Hands-On Review:Glyph GT050Q External Hard Drive/PortaGig 50

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Glyph GT050Q External Hard Drive/PortaGig 50

Not all hard drives are created equal

By Craig Anderton
Editor in Chief, Harmony Central

Glyph GT050Q External Hard Drive/PortaGig 50

Hard drives are hard drives, right? Well, no. Just like guitars, there are hard drives that meet a price point, and hard drives that meet a performance point. Which one you need depends on how much you value your data.


For casual users, you can buy several hard drives at your local office supply store, and maintain multiple redundant backups. However, that can be a false economy if the drives fail prematurely; then there's the hassle of maintaining all those backups. For serious users, a better strategy is maintaining a lesser number of high-quality drives. It's not just about useful life, but also about noise levels, ability to stream lots of tracks, and minimize data block loss over time.


Just as it's worth paying the premium for computers that are custom-integrated for music, pro-level hard drives are cost-effective for the same reason. Glyph has been in this business for 17 years, and yes, you do pay more compared to budget drives. However, let's see what you get in return.

Hard drive life

Hard drives are spec'ed for a certain number of rotations; after that point, failure is in your future. You can also expect failure if the drive is dropped or exposed to environmental extremes. Furthermore, multitrack audio work really exercises a drive—it's always crunching, which is very different from saving a text file occasionally.


Another issue: Hard drives generate heat. If simply put in a plastic case, there's no real way to dissipate heat, which can shorten the drive's useful life. The GT050Q uses a ventilated steel case, internal low-noise fan, and pays strict attention to thermal engineering to extend hard-drive life.


The GT050Q's three-year warranty for these made-in-the-USA drives is far better than average but if the drive fails within the first year, you receive an immediate replacement. Glyph also offers two years of basic data recovery if the drive fails (they don't guarantee they can recover data—there are too many variables—but they make a concerted effort to do so). More telling, if you send a drive in for repair, the first thing Glyph does is try to preserve your data. Most companies will wipe the data first, and inform you of that as part of their warranty terms.


External drives generally commit to a particular interface. The GT050Q offers FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, and eSATA. This is invaluable if you transport your hard drive to other locations, or use a laptop that might not even have a FireWire interface. If you have both USB and FireWire on your computer, you can use FireWire for somewhat better throughput, or USB for convenience (FireWire has a reputation for being slightly "tweakier").


Additionally, most people don't consider the AC power "interface." The GT050Q has an internal "global" power supply (100-240V, 50/60Hz) with an IEC-standard AC cord. This not only feels more secure (you don't want to interrupt power while your hard drive is writing data), but if you're working away from home base, you don't have to worry about misplacing or forgetting a wall wart.

At home, or on the road

For permanent installations, you can rack-mount the GT050Q with an optional rackmount kit. If you need to transport your drive, there's an included high-impact plastic, molded carrying case with form-fitting foam insides, and a cutout for cables. I still don't advise dropping a hard drive, but if you do, this case dramatically improves the odds of survival.

Noise issues

This is important. I've used hard drives that sounded like a vacuum cleaner, and like a vacuum cleaner, that sucks. The GT050Q is extremely quiet, which is a major plus for studio operation.

PortaGig 50

For portable applications, the Portagig 50 has much in common with the GT050Q. The major differences are an external power supply, which you'll likely need to use (although bus power will work in many cases); FireWire 800, USB 2.0, and eSATA ports only (800 is backward-compatible with 400 via adapter cable); and it doesn't come with a carrying case. The warranty is the same, as is the level of attention paid to thermal design.


Glyph drive pricing depends on capacity and rotational speed—for some capacities, 5,400 and 7,200rpm versions are available—but because much of the cost goes into the case and other mechanical elements, the difference in price between higher and lower-capacity drives isn't that significant (and as we all know, you can never have too much storage).


Sure, bargain drives are pretty reliable these days, and they're suitable for non-critical applications. But I speak from experience when I say there's an element of "hard drive roulette"; some last a long time, some fail within months or even weeks, and some deteriorate noticeably over time (i.e., missing data blocks). When you depend on your data, a hard drive designed specifically for industrial-strength applications isn't a luxury—it's an investment that's worth the relatively modest price difference.

Features & Specs

  • Very quiet operation

  • Includes padded, high-impact carrying case and cables

  • Four interfaces: FireWire 400 and 800, USB 2.0, eSATA

  • Global-ready internal power supply

  • Steel case and excellent thermal engineering for cool operation

  • Oxford 924 bridging chipset (recommended for Pro Tools)

  • 3-year warranty, 2-year basic data recovery, 1-year advanced replacement warranty

  • Mac/Windows compatible, even back to Mac OS 8.6 and Windows 98SE

Your data is the most valuable part of your computer, and Glyph's industrial-strength hard drives provide the safest possible home for that data. Order today with the complete assurance of Musician's Friend's 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.