When copying a large amount of data to and from an external drive, speed is essential, which is why the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex drive is so compelling. This 1TB USB 3.0 device can transfer files like no one's business, and it has a lot of helpful utilities, to boot. Read on to find out if this $99.99 drive has everything you need.
The FreeAgent drive has an unassuming case design--it's all black with a small Seagate logo. The second-heaviest external drive behind the Iomega, the 9.9-ounce Seagate GoFlex has a somewhat flimsy enclosure; we could easily push the case inwards with a finger.
Like all new GoFlex drives, you can swap out the USB 3.0 connector for USB 2.0, FireWire 800, or an eSATA connection (additional connectors cost $15 to $25). It's a nice feature, and it helps ensure that users will be able to connect the drive using ever-faster transfer connections. However, since USB 3.0 is fast becoming the standard for high-performance drives, some might see this future-proof approach as just adding complexity.
Setup and Utilities
Seagate's included software provided a clear and useful interface that actually made us want to perform backups. It took only 5 minutes to install the included Memeo backup program. Seagate includes 30-day trials of some extra Memeo apps, including one that syncs your files between two laptops. The backup app lets you schedule automated backups and, like the Western Digital backup software, shows a colorful interface with a bar chart to indicate which files have been archived. Our initial 9GB backup took 2 hours.
One other bonus to using the FreeAgent GoFlex drive is that, using the Memeo software, you can make backups with 128-bit DES encryption protection. That's not as robust as the Iomega or Western Digital encryption, but at least it provides some extra security to keep your data safe from hackers.
One unique feature with the FreeAgent GoFlex drive is that it comes with a Mac driver to use NTFS (New Technology File System), which is a faster file transfer protocol that supports individual files bigger than 4GB and is normally only available when you use a Windows laptop. The driver loaded automatically when we connected to a 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The drive is quite speedy. We copied 5GB of documents and media files to the drive from a Dell Vostro 3350 in 1 minute and 26 seconds, a rate of 59.5 MBps. That's the same as the Iomega eGo, and just behind the Buffalo MiniStation Stealth's leading time of 1:20 (64 MBps). When we transferred that same folder off the FreeAgent, it performed even better, taking just 1 minute and 12 seconds, a category-leading rate of 71.1 MBps. The next closest drive, the eGo, took 47 seconds longer, a rate of 47 MBps.
We were very impressed with the speeds of the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex. Additionally, its backup software and Mac compatibility make it very versatile. Still, we're concerned with the flimsy feel. For about $25 more, the much bulkier Iomega eGo also offers good transfer rates and software, and it can withstand a 7-foot drop, too. However, for pure speed, nothing beats the GoFlex.