Laptops just don’t come with enough storage space, which is one reason why ultra-portable hard drives have become so popular lately. The problem with most of them is that most of them are based on USB 2.0, and the industry has moved onto faster technologies. If you’ve already spent some money on a large hard drive, then why should you buy a new one just to take advantage of a faster interface?
Seagate has introduced a new modular external storage system, dubbed the GoFlex series. This system allows you to purchase a simple bare drive, buy only the interfaces you need, and hot-swap between them without a fuss. Currently you can choose between USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA and Firewire 800, which covers just about every computer and media device made today or in the conceivable future.
The GoFlex system is a simple, but rather clever concept. Each adapter has the hardware interface included at the base of the cable, which plugs directly into the GoFlex drive. The drive receives its power from the host cable, so no DC adapters are necessary. If you take the drive somewhere that has a different (or faster) interface, then all you have to do is unplug the adapter cable and plug in a new one.
The GoFlex system goes beyond interface convenience. You can also hot-plug these devices into Seagate’s GoFlex TV and GoFlex Net media appliances, which allow you to watch TV, share videos, photos and music across a personal network or even the Internet.
One disadvantage to this system is the price of admission. Yes it’s great to have a flexible and future-proof system, but you must consider the cost of each adapter that you need. Below is a table with all of the available adapters and its cost.
|Seagate GoFlex bare drive (320GB – 1.5TB)||$50 – $129.99, depending on model|
|Firewire 800 upgrade cable||$39.99|
|eSATA upgrade cable||$19.99|
|USB 3.0 upgrade kit (includes PC Card adapter)||$79.99|
|USB 3.0 upgrade cable (cable only)||$29.99*|
|USB 2.0 cable||Comes with kit|
* Some drive kits come with USB 3.0 cable included
The USB 3.0 upgrade kit includes a USB 3.0 PC Card adapter for use with laptop computers. The card uses the same NEC D720200F1 chip used in all current USB 3.0 host adapters. Although this chip can support 2 USB ports, only one is included (due to space on the card). A small round plug is included that allows you to power an additional USB device, but cannot supply data to it.
The drives is encased in a glossy plastic shell, which is available in several different colors. The drive also comes with either a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 interface able, depending on which package you select. The available kits are listed in the table below.
|Capacity||Color||available included interface|
|500GB||black, red, silver, blue||USB 2.0|
|750GB||black||USB 2.0, USB 3.0|
|1TB||black, blue||USB 2.0, USB 3.0|
*information as available from Seagate at press time
The kit we received for evaluation was the GoFlex red 500GB model, and we also received all of the other interfaces for testing, which are only available in black. Seagate’s optional media devices are also only available in the black color, so keep this in mind when selecting drives. The drive color need not be a fastion statement, as you could color-code the drives based on their content. Most people should just choose the black color for the drives, as that covers all the bases and there won’t be any color clashes.
On the next page we test the drive and its cables…