SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD Review
The SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD (starting at $ 89.99 for 1TB; $ 109.99 for 2TB according to testing) is a cost-effective semi-rugged external hard drive available in capacities up to 5TB As a turntable drive (5,400 rpm), its speed is typical of its class, which means well below the performance of solid-state drives. This makes the ArmorATD less than ideal for users who need to back up many large files in a hurry, but it should work well for travelers or mobile workers who need a lot of capacity for spending, compared to what their money would buy in an external SSD.
Trays that work well with Macs
The ArmorATD is one of the first products in Western Digital’s SanDisk Professional storage solution line, which combines a rebranding of WD’s G-Technology series with the introduction of a few new products. A slightly modified version of the G-Technology ArmorATD, the G-Drive ArmorATD has a new color scheme – the case has changed from blue to space gray – and is formatted as HFS + instead of exFAT.
HFS + is a Mac compatible format, one of two (along with APFS) compatible with the macOS Time Machine backup system. Unlike exFAT, which is both Mac and Windows compatible, HFS + can only be used on a Mac. If you need to use ArmorATD with Windows PCs and Macs, you will need to reformat it to exFAT. This can be done with a Mac’s Disk Utility, where HFS + is referred to as Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
If you have only one Windows machine and want to convert the format to NTFS, you can do so using Windows Disk Management utility by carefully deleting the HFS + partition and reformatting the drive to NTFS , by cleaning the reader. Utilities such as Paragon NTFS-HFS converter offer a simple and straightforward way to convert disks between HFS + and NTFS.
If you’re reformatting the ArmorATD, you’ll want to back up all of your data first. (The Paragon utility even prompts you.) As for software, SanDisk doesn’t include any software on the disk. In contrast, the WD My Passport (5TB) supports AES-256 hardware encryption and password protection through its WD Security app. It also includes utilities to check drive status, backup and reformat drive, and download data from cloud storage. True to its name, the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch provides backup software (via a free download); it also supports AES 256-bit hardware encryption with password protection.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Measuring 0.8 x 3.4 x 5.1 inches, the ArmorATD can fit in one hand and it’s easy to grip the removable black rubberized sleeve that cushions the drive. The silver-gray surface of the device is visible at the top and bottom. On the side, a rubber plug attached to the drive conceals a USB-C port with a USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface. (Of course, the port also works with Thunderbolt 3 ports on all recent Macs, via a USB-C cable. -to-C) The protection of the reader against dust and rain depends on the port covered. The ArmorATD comes with a pair of 2ft cables, one USB-C to USB-C, the other USB-C to USB-A.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
The ArmorATD is a platter hard drive with some ruggedness credit. With a rubber bumper cushioning its aluminum frame and internal shock mounts, it is designed to withstand pressure of up to 1,000 pounds or a drop of 3.3 feet. Its protection rating (IP) IP54 offers some security against sand and rain, although it is still potentially vulnerable to fine dust. You can spray water on (but not submerge) the device without adverse effects.
The bottom line is that the ArmorATD is moderately robust. A hiking trip that involves the need for data backup, for example for saving photos, should pose no threat, and getting around town should be a breeze. If you need something more waterproof or are heading into particularly dirty or dusty environments, you will probably be better off with a hard drive with a higher IP rating such as the ADATA HD830. You can always choose a solid-state drive, whose lack of moving parts makes it inherently less vulnerable than a platter drive. The SanDisk Professional G-Drive SSD features IP67 water and dust resistance, drop protection up to 3 meters, and crush resistance of 2,000 pounds. You’ll pay more for the G-Drive SSD, but besides being more rugged, it’s much faster and provides useful software.
At current retail price (Amazon), the 2TB version of ArmorATD costs 5 cents per gigabyte, while the 4TB and 5TB models sell for 3 cents per gigabyte each. The more robust ADATA HD830 also costs 3 cents per gig in 4TB and 5TB capacities, although its 2TB version costs 4 cents per gigabyte, as does the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch 2TB. SanDisk supports it. ‘ArmorATD with a three-year warranty.
ArmorATD test: up to the plateaus
The performance of the ArmorATD was found to be typical of a 5,400 RPM hard drive from a major manufacturer, which is not surprising as almost all of these drives fall in a very narrow score range. (Learn more about how we test hard drives.)
The PCMark 10 Storage test generates a proprietary score based on a mix of simulated workloads, including Windows Defender scan, video editing tasks, and app launches. The ArmorATD finished just behind the WD Black P10, the only other 5,400 rpm drive we’ve tested since upgrading our PCMark benchmarks from PCMark 8, with a score of 499 to 503.
Crystal DiskMark, a test of sequential read and write speeds for straight-line contiguous data transfers, represents the best-case scenario for platter drives. Rated for a maximum transfer speed (sequential read) of 140 Mbps for the 2TB version we tested, the ArmorATD narrowly missed with a read speed of 135 Mbps and a write speed of 132 Mbit / s. Its read speed was tied with three others for the highest among the nine 5,400 rpm disks we compared it with, and its write speed tied for second, but the scores were in a range narrow enough that the differences are of little importance. The Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub, which packs a 7,200 rpm (3.5-inch) desktop hard drive, leads the pack with read and write scores of 233MB / s and 255MB / s respectively.
For our own folder transfer test, we are using a MacBook Pro laptop. This drag-and-drop test involves copying a standard 1.2GB folder from the Mac to the test drive, with a stopwatch showing how long it took to complete the job. The G-Drive ArmorATD claimed the bragging rights by doing the transfer in 10 seconds, one second faster than five other 5,400 rpm drives, including the previous generation G-Technology ArmorATD. The Seagate FireCuda 7,200 RPM gaming hub was the fastest, taking 7 seconds. No reader took more than 13 seconds to complete this test.
The BlackMagic Mac-only test utility was created by an Australian video hardware and software producer, and is often used to help videographers assess player performance when working with large video files. It measures the speed of a drive in Mbit / s for reading and writing various video formats. The ArmorATD’s 121MB / s read and 125MB / s write scores put it a little above the average of its 5,400rpm competitors, which all scored in a fairly narrow range.
While fast SSDs arguably dominate today’s storage arena, spinning hard drives still have a lot to recommend. They are often available in capacities rarely seen in SSDs – the ArmorATD, as mentioned, provides up to 5TB of storage space, as do many other hard drives. Its cost per gigabyte is typical of its class, especially at capacities of 4TB and 5TB.
Rotating bits for the road
The SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD is a sturdy, attractively designed kit that works well as a on-the-go drive. It has a good balance between price and robustness, with performance over the mark.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
If you want a platter hard drive that comes with a software suite or data encryption (or both), look at the WD My Passport or Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch, although neither are particularly rugged and the Seagate peaks at 2TB. The PCMag Editors’ Choice winner ADATA HD830 like the other two drives mentioned above is even more secure than the ArmorATD, but lacks a USB-C interface. The ArmorATD is a more than reasonable alternative, especially for Mac users willing to settle for platter speeds on top of the cheap capabilities they allow.
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