Tuesday, March 08, 2011

GoFlex portable hard drives from Seagate

Western society consumes a lot of digital media. While there’s a niche market for retro technology, VHS video tapes, 35mm film and even CDs are out. A couple of weeks ago I posted about the announcement that the original UK Tivo set top boxes will be ceasing to work properly from 1 June 2011.

I’ll come back to home media solutions soon in another post, but one upshot of all this media production and consumption is that we need a lot of digital storage to hold it.

Freecom ToughDrive Pro

About three years ago, I purchased a portable hard drive: a Freecom ToughDrive Pro. 80GB of storage wrapped in a rubbery case that promised to replicate my work laptop’s files and protect my data from the knocks and bangs of being flung about in my backpack. It has lasted well, and I still marvel at it’s flexible USB cable that folds into the casing.

Recently as part of testing their GoFlex TV home media player, Seagate kindly sent a couple of portable drives. One was a matching FreeAgent GoFlex 320GB unit. The other was a 1TB GoFlex For Mac drive, preformatted with HFS+.

Hasn’t the world moved on from the days when 80GB was as much storage as you could afford to fit in your pocket?

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 320GB

The FreeAgent GoFlex 320GB drive is aimed at PC users, and comes pre-formatted NTFS. Apple Macs can natively read NTFS. So it was nice to see that the drive came pre-loaded with a Mac NTFS driver that once installed allows you to write to NTFS drives from your Mac. Bonus! Of course, you can quickly reformat the drive to a more suitable file system that better suits your purposes.

The 320GB drive is small – 11 cm x 8cm x 1.5cm – light, black and glossy. Cunningly, the USB2.0 connector section clips off from the back of the 2.5” drive, allowing you to swap it for optional FireWire 800 or USB3.0 connectors which should future proof it for some time to come!

As well as functioning as an external drive, with the connector interface removed, it also neatly slots into a bay in Seagate’s media player or the network storage server to quickly load them with content.

Seagate 1TB GoFlex For Mac

As I mentioned above, the Mac-specific drive came preformatted with Apple computers in mind. The 1TB GoFlex For Mac ultra-portable drive is a few millimetres thicker than its 320GB cousin. It’s less glossy – and hence doesn’t pick up your fingerprints! – and matches well with Apple’s brushed aluminium look.

Seagate offer a Windows HFS+ driver for download to allow you to share it across Windows and OSX machines. But there’s also nothing to stop you reformatting it for NTFS or FAT if your needs change after you buy it.

The Mac version is conveniently bundled with both USB2.0 and FireWire 800 interface connectors. USB3.0 is an optional extra.

Speed wise it's no surprise that both Seagate drives performed faster than my 3 year old trust 80GB portable USB drive! I timed copying a 1.7GB video from my Mac Mini across to the HFS+ formatted drives (and back) and compared it with the old (non-Seagate) 80GB USB drive. While certainly not as scientific as a lab-based performance test - and limited by the speed of the Mac Mini's internal drive - it gives some idea of relative performance.

  • Connected by USB2.0, the FreeAgent GoFlex 320GB was the fastest, writing the video to its disk in 75 seconds and sending it back to the Mac Mini in 59 seconds.

  • Also connected by USB2.0, the larger 1TB GoFlex For Mac drive was marginally slower, consistently writing the file to disk in 78 seconds, and taking 56 seconds in the other direction.

  • For comparison, my old 80GB USB drive took 105 seconds to write the video, and 68 seconds in the other direction.

Both Seagate drives are a great size, and the ability to change the interface from USB2.0 to Firewire 800 and even USB3.0 means the drives should be usable long into the future … until storage needs dwarf today’s drive sizes! In the meantime, very impressive portable drives.

Disclaimer - The kit mentioned in this post was offered and freely supplied by Seagate in return for a written review (which was emailed to them and forms the basis for this post). Since I was intrigued by the Seagate product range, I was happy to agree to look at the kit ... unlike some of the more bizarre review requests I sometimes find in my email inbox and turn down or ignore.

No comments: