An external hard disk drive is the easiest way to push a large amount of data out of your internal laptop/desktop HDD and yet have almost instant access to it. Seagate with its FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 2TB seems to understand this need well. Although the model itself sounds old in name, the HDD used and price underwent a change, making it an attractive option.
This drive packs in a whole lot more functionality compared to competition, but at the cost of looking just a bit thicker. The black coloured exterior is not quite glossy but comes close, and manages to look a bit stylish despite its work-a-day purpose. The exterior surface of the drive seems to have more pock-marks than the moon, seemingly pores for air-flow and heat dissipation. Almost no rounded edges, at first glance, is what gives this product a non-slim feel.
Being part of the GoFlex series, this product consists of two parts. The first is the actual drive itself with the black casing for an exterior. The second is an adapter, which serves as a base when the drive is used vertically, on the GoFlex Desk line. The magic happens here. You can swap out the adapter for another with a different data interface, thus switching between USB 2.0 / USB 3.0 / eSATA / FireWire with ease. You can even get rid of the adapter and use it as an internal HDD, with the usual SATA and power cables. To those who would like higher data transfer speeds or more interface compatibility, the possible combinations are a great thing.
In the case of the drive being reviewed, the adapter provided in the box works over USB 2.0 (you can buy other adapters independent of the retail box). This adapter takes in two cables, USB data cable and a power cable. The external power cable is not a surprise, because 2.5-inch low-power drives currently offer only up to 1TB capacity.
Notably, the drive itself does not have indicators, the power and activity LEDs are present on the adapter.
The pores on the casing obviate the need for a fan, unlike some NAS and external storage drives that can run extremely hot indeed. This Seagate external drive did not get warm to the touch even after 12 hours of intensive usage, which could indicate the pores are serving their purpose.
The drive we got for review had impressive specs upon the 3.5-inch desktop HDD used internally. It uses a Seagate ST2000DL003, meaning it will share attributes and its peak performance will be comparable to the Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB internal drive. In brief, the drive spins at 5900rpm, has a 64MB buffer, uses 3 platters and offers a SATA-III (6Gb/s) data-transfer interface.
The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 2TB carries a 3-year warranty. As expected, the drive offered 1863 GB of formatted storage capacity.
A long-ish USB cable and a standard power cable with AC-power adapter are in the box. As always, Seagate had bundled four different types of plugs. You can mount the one you want interchangeably on the AC-power adapter, to suit electrical sockets found in your country. So for instance, the 2-pin rounded plug is good in India, while flat plugs are good in the US, and others internationally usable in Europe and so on. I definitely like this attention to detail.
Memeo Backup and Sync software is offered on the drive. When you connect it for the first time, the drive installs the Seagate Dashboard, which lets you manage these applications -- and makes backing up and syncing easy.
To prevent bottlenecks, we use our top-end PC rig for testing. We tested this drive in two phases, internal (connected over SATA) and external (connected over USB 2.0).
When tested over SATA without the USB adapter, the drive churned out very good speeds. In fact it was even slightly better than the speeds we saw in the review of the internal drive itself. But since internal usage will form only part of this product's use-case, one screenshot of a synthetic benchmark, representative of performance seen would have to suffice.
Read and Write over internal SATA, HD Tach RW (Long Run)
Now we move on to tests conducted over the USB 2.0 interface, which is the default you'd expect to use with this drive.
On synthetic benchmarks we measured read and write access times averaging 16.8 ms and 18.6 ms (milli-seconds) respectively, with a CPU usage of 1.5 per cent on average. For read/write data transfer speeds, see the screenshots below. These results are from a cross-section of the tests we ran.
Read Test Suite, AIDA64 (formerly Everest).
Read speed graph, HD Tune Pro.
Write speed graph, HD Tune Pro.
If you needed more proof that the USB 2.0 interface is a bottle-neck for transfer speed, the above should clinch it. Notice how the read/write graphs are flat (as opposed to what you see on SATA). The speed just does not cross 33 MB/s at the most.
Real world tests were carried out when the drive was empty. File read/write speeds for a single large file (6.42 GB) stood at 31.17 MB/s and 28.99 MB/s respectively. File read/write speeds for multiple smaller files (1287 files totalling up to 2.33 GB) stood at 26.5 MB/s and 16.1 MB/s respectively. These numbers were as expected for a USB 2.0 drive.
If you have a desktop PC, it is too easy to overlook the speed limitations of this USB 2.0 drive, since it can be directly connected internally over SATA if you so choose. Also, Seagate has managed to make the inter-changeable GoFlex adapter system a great idea in both concept and execution. The pricing, whereby this drive is actually priced lower than competing non-flexible interface drives, is the icing on the cake - the cost per GB ratio works out very well for it.
Now, who should not buy this product? Users who own laptops with USB 3.0 ports and don't mind paying a small premium for the USB 3.0 variant and users who prefer ultra-portable drives that don't need their own power cable. For just about everyone else, the advantages mentioned above and the large capacity clinches the deal in favour of the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 2TB.
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