Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB Portable USB 3.0 HDD

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For a drive of its size, the GoFlex 1.5TB model is extremely quiet, but this was no surprise, given our experience with the previous GoFlex 640GB and 1TB samples. We checked its acoustics at our standard 1m distance, as well as at the ISO 7779 standard seated user distance of 0.6m.

Noise Measurements (SPL)
[email protected]
[email protected]
idle (on foam)
13~14 dBA
12 dBA
idle (on table)
16 dBA
13 dBA
seek (on table)
17~18 dBA
15~16 dBA
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA

The overall noise level was just as low as with the previous GoFlex samples, but the level of vibration was up a notch or two. While the drive inside is well-muffled, its noise level can rise sharply depending on what type of surface the casing is placed on. On a block of foam in our anechoic chamber, the GoFlex measured the same as the previous GoFlex models: 12 [email protected] and just a little higher from 0.6m. But without that damping foam, the vibration produced by the drive caused noticeable hum on our wooden table, with the amount varying depending on what portion of the table it was placed on. It measured 15 [email protected] at the best spot we could find. Sometimes pressing down on the drive momentarily helped. Seek activity was relatively soft.

It's quite probable that this 1.5TB model has one more platter than the earlier 1TB model. It's also possible that our earlier samples were exceptional with regard to vibration. In any case, the vibration-triggered noise is easy enough to avoid. Just placing the GOFlex 1.5TB on any reaosnably soft surface — even a paperback book — keeps it to a minimum. Also, most Windows 7 or Vista PCs in any kind of power saving mode automatically puts the GoFlex to sleep when inactive for a couple of minutes, so even if there is noise, it's only there while the drive is actively being used.

Seagate GoFlex 1.5TB idling on a wooden surface.

Frequency analysis revealed a fundamental tone at about 90 Hz indicating the drive spins at approximately 5400 RPM.


These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — 0.6 meters is a reasonable typical distance between a seated user and an external hard drive. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recordings start with 5 to 10 seconds of ambient noise, then 10 second segments of the drive at idle and then seeking.

  • Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB at 0.6m
    — idle (15 [email protected])
    — seeking (17~18 [email protected])


USB 3.0 vs. SATA

The modular adapter of the GoFlex gave us an opportunity to compare USB 3.0 and SATA performance directly using a second drive, the WD Scorpio Blue 500GB. When writing files the speed of both interfaces was almost identical, with SATA2 winning out by a negligible amount (less than 1MB/s). When reading files the difference was greater but marginal except when dealing with small files. For some reason reading small files was about 37% slower. At this time we cannot determine whether the GoFlex adapter or the NEC controller on our Asus motherboard was to blame.

USB 3.0 vs. USB 2.0

While transferring files using USB 3.0 was almost as fast as an internal drive; the improvement over USB 2.0 was staggering. USB 2.0 bottlenecks maximum hard drive throughput down to about 35MB/s. Even using a 5400 RPM notebook drive, you can expect double the speed by using USB 3.0.

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB

First and foremost, the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB offers more capacity than any portable (bus powered) external hard drive by 500GB, an impressive feat on its own. While you can get 2TB and even 3TB external drives, they are only available in bulky desktop models requiring AC power.

The USB 3.0 adapter included with the 1.5TB model snaps on securely and can be detached for use with other notebook drives should the need arise, effectively making it two products in one. If you buy a smaller USB 2.0 GoFlex, you can swap it with a USB 3.0 adapter when the time comes, and the old adapter doesn't become a completely useless dongle. We also like that it can be powered with a single USB port, whether it be 2.0 or 3.0. Furthermore, the drive is fairly quiet, though the vibrations it produces may be problematic depending on what surface you put the drive down on. This is to be expected with a such a high capacity notebook drive inside.

We determined that the drive inside the GoFlex 1.5TB is a 5400 RPM model. Compared to a WD Scorpio Blue 500GB using the same USB 3.0 adapter, the GoFlex's internal drive is a bit faster except, again, when reading small files. This performance issue extends beyond the interface/controller and seems to affect the drive itself as well, compounding the problem. If the GoFlex has an Achilles' heel this is it. We also wish you could take the enclosure apart completely, particularly for diagnostic purposes.

The GoFlex 1.5TB typically retails for about US$210 which is very high in terms of capacity:price compared to most 1TB portable external drives. However we remind you that it is the largest USB-powered drive you can buy and the USB 3.0 connectivity, if you can take advantage of it, makes a huge difference. At the time of writing, Newegg is selling it for US$150 as part of their Black Friday sale. At that price we have no qualms whatsoever about recommending it.

Our thanks to Seagate for the FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB portable hard drive sample.

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Find the best price for a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex drive with the SPCR/Pricegrabber Shopping Engine.

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