Seagate FreeAgent Go 640GB & FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra 500GB Mobile Hard Drive Review

ajmatson - 2010-12-15 06:34:14 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: February 1, 2011
Price: $69.99 - $99.99

Introduction:

With the amount of data moved between systems and the critical nature of what we save, including photos, documents, and more, the need for portable storage becomes ever more important. Thumb drives have been great for transporting small amounts of data, but when you need more storage and features, a portable hard drive is the way to go. Portable hard drives allow you to transport more data and bigger file sizes between computers or allow use as an extension of your laptops hard drive space. They also offer you on-the-go back-up solutions to protect your sensitive data and allow quick recovery in the event of a disaster. Since most physical drives are the same, the things that set each one apart come down to the design and software that each manufacturer adds to the device.

Today we are going to take a look at two drives that are produced by Seagate, which are designed to make your portable life that much easier. Combined with their software tailored for the devices, you have an all in one portable transfer and backup solution for any need. Without wasting any more time let's dive right in and see what makes these drives so special.

 

Closer Look:

The FreeAgent Go line has been out for a bit and Seagate is kicking things up a bit with the Seagate GoFlex series, which adds a new world of portable storage with the ability to change the interface on the go. For the review Seagate was gracious enough to send us not only the base GoFlex package with the USB 2.0 interface, but also the USB 3.0 interface as well. The drive itself is a 500GB drive that comes in a blue color. There are several colors to choose from and sizes for every need, from 320GB to 1.5TB of storage space. Some of the other interfaces included FireWire and powered eSATA. On the box there is a nice view of the drive as well as features and specifications so you know exactly what you are getting when you buy one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you open the package there is a blister pack that protects the drive until you receive it. There is also the documentation for the unit with a quick start guide as well. Removing the items out of the package gives us the drive and the USB 2.0 adapter and cable which we will take a better look at in a bit.

 

 

 

 

The newer GoFlex series is more compact then previous Go series devices, making them more of an ultimate portable drive. They are available in a number of colors including this blue one that we received for the testing. The sizes available are from 320GB to a whopping 1.5TB which is more than enough space for anyone. The drive inside has a SATA interface as showing in the picture, which makes the interfaces easy to connect to. I tried using a SATA power and DATA cable to connect directly to it, however, the slot is too narrow and will not allow the contact needed :) The total formatted space on the 500GB GoFlex drive is 465GB, which, for a half-terabyte of portable storage, is amazing.

 

 

The genius behind the GoFlex Ultra series is the changeable interfaces. These interfaces allow you to change the connection type on the fly, adding faster transfer speeds depending on the interface chosen.  It also adds flexibility to use the drive practically everywhere. By default the drive comes with a USB 2.0 interface, however, there are additional interfaces available including USB 3.0, FireWire 800, Powered eSATA (only works with powered eSATA/USB ports called eSATAp, will not work with standard eSATA port), and a Network dock to share your files any way you need. The included USB 2.0 adapter comes colored in the same blue as the drive with a black USB 2.0 cable. There is an LED on the top of the adapter right above where the cable plugs in that shows activity when in use.

 

 

 

To attach the interface to the drive just line up the SATA interface to the drive and push in until the tabs snap into place. It is simple as that for all of the interfaces including the docks. Once attached, the drive is all ready to be plugged in and used.

 

 

Seagate was gracious enough to send us a USB 3.0 adapter as well for testing. The USB 3.0 adapter is the same as the USB 2.0 in looks other than color. The USB 3.0 cable in this case is permanently attached to the interface so you do not lose it or get them confused. To tell the adapters apart, other than the color of the interface that is, just look into the port and you will see that USB 3.0 uses the blue colored plastics instead of the standard white on USB 2.0.

 

 

To show the drive activity, as I mentioned above, all of the interfaces use the same white LED which lights up when it is plugged in and in use. Here I have the USB 3.0 interface plugged in to show the LED however, the USB 2.0 interface does exactly the same.

 

 

Now that we have seen the 500GB FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra drive, we can move to the sister product the 640GB FreeAgent Go drive.

Closer Look:

The FreeAgent Go 640GB, while not as flexible as the GoFlex series, is still a solid and robust portable drive on its own. The Go Series offers the same services as the GoFlex; however, the software is only designed to work on a Windows PC. On the front of the box there is the same window so you can see your drive and the color that you chose. This particular model is the 640GB black FreeAgent Go drive. On the back there is an overview of the features, as well as the software and a dock accessory that is available for the Go series drives. Included with the 640GB FreeAgent Go drive is the documentation and a USB 2.0 cable. Unlike the GoFlex series we just looked at, the Go series only uses the USB 2.0 interface, which is still plenty fast for daily tasks and backup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seagate FreeAgent Go series comes in a number of colors including black, silver, blue, and red and in storage sizes from 250GB to 1TB. The model we received was the black 640GB drive which gives you plenty of space for you’re on the go storage. When formatted, the drive's actual space available is 596GB, which is plenty for backup, transfers, and more based on your needs. This drive, unlike the GoFlex, is one solid piece with no interface connectors that are removable. There are a series of LEDs on the top bottom side of the case that pulse white with system activity.

 

 

Since the FreeAgent Go only has a single interface, there is a lone USB 2.0 port on the bottom of the drive. To use the drive, connect the included USB 2.0 cable into the port and plug the other end into an available USB 2.0 port on your computer. The drive is powered from this single cable so there is no need for an AC adapter or multiple ports for power and data.

 

 

Now that we have seen the physical aspects of both drives, let's take a look at the software that is included from Seagate.

