Seagate's 1.5TB GoFlex portable drive

This FreeAgent GoFlex is the first 1.5TB portable drive to market, but its performance in tests was a mixed bag.

Seagate has clearly had a busy year with the launch of its GoFlex storage line. The latest entry in that line is the FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB portable drive, which packs half a terabyte more than the competition offers in a 2.5-inch design. The $250 drive (price as of 23 September, 2010) comes with a USB 3.0 connector, too, which means that you don't have to foot the $30 bill for a cable (as you do with other models in the FreeAgent GoFlex series).

Seagate achieved the drive's notable total capacity by increasing the capacity of the platters--375GB per platter, instead of 333GB per platter--and by adding a fourth platter inside the drive. The new FreeAgent GoFlex spins at 5400 rpm, which should result in a slower speed than what we saw from the 7200-rpm, 500GB FreeAgent GoFlex Pro we've tested previously over USB 3.0.

I say "should" for a reason: In PCWorld Labs tests, the 1.5TB drive yielded mixed results -- some strong, one not quite so.

The 1.5TB drive virtually tied, or bested, the Pro model in four of our six tests. For example, it required 59 seconds to read 2GB of files and folders, compared with 63 seconds for the Pro. It also took 31 seconds to read a large 2GB file, versus the Pro's 34 seconds; and it took 27 seconds to write a large 2GB file, the same as the Pro.

The big discrepancy occurred on our test for writing 2GB of files and folders. Here, the 1.5TB drive came in dead last among USB 3.0 portable drives, its performance more on a par with that of USB 2.0 drives we've tested. The FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB required 142 seconds to complete the task, falling short of the Pro drive, which took 105 seconds. Other USB 3.0 portable hard drives we've evaluated performed even better--the Iomega eGo Portable Hard Drive took 92 seconds and the LaCie Rugged SuperSpeed took just 63 seconds. When we asked Seagate about the slow speed result, a representative indicated that the drive's four-platter design could have slowed it down.

This drive's massive capacity is a head-turner; after all, that's an awful lot of storage for a portable drive. Seagate claims that it can hold up to 60 high-definition movies, 750 video games, thousands of photos, or tens of thousands of hours of digital music. At this point, when it comes to photos and music, the numbers are getting so high with such examples that it's almost like stating the quantity of hamburgers sold at McDonald's, which now simply boasts "billions and billions served."

I'm still not a fan of Seagate's GoFlex connector arrangement -- but as an avid consumer of storage, I relish the idea of a high-capacity portable drive. I have to give Seagate props for being first out of the gate with a portable drive of this size. If you buy this drive, however, keep in mind its sluggish write speed and its connector system.

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Melissa J. Perenson

PC World (US online)
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