Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-portable review: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-portable

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.4
  • Setup and ease of use: 9.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-portable offers great flexibility, USB 3.0, and a large amount of storage. It also works with both Macs and PCs without having to be reformatted.

The Bad The GoFlex Ultra's USB 3.0 performance could be better and the drive doesn't include a USB 3.0 add-in card for computers that don't yet have this connection.

The Bottom Line Even with the slightly low USB 3.0 performance, the GoFlex Ultra still makes an excellent portable external hard drive for people who need to expand their computer's storage.

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The FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-portable is an upgrade to Seagate's excellent FreeAgent GoFlex Pro that increases the storage amount to 1.5TB, making it the largest single-volume portable external hard drive to date. The drive is also the first in the GoFlex family that supports USB 3.0 out of the box. Other than that, the drive shares Seagate's GoFlex family's superflexible detachable adapter design, allowing it to instantly change the types of connections it supports.

The GoFlex Ultra disappointed us a bit with its comparatively low USB 3.0 performance, unfortunately, though it was still really fast in our tests. However, even with this shortcoming, at around $250 for 1.5TB, it's still one of the best portable external hard drives on the market.

Design

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 2.0, eSATA, USB 3.0, FireWire 800
Size (LWH) 4.71 by 3.5 by .87 inches
Weight .62 pounds
Available capacities 1.5TB
Capacity of test unit 1.5TB
OSes supported Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac OS 10.4.6 or higher
Software included Memeo Instant Backup

The GoFlex Ultra comes in the exact same physical shape, size, and color as the GoFlex Pro. On the inside, however, it has two major improvements. First, it comes with 1.5TB of storage, while the GoFlex Pro has just 1TB. And second, out of the box, the Ultra includes a USB 3.0 adapter. Even though GoFlex Pro also supports USB 3.0, it comes with USB 2.0, and you'll need to pay another $40 or so to upgrade it to USB 3.0.

Like all drives in the GoFlex family, the Ultra comes in two parts: the hard drive and the adapter. The hard drive is basically just a 2.5-inch internal hard drive housed in a plastic chassis. On one side, the drive's housing has a small opening to reveal the internal hard drive's standard SATA female connector. The adapter part has a male SATA connector and a mini-USB 3.0 port. These two parts can be snapped onto each other and fit tightly to form the GoFlex external hard drive. The drive comes with just one mini-USB 3.0 cable, which serves both as a data and power cable.

With this flexible design, the drive can support connection types other than USB 3.0 simply by using other adapters, though these, unfortunately, cost extra. However, as USB 3.0 currently is the fastest peripheral connection for external hard drives and is backward compatible with USB 2.0, it's unlikely that you'll need to buy other adapters. However, if you bought eSATA or FireWire adapters to use with the previous GoFlex Pro drives, you can use them with the GoFlex Ultra, too.

We really love the innovative, flexible design; it means you can use the hard drives and the adapters interchangeably when you have multiple GoFlex portable drives in the house. Or you can use just one drive with multiple adapters, which is an ideal scenario for an environment with multiple computers that have different types of peripheral connections. For example, you can use a USB 3.0 adapter with one computer and a FireWire adapter with another. You then can conveniently move the hard-drive part around and leave the adapters attached to their respective computers at all times.

Another great thing about this design is the fact that these adapters can also be used with any internal 2.5-inch SATA hard drives, even those not made by Seagate. This makes the GoFlex Ultra a great investment, especially for those who work often with laptop internal hard drives.

Features
The GoFlex Ultra drive is preformatted using the NTFS file system (Windows), but it comes with a software driver that allows Macs to read and write to NTFS. This is similar to the FreeAgent Pro's case and allows the drive to be used between the two platforms without having to use FAT32, which limits the maximum file size to less than 4GB (unsuitable for storing high-def content).

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Hard Drive Type external hard drive
  • Interface Type SuperSpeed USB 3.0
  • Capacity 750 GB
About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.