What I Liked at Macworld|iWorld: Seagate GoFlex Drives

GoFlex Slim Hard Drive

Hello, my name is Katie and I am a hard drive addict. For years, being diligent (read paranoid) about backups and data redundancy has caused to develop a love of hard drives and accumulate quite a collection. Thankfully, the Drobo FS loaded up with a handful of 1.5 TB drives combined with an unlimited CrashPlan+ subscription has solved most of my hard drive clutter around the house. I do still love my hard drives, especially cute little portable drives and despite worldwide hard drive shortages, there was no shortage of offerings at Macworld|iWorld.

These days, most portable hard drives you can buy at any major box store are pretty standard. For me, the differentiating factor is the speed. While current model Macs don’t support USB 3.0, some support FireWire 800 and the newest models support the highest speed Thunderbolt technology. When I’m using a portable hard drive compared to a flash drive, I’m usually transferring large amounts of data and to paraphrase Maverick and Goose “I feel the need for speed!”

Seagate displayed several offerings at Macworld|iWorld that caught my attention this year. Many of their hard drive offerings supported their GoFlex technology. GoFlex is unique because it has the ability for the user to choose or mix and match the cables to best suit their needs. This means you can customize the GoFlex drives to work with the fastest port on your computer and buy multiple adapters so the drive will work most efficiently with different computers. While USB 2.0 is the most compatible and standard on portable drives, it’s also the slowest of the technologies. With the GoFlex adapters you can buy adapters to match your preferred connections like FireWire 800, USB 3.0 and eSATA. Cables are about $30 each, so while they’re more expensive than a run of the mill USB or FireWire cable, they do offer more customization, especially if this is a drive you plan to use with multiple machines or would like to upgrade as your hardware changes.

Seagate boosts performance on their GoFlex line of drives by shipping with 7,200rpm drives compared to more traditional and slower 5,400rpm drives. Their higher end drives like the GoFlex Turbo bundles in two years of free DataRecovery services. Seagate also pre-loads their drives with software for encryption and backup. Personally, I prefer to use the built-in encryption options with OS 10.7 Lion and my own backup solutions. Of course, these OS X native features are only applicable if you reformat the drive to HSF+ which does reduce the ability to use the drive cross-platform. As a Macbook Air owner and someone who appreciates slim mobile design, I was particularly drawn to the GoFlex Slim which is only 9mm thick.

New at Macworld|iWorld this year was the announcement of the GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter (link to PDF Data Sheet) which boasts transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s. While this adapter does supercharge your hard drive with blazingly fast transfer speeds, it comes with a few tradeoffs. For one, the adapter adds quite a bit of bulk to a portable drive as the adapter doesn’t simply connect to the drive like other GoFlex adapters but instead surrounds the drive. As with all Thunderbolt devices, there’s a hefty price tag. The adapter ships for $99 and doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable which means you’ll have to shell out another $50 for that if you don’t already have a spare. Still, the price is not bad compared to other offerings. Out the door a 1TB Seagate hard drive, Thunderbolt adapter and cable will run you around $250.

All in all I was impressed by Seagate’s offerings at Macworld|iWorld and next time I’m shopping for a new portable hard drive the GoFlex drives will be at the top of my list.