Google Drive and Dropbox are two of the largest cloud storage services out there. They both offer free, easy access to your stored files anywhere, and on any device. You can share photos with friends, collaborate on files with coworkers, and restore previous versions of files with either service.
So which should you choose? I’ll take a look at both of these giants in this in-depth review.
Ease of Use
Winner: Dropbox (barely)
Both Dropbox and Google Drive are ridiculously easy to use. Installing the desktop software for either service takes only a few clicks and about a minute of your time. Afterwards, a folder will be created on your computer that you can drag files into. Put files into your “Dropbox” or “Google Drive” folder, and they’ll be instantly synced to the cloud and all your other devices.
With both services, there’s no big, complicated interface you have to configure. There’s actually nothing to configure at all; there’s just a single icon in the notification area to let you know your syncs are running.
Sharing files is also easy. Right click on any file, then click Share. With Dropbox, a public link will be created and copied to your clipboard. All you have to do is paste it into an email to share with friends and family. Google Drive is slightly more involved. You have to pick users to share with, or choose to share the link publicly, which adds a couple clicks to the process.
Dropbox has a slightly less complicated web interface. Google Drive has more “Views” for your files, such as recent files, starred files, and viewing the owner of a file. Drive also has more options for customizing the look and layout of the web interface, such as colors for folders, marking files as viewed/unviewed, etc. I felt like the layout for Dropbox was more Apple-like, while Drive was more utilitarian and not as pretty.
Overall, Dropbox has a slightly easier user experience, but not enough to declare a complete victory here.
Winner: Google Drive
Google Drive gives users a whopping 15GB of free cloud storage space, which makes Dropbox’s 2GB offering look puny by comparison. To Dropbox’s credit, you can earn up to 16GB by referring friends, with an extra 500MB per referral.
Both cloud storage services feature:
- 30 day file version history
- Public file sharing
- File and folder collaboration
- Proxy settings
Features specific to Dropbox are:
- Bandwidth limiting
- Packrat; unlimited file versions (+$3.99/month)
- Share screenshots
- LAN sync; quickly transfer large files between devices on the same network
While features specific to Google Drive are:
- Google Docs integration
Dropbox has more features, such as bandwidth limiting and LAN sync. I also found it had much better support for transcoding shared video files. For instance, I could stream MPG and MP4 files with Dropbox, but Google Drive gave me errors occasionally. Dropbox’s superiority here is probably due to their advanced video processing methods.
One thing Google Drive does well is Docs integration. You can create and edit Google documents directly in the cloud. Dropbox lets you view Microsoft Office documents and other files, but you can’t edit them.
Now that Dropbox has updated their pricing, it’s the same price as Google Drive.
Prices for Google Drive start at $1.99/month for 100GB of data. You can also get 1TB for $9.99/month, or up to 30TB for $299.99/month.
Dropbox’s plan is $9.99/month for 1TB. Any more than that and you’ll need to upgrade to a business plan. It should be noted that Dropbox doesn’t offer anything lower than 1TB, so if you need “only” 100GB of space, Google Drive has got you covered.
Both services are crazy fast, and will transfer files as fast as your internet connection allows. This is not surprising, since Dropbox uses Amazon S3 as its backend storage provider. And Google Drive uses…well, Google.
Dropbox and Google Drive were both able to max out my upload speed at 7 megabits per second (Mbps), as well as max out my download speed at 30 Mbps.
Dropbox has sync clients for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The supported Linux distributions are Ubuntu, Fedora, and Debian, although you can compile from source as well.
Google Drive only has sync clients for Windows and Mac, although they say a Linux client is in the works.
Winner: Dropbox (barely)
Dropbox supports slightly more mobile devices.
Both services support the largest mobile operating systems: Android and iOS. However, Dropbox also has apps for Kindle Fire and BlackBerry.
As far as user experience, there’s very little difference between Dropbox and Google Drive. They’re both easy to use, are fast when swiping through photo galleries, and let you upload files from your phone or tablet.
One thing I liked about the Google Drive app was the Scan feature, which takes a photo of a document, creates a PDF, and uploads it to your Drive account. The Drive app also lets you easily switch between multiple accounts, while Dropbox does not.
Dropbox comes out swinging with PIN unlock and camera upload features. PIN unlock requires a passcode before opening the app, giving you more privacy. Camera upload automatically backs up your phone’s photos as soon as they’re taken.
Both apps let you store files for offline use. You can mark files as favorites in the Dropbox app, which keeps a local copy. The “Keep on this device” option in Google Drive does the same thing.
Google Drive vs. Dropbox: Which should you choose?
Do you want simplicity? More features? Go with Dropbox. Dropbox’s ease of use can’t be beat. It also has more features, such as bandwidth limiting and LAN sync, which Drive still doesn’t support.
Do you want anything other than 1TB? Go with Google Drive. Google Drive has a 100GB plan for $2/month. Google Drive also offers higher capacity plans (up to 30TB) while Dropbox is limited to 1TB before you have to upgrade to a business account.
Try Dropbox for free at http://www.dropbox.com
Try Google Drive for free at http://drive.google.com