When it was released, Google Drive quickly wowed critics, who call it the best file-synchronization service, supplanting Dropbox (Free for 2 GB). Experts say Google Drive's design mimics Dropbox's simple, functional interface, which is a good thing. Files you add to the Google Drive folder on your computer seamlessly and immediately sync with Google's servers and appear on your other Google Drive-enabled devices within minutes. The service supports Windows PCs, Android devices and Macs, with an iOS app in development. But unlike most file synchronization services, it doesn't support any type of media streaming whatsoever.
Google Drive earns accolades for being able to open more than 30 different file types in-browser, and deep integration with Google Docs allows you to edit Microsoft Office files and a few other basic file types directly in-browser as well. Experts love that feature. You can also share files with other users and work with them to collaboratively edit documents, spreadsheets and slideshows in real-time. Built-in OCR (optical character-recognition) technology lets users convert photos and PDF files into Google Doc files.
Microsoft SkyDrive (Free for 7 GB) offers many similar functions based around web versions of Microsoft Office programs, but critics give Google Drive's version the edge. Value-wise, SkyDrive undercuts Google Drive's pricing, but Google Drive's paid subscription plans are nevertheless significantly cheaper than the rest of the file synchronization crowd. A 25 GB upgrade can be had for just $2.50 a month, with plans available all the way up to 16 TB (*Est. $800 per month). No other online backup service offers as many storage plans as Google Drive.
Data protection is limited to transferring data over an SSL connection, an issue that extends to virtually all the file-synchronization services. Security-minded users will have to encrypt files on their own. Google saves file versions for 30 days or 100 revisions, and deleted files can easily be restored from a trash folder in the service's web interface.
The best reviews of Google Drive come from Pocket-Lint.com, TheVerge.com, the Associated Press and Laptop Magazine, each of which pits the service against its competition in lengthy comparison reviews. Stand-alone reviews from PCMag.com and The Wall Street Journal provide more detailed insight, while comparisons at Gizmodo.com and Techlicious.com are helpful, but light on specifics.
Pocket-Lint.com weighs the top cloud storage services against one another in several categories and finds the race between Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive too close to call. Dan Sung says that Android phone owners and people who are heavily integrated into the Google ecosystem will especially love Google Drive.
Review: Apple iCloud vs Google vs Amazon Cloud Drive vs Dropbox vs Microsoft SkyDrive, Dan Sung, April 26, 2012
The Dropbox-like syncing functionality, excellent collaborative editing abilities and the built-in OCR-technology of Google Drive help earn it an Editors' Choice award from PCMag.com. Poor media streaming capabilities knock a point off of its total score, however.
Review: Google Drive, Jill Duffy and Mark Hachman, May 15, 2011
3. Laptop Magazine
While many reviewers fail to actually award a best pick in their roundups of file synchronization services, Dan Howley steps up to the plate and names Google Drive the winner after comparing it to SkyDrive and iCloud in several categories. "The fact that Google works with so many devices, offers such a large amount of storage space and can automatically upload both photos and videos makes it the king of the cloud," he writes.
Review: Cloud Service Face-Off: Google vs. Microsoft vs. Apple, Dan Howley, April 25, 2012
4. Associated Press
AP technology editor Anick Jesdanun takes an in-depth look at the capabilities of Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive. Like Laptop Magazine's Dan Howley, he finds Google Drive to be the best all-around choice for most users thanks to its powerful search and document handling capabilities.
Review: Review: Using Files Made Easy with Online Storage, Anick Jesdanun, May 3, 2012
TheVerge.com's Ellis Hamburger says Google Drive syncs documents as seamlessly as Dropbox but its productivity features are what sets the service apart from the competition. "Since Drive replaces and builds on Google Docs, it's essentially a full-featured cloud document editing and storage suite," he writes.
Review: Google Drive vs. Dropbox, SkyDrive, SugarSync, and Others: a Cloud Sync Storage Face-off, Ellis Hamburger, April 24, 2012
6. The Wall Street Journal
Veteran tech analyst Walt Mossberg takes a deep and exhaustive look at Google Drive from the eyes of a user, rather than a numbers-obsessed reviewer. "I can recommend Google Drive to consumers looking for cloud-based storage, with the added bonus of integrated editing, at lower prices," he says in conclusion.
Review: Google Stores, Syncs, Edits in the Cloud, Walt Mossberg, April 25, 2012
Christina Warren compares Google Drive directly against its competitors in several categories, although the discussion is pretty thin overall. She says Google Drive is a great, polished service overall, though she says Microsoft Office users may prefer SkyDrive's Office Web Apps productivity interface.
Review: How Does Google Drive Compare to the Competition?, Christina Warren, April 24, 2012
"Overall, Google Drive hits a sweet spot between value and flexibility," Adrian Covert writes at the end of this very lightweight review. "It's not the cheapest or most comprehensive, but it appears to cover the widest swath of features people want."
Review: Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox and More Compared: What's the Best Cloud Option?, Adrian Covert, April 24, 2012