If you’re looking to preserve important documents, cherished photos and video, or a large music collection, the Seagate FreeAgent Xtreme is an excellent solution for backing up your data. For less than $200 you get a nice selection of connections—including eSATA—fast performance, strong encryption, and file syncing. Few other 1TB drives match this device’s combination of features and performance.
Measuring 6.8 x 6.7 x 1.3 inches and weighing 3.0 pounds, the all-black Seagate FreeAgent XTreme features a tapered design, which gives it a far less boxy appearance than other external HDDs such as the Fabrik SimpleTech (re)drive. It sports a series of illuminated white lights that pulsate when the drive is active, similar to the Seagate FreeAgent Go. The lights aren’t particularly useful, but they look cool.
The FreeAgent XTreme houses a mini-USB 2.0 connection in its rear, as well as eSATA, and two FireWire 400 ports. While that’s a nice selection to choose from, we would’ve also liked the inclusion of FireWire 800, which the Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 offers. Bundled in the box are small rubber feet for securing the drive to a table top, a vertical mount, and USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 cables. Sadly, Seagate doesn’t include an eSATA cord. Typical of large-capacity storage drives, the FreeAgent XTreme requires a power adapter to function, but unlike many others, it doesn’t have a power switch to flip on; it activates as soon as you plug it into an outlet.
Software and Setup
The Windows-only Seagate Manager software, preinstalled on the drive, was up and running in less than a minute. We were able to select the files that we wanted to back up, along with the day and time that we wanted backups to occur. From then on, the software did everything automatically. Seagate Manager also let us create a password-protected folder that safeguards files with 256-bit AES encryption. Lastly, the Sync option let us update and access our data when we plugged the FreeAgent XTreme into another notebook, so we always had the most current versions of our files when moving from PC to PC.
As the software is Windows-only, Mac users may want to purchase the $189 1TB FreeAgent Desk for Mac (which replaces eSATA with a FireWire 800 port), or simply format the drive and use Leopard’s Time Machine backup software.
The Seagate FreeAgent XTreme proved to be one of the fastest 1TB backup drives that we’ve tested. When we transferred a 4.97GB folder of mixed media (documents, photos, music, and video) to and from the drive, we saw all-around excellent read and write speeds. Using USB 2.0, it saw a 28.4-MBps read speed, beating the Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 by more than 3 MBps to take the crown as the external speed demon; however, its 16.3-MBps write speed was slightly below the 17.6-MBps category average.
Using the FreeAgent Xtreme’s FireWire 400 connection, we saw even greater performance: Its read time of 36.3 MBps trumped the LaCie Hard Disk’s 29.9 MBps to become the top dog, while the 18.1-MBps write time was almost 2 MBps faster than the category average. Over eSATA, the drive was blazing, reading data at 40.2 MBps (the best score we’ve seen yet) and writing it in a speedy 37.5 MBps (faster than the DriveStation Combo 4 but slightly behind the LaCie Hard Disk.
Protected by a five-year limited warranty, the Seagate FreeAgent XTreme lives up to its name by delivering speeds that will let you move large volumes of data quickly. While the Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 features FireWire 800 and faster USB write speeds, its performance is otherwise matched or beaten by the FreeAgent Xtreme. This drive will pull in the casual user with its attractive design, and the business crowd will appreciate its data security and synchronization.