Thunderbolt strikes all Seagate GoFlex external drives at once

Seagate announces the Thunderbolt adapter for its GoFlex external drives at CES 2012.

Seagate's Thunderbolt adapters being demoed at CES 2012.
Seagate's Thunderbolt adapters being demoed at CES 2012. Dong Ngo/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Seagate's super flexible GoFlex external hard drives just got even more flexible.

The storage vendor unveiled today at CES 2012 its support for the Thunderbolt connection by showcasing the Thunderbolt adapter for its GoFlex family of external hard drives.

The Thunderbolt adapter for the GoFlex Desk external hard drive, like any other adapters for the drive, requires a separate power adapter to work.
The Thunderbolt adapter for the GoFlex Desk external hard drive, like any other adapters for the drive, requires a separate power adapter to work. Seagate

In case you're not aware, Seagate's GoFlex lineup of external hard drives, first introduced in May 2010 with the GoFlex Go , has been the most flexible solution for directly attached storage to date. This is because, unlike external hard drives from other vendors that come with a fixed type (or types) of connectivity, Seagate's GoFlex external hard drive can support any type of connectivity, be it USB, FireWire, or eSATA, thanks to an incredibly flexible design.

A GoFlex external hard drive comes in two detachable parts, the drive, which is an internal hard drive housed in a protective case, and the adapter, which determines what type of connection you will use for the drive. When these two parts are snapped into each other, you have yourself an external hard drive.

This means, for example, you can move a drive from using USB to using eSATA just by quickly swapping out the adapter part. Apart from the flexibility, this allows for easy sharing of one drive among multiple computers that have different types of connections.

And now you can add the Thunderbolt connection to the pool.

Seagate's support for Thunderbolt comes in two designs, one for the portable GoFlex drives, such as the GoFlex Ultraportable, which are based on 2.5-inch internal hard drive, and the other for the GoFlex Desk external hard drives designed for desktop computers. The two adapters are essentially the same. The main difference is that the desktop version is slightly larger and requires a separate power adapter (included) to work, while the portable Thunderbolt adapter is compact and can draw power from the Thunderbolt port itself. The desktop version also comes with two Thunderbolt ports while the portable one has only one Thunderbolt port. This means, in a daisy chain setup, the desktop adapter can be use in any part of the chain, while the portable adapter can only be used at the end of the chain.

I tried out the two adapters briefly and found that the desktop adapter makes an excellent addition to the family since it's rugged and heavy enough to be a stable base for the drive. The portable adapter is slightly bigger than that of other connection types but nonetheless manages to keep the package portable enough. The fact that it can draw juice directly from a Thunderbolt port to power the drive contributes even more to the portability, making all GoFlex portable drives being bus-powered Thunderbolt drives. The Elgato drive that was announced earlier here at the show is no longer the only Thunderbolt drive with this feature.

The Thunderbolt adapters, while compact, are significantly larger than those of other connection types, such as USB or FireWire.
The Thunderbolt adapters, while compact, are significantly larger than those of other connection types, such as USB or FireWire. Seagate

The added support for the Thunderbolt connection doesn't necessary mean that the GoFlex drives will offer the same speed as that of the Thunderbolt standard, which is 10Gbps, since this is limited by the speed of the internal drive itself, which caps at 6Gbps. That still translate into a significant improvement over USB 2.0 or FireWire connections.

Now those with a Thunderbolt-enabled computer can use any existing drives with the new and much faster connection. And since the GoFlex family of external hard drives comes included with software drivers that allow the drive to work with both Windows and Mac OS platforms without reformatting, these new adapters mean that Mac users can now almost easily look past their Mac's lack of support for USB 3.0.

It's only almost, because the new Thunderbolt adapters aren't cheap, costing around $99 for the portable version or $199 for the desktop version. And note that you'll need to get a necessary Thunderbolt cable, too, which costs another $50 each. The two adapters are slated to be available for purchase during the first quarter of 2012.

 

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