Seagate FreeAgent Go 1TB and 640GB portable USB drives

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Seagate 2.5" External Drives

July 14, 2010 by Mike Chin

Products FreeAgent Go 640GB & 1TB external 2.5" hard drives
Manufacturer Seagate
Street Price US$85~125; $140~175

Even with extensive ethernet networks, it is sometimes necessary to move files from one computer to another with a physical storage device, like a USB memory key or external hard drive. An external hard drive is sometimes the simplest way to move large sets of data in our lab. It was after our realization some years ago that 2.5" external hard drives don't need any AC power — unlike 3.5" versions — that they became de rigueur in the SPCR labs. No more lugging around a wall wart or external AC/DC power box along with the drive and USB cable. Sweet. The freedom from an AC power socket tether is even more useful for mobile computing, especially with netbooks that routinely provide over six hours and sometimes even 10 hours of battery life: Any accessory that requires AC power is instantly relegated to second class citizenship.

Considering our fondness for these amazingly useful, portable storage devices, it's surprising that we've never reviewed one. Better late than never: Here's our first, of two mobile hard drives.

A duo of USB 2.0 external 2.5" hard drives from Seagate, the world's biggest maker of HDDs, are examined here. They are part of the FreeAgent Go series, which is probably the most basic of Seagate's huge lineup of external storage devices using 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives. The newer FreeAgent GoFlex series, for example, can be upgraded with cables and kits to move up from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0, eSATA or FireWire® 800 for up to 10x faster transfer speeds. For most users, though, these 640GB and 1TB FreeAgent Go models are perfectly usable, and the 10x faster transfer speed of the GoFlex is more about potential than reality; the drives simply cannot go 10x faster even if the bandwidth of the interface allows it.

There are five other models in the Go series, at 250, 320, 500, 750, and 880GB. Perhaps Seagate's marketing department knows better, but the sheer number of incrementally different capacity models seem excessive. All of the Go series drives run at 5400 RPM, and the number of platters increases with capacity. The 640GB model is the largest with a "standard" thickness, which gives the unit a thickness of 12.5mm. The larger capacity models are considerbly thicker, at 21mm; the drives in these models do not fit in the hard drive bay of typical laptops. There's little doubt that the thicker drives feature three platters rather than the one or two platters of the thinner drives.

Lots of plastic in these FreeAgent Go retail packs.

Once past the plastics, these packs are minimal, with a USB 2.0 cable and instruction sheet in each. An optional desktop dock is also available.

The difference in thickness and weight between the 640GB (and smaller) models vs the larger capacity ones is significant, especially if you're planning to go completely mobile and pocket the drive. The casing feels mostly like painted aluminum and plastic, not particularly hefty but sturdy enough, with corners and edges a bit rounded for some comfort when carried in a pocket.

The pattern of dots on the top surface lights up when the device is plugged in to as USB port and powered up. Aside from the USB port, there are no other external "features".

Seagate FreeAgent Go Specifications
Height: 130mm (5.12 in)
Width: 80mm (3.15 in)
Length: 12.5mm (.49 in)
Weight (typical): 160g (.35 lb)
Shipping: 0.27kg (0.595 lb)
Height 130mm (5.12 in)
Width 80mm (3.15 in)
Length 21mm (.83 in)
Weight (typical) 290g (.64 lb)
Inside the box
• FreeAgent Go drive
• FreeAgent software pre-loaded on drive (Windows only)
• Quickstart guide
• Flexible USB travel cable - 18 inches
PC Requirements
• Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, or Business Service Pack-1
• Windows XP Home, Professional, or Media Center Edition Service Pack-2
• Windows 7 (32-bit & 64-bit)
• USB 2.0 Port
• Up to 10 colors to choose from
• Powered via USB 2.0 cable
• Encryption: AES 128-bit
• Optional dock and case sold separately

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