Closer Look:

FreeAgent Go 640GB:

Each drive has included Seagate's software suite, which offers different utilities such as backup, sync, and even encryption services. The first drive we are going to look at is the Seagate FreeAgent Go 640GB. This drive's software is only compatible with Windows PC based systems. While MAC OS X and Linux will be able to access the drive for storage, they will not be able to benefit from the additional resources that the drive has to offer, such as backup and sync. The main menu you come to is " My Drives", which is where you can change your settings for the drive, perform tests, and see how much space you have left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second tab is the Backup tab. This tab allows you to setup scheduled backups and restore if needed. You can choose what files, folders, or drives that you want to backup.

 

 

The third tab is the Sync tab. In this section you can specify a folder or folders to sync to the drive every time you connect. This way you can keep extra backups or even have those files available for portable use.

 

 

The last tab is the Security tab. This utility creates an encrypted container on your drive which you can add files to and protect them from getting into the wrong hands. The files are stored using 128-bit AES encryption, so you know your data is safe and secure.

 

 

 

FreeAgent GoFlex 500GB:

The GoFlex series drives come with similar software that the Go series has, with a few exceptions. The GoFlex can be used on both Windows based PCs as well as MAC computers. When you plug in the drive the folder will have both the .exe for PC and the .dmg for MAC. Choose your install and you are prompted on the software to install. The device comes with Memeo Instant Backup for free; however, Premium Backup and the other utilities are paid services now. You have the option to install the trials if wanted but they are not standard as with the Go series.

 

 

The main menu for the GoFlex is a bit different, but does the same thing. There are still the tabs for the selections, but with less effort to run the services. Once you click the service you want, that service will pop up for you, allowing you to keep on task.

 

The backup and other utilities are pretty straight forward. Each one will launch the task needed for you to complete.

 

 

Now that we have seen the hardware and software for the drives, let's see how they perform.

Specifications:

 
FreeAgent Go 640GB
FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra 500GB
Model Number:
ST906403FGA2E1-RK
STAA500102
Interface:
USB 2.0
Changeable Interfaces (USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA, Firewire)
Capacity:
640GB
500GB
Weight (typical):
160g
150g
Folder Sync Software:
Yes
Yes
Automatic Backup Software:
PC Only
PC & MAC
Encryption:
AES 128-bit
192-bit Triple DES

 

Features:

FreeAgent Go 640GB:

Information Courtsey of Seagate @ http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/external/freeagent/freeagent_go/#tTabContentOverview

 

FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra 500GB:

Information Courtsey of Seagate @ http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/external/freeagent/portable-hard-drive/#tTabContentOverview

Testing:

This is the point where we get down to the nitty gritty of using external storage. Speed is where it counts especially when transferring large amounts of data. To see where these two drives stand, I will be running a series of benchmarks designed to weigh in the performance of each one and the respective interfaces used. For the FreeAgent Go 640MB there is only the one USB 2.0 interface that is available which will be used. For the FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra 500GB I will be running the tests using the included USB 2.0 interface as well as the extra USB 3.0 interface supplied by Seagate. To give you an idea on overall performance among other setups, I will be including results from an external dock which provides USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 interfaces, as well as direct SATA connection.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Drives used:

 

Benchmarks:

 

 

HD Tune:

HDTune allows you to do many things with hard drives beyond benchmarking, however, for the purposes of this review I just used it for benchmarking. After the benchmark finished I recorded the Average Transfer Rate, Access Time, Burst Rate, and CPU Usage.

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra:

SiSoft Sandra allows you to run a veriety of hardware benchmarks on your PC. For the purposes of testing, I investigated Physical and File Systems in both Drive Index and Access Time. Upon completion of each test I marked down testing statistics

 

 

 

Real Time File Transfer:

Here I take 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB zipped files and transfer them from Internal drive to external and internal to internal. During each transfer I start a stopwatch at the beginning and stop it at the end and then record the time it took for the transfer to complete. For me 1 second was an instant transfer, as in no dialog box showed for it, it completed before one could be displayed.

 

 

Both drives performed as expected using USB 2.0 which is the limitation of the interface. When the GoFlex was used with the USB 3.0 interface their was a huge improvement over USB 2.0. Because a 5400RPM drive is used for low power in the portable drive it was expected to be slower than the BlacX enclosure with a 7200RPM drive but the scores were not far behind.

Conclusion:

Seagate has always produced excellent hard drives and these two portable series are no exception. These portable drives have the robust features that most desktop style external drives have, yet they can be toted with you anywhere you go. The 640GB Go drive, while only having a USB 2.0 interface, has full versions of the Seagate suite for your entire backup and sync needs. The 500GB GoFlex has multiple interfaces available for it including USB 3.0, FireWire and even powered eSATA. The drawback to the GoFlex is the software that comes standard on the Go series is only trials on the GoFlex, with the exception of the Instant Backup. I am at a loss as to why Seagate took a step back in this department.

Performance wise, both drives performed as expected with the limitations of USB 2.0 when using the appropriate adapter for the GoFlex. When the USB 3.0 adapter was inserted on the GoFlex, we saw a huge improvement in transfer speeds by almost two fold in HD Tune and almost exact on with the internal SATA interface and the BlacX dock when transferring a 500MB file. Priced at $69.99 for the GoFlex 500GB with the USB 2.0 interface and $99.00 for the Go 640GB, both drives are well priced for their capacities and offerings. The GoFlex USB 3.0 interface is also very affordable at around $19.99. Pair that and the drive together and you have a fast portable backup system for your needs. If you are in the market for a portable drive, I highly recommend you check out both of these series from Seagate.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: