


Now, right away you can see something that might be cause for concern….there are no four solid walls, but a faceplate that seems to be only connected to the base. That would seem flimsy. However, that isn’t the case.

See that bracket? Well, that is the anchor. It keeps that faceplate solidly in place. Yup, I jiggled and wiggled…it is pretty firm. I have no doubt that this is solid and will hold up. Even to being dropped from a few feet. But again, if these drives are dropped from your desk, the last thing you need to worry about is the case. It is the second thing. Since I wasn’t given permission to destroy these drives, I did not perform that test…the DROP test.

Now…let’s look at the price and options these drives offer.

The G-Raid3 is simple. $499 for 2TB ($519 on B&H, and they are usually the CHEAP place to go). Quad interface…USB 2.0, FW400, FW800, eSATA. Adapter for eSATA is extra. And the only option is Raid 0…meaning the two internal drives are hardware raided together…striped for speed. Simple, cheap, sturdy, reliable…FAST. Freaking fast for a two drive unit eSATA. Worth every penny.

CALDIGIT VR is flexible. $664 for 2TB ($165 more than the G-Raid3). Again, Quad Interface….USB 2.0, FW400, FW800 and eSATA. And this unit ships with a free eSATA extender. This handy thing allows you to connect to the two spare eSATA connections on the logicboard of the MacPro…and provides instructions on how to do so. And unlike the G-RAID3, this unit isn’t only RAID-0. You can configure this Raid 0, Raid 1 (protected…mirrored data on both drives) and JBOD, meaning the drives show up as separate drives. And the LCD and interface allow you to not only monitor the heat, fan speed, raid type and a few other things (serial number, firmware version), but also works as an interface to do a few things like choose the RAID type for the drive. And the drives are removable, so you can use it as a stand alone storage case and just order more drives as needed.

OH, and both drives have the same level of noise, which isn’t much. Sure, if it is on the desktop with you, you’ll hear them. But if they are below the desk on your computer, or off to the side somewhere, you won’t really be distracted by them. Both fans are pretty decently quiet.

So…final tally.

SPEED – G-RAID3 wins. Minus that little oddity in the HD SPEED test (app still in beta), it wins using the industry standard test…both empty and real world scenario.

DURABILITY – I would say tie. They are both very solid when together, and very solid when taken apart. Since I didn’t drop either one, I can’t say for sure. But they are both solidly built, no matter what the companies say about the other guy.

FEATURES – CalDigit wins with the ability to configure their unit in one of three ways, and with the ability to monitor various things.

NOISE – Tie.

COST – G-RAID3 wins. $165 cheaper than the CalDigit…both in 2TB configurations.

CONCLUSION? If you want a nice simple drive to edit HD video with that provides lots of space and speed, the G-RAID3 is for you. It is light, simple to use, and durable. Great little unit. I lost faith in G-Tech a while back when the G-Raid 2 had issues with daisy chaining the units (performance would drop from 65MB/s to 16MB/s), but this drive has returned my faith in the company and their products. The G-Raid 3 is a great little drive that I’d recommend to anyone.

If you want a drive with more features and one that is customizable…if you have a bit of the inner geek in you and need such things (I do at times), then the CalDigit VR is the drive for you. Fast and durable, and with features that make the extra money needed to get one worth it to many people. CalDigit has always been one to turn out great products, and this is no exception.

CHOOSE ONE? I can’t. I like both…can’t I have both? If cost was a factor then the G-RAID3 will be the clear winner. But if you have the extra cash, the added features of the CalDigit VR might be worth the cost. So YOU choose. I gave you a bunch of things to take into consideration. Now it is up to you.

(NOTE: If you look seriously at the HD SPEED TEST results…these units are very close, with the G-RAID3 winning empty. But then the CalDigit VR does BETTER when it has footage on it. I ran the tests with the full 1.2 non-beta version of the Speed Test and the results remainded the same. More data on the Caldigit, the faster it gets. Now, the debate about the validity of this tool can commence.)