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Seagate Expansion Portable Drive review: Large drive for a low price

Looking for a portable drive that's fast, large and cheap? The Seagate Expansion is for you.

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

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 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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The new Seagate Expansion is a fast and affordable drive that will comfortably fit into your purse or pocket. At just $90 (£61 and AU$118, converted) for the top capacity 2TB drive, it's an easy recommendation for anyone who needs extra storage to carry on the go. If you can settle with less storage space, the drive is also available in 1TB and 500GB versions at $60 and $54, respectively (converted, about £40 or AU$77 for the 1TB and £36 or AU$69 for the 500GB).

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8.1

Seagate Expansion Portable Drive

The Good

The Seagate Expansion Portable Drive quickly copies files and offers a ton of storage for the money. It's also compact enough to fit in your pocket and its no frills approach makes it easy to use with both computers and game consoles.

The Bad

There is no backup software included and it's lacking any security features. It carries a short warranty of just a year.

The Bottom Line

Though it offers little in the way of bells and whistles, the Seagate Expansion delivers a ton of storage for cheap.

(Note that there's also a legacy version of the Seagate Expansion that costs $85 for 2TB. Other than the slightly different looks and costs, the two versions of the drive are essentially the same.)

This frills-free storage device comes with no added value, however, as there's no backup software or encryption support. It also carries a short warranty of just 1 year.

But if large storage space and fast performance are what you need, the Seagate Expansion is an excellent way to add more storage to your laptop. And thanks to the straightforward design, the drive is especially good for a non-computer host, such as a game console or media player. For more options, including those with more features, check out our list of top portable drives on the market.

The new Seagate Expansion drive (left) and its legacy version. Josh Miller/CNET

Simple design

You can call the Seagate Expansion a typical portable drive. Measuring 4.8 inches by 3.2 inches by 0.6 inch (12.2 by 8.1 by 1.52cm), it's as big as you'd imagine a squarish plastic box holding a standard 2.5-inch hard drive on the inside would be. Basically, it's small enough to be easily tucked in inside a purse or your back pocket.

The Expansion's internal storage is a low-power drive that spins at just 5,400 rotations per minute, and not at 7,200rpm. The slow spin speed generally translates into slower performance (not in this case though; more on that later) but at the same time also means lower power consumption.

The Expansion ships in a spartan retail package that includes the drive itself and a foot-long standard Micro-USB 3.0 cable. But that's all you need to get up and running. Like all portable drives, the Expansion is bus-powered, requiring just one cable for both data and power.

Out of the box, the Expansion is preformatted in the NTFS file system so it works right a way with a Windows computer. You can also easily reformat it into HFS+ in order to work with a Mac, a process that takes just a few seconds. In fact, I generally find that buying a drive like this is a much cheaper way to get storage for your Mac than buying a Mac-designated drive, which are generally much more expensive.

If you want to use the Seagate Expansion interchangeably in a mixed Windows and Mac environment, you can also format it using the exFAT file system. Apart from computers, the drive will also work with other popular hosts, such as game consoles or media players. Just make sure you first format it into the supported file system. I tried it with the Xbox One and it worked very well. The drive was recognized quickly and I could use it to save games and apps, as well as to store media for playback.

Seagate Expansion Portable Drive Specs

Drive type Bus-powered portable hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 500GB, 1TB, 1.5TB, 2TB
Internal drive speed 5,400rpm
Capacity of review unit 2TB
Dimensions 4.8 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches (12.2 x 8.1 x 1.52cm)
Weight 5.9 ounces (167.2 grams)
Software included None
OSes supported Windows XP or later; Mac OS 10.4 or later
Warranty 1 year

No bundled software or protection feature

Unlike the Seagate Backup Plus family, such as the Backup Plus Fast , that boasts helpful features and useful backup software, the Seagate Expansion doesn't comes with anything, other than the program that facilitates the registration.

There's no other software or security features. This means, among other things, if you lose the drive, anyone can have access to the data it stores, so if you use it while traveling, don't store sensitive data on it.

However, this doesn't mean you can't use the Expansion as a backup drive. On a Mac, once the drive is reformatted into HFS+, it works with Time Machine. And on a Windows machine, you can use any third-party backup software with it.

Performance

Considering the fact it hosts a low-power internal drive, the Seagate Expansion's performance is a nice surprise and more than makes up for its lacks of features.

In my testing with USB 3.0, it registered a sustained copy speed of more than 120MBps for writing and almost 130MBps for reading. These were about the fastest among hard-drive-based portable drives. Portable drives that are faster generally have special performance-boosting features, such as RAID-0 or use a solid-state internal drive, which the Expansion does not.

CNET Labs' USB 3.0 external drive performance

Seagate Backup Plus FAST (RAID 0) 222.5 232.74Samsung Portable T1 158.3 292.42Brinell Drive SSD 156.4 220.2Segate Backup Plus Desktop 150.9 180.45Seagate Expansion 125.2 127.93Toshiba Canvio Slim II 118.8 118.49WD My Passport Ultra 118.5 117.87WD My Book Duo (RAID 0) 116.7 210.96Seagate Slim 110.4 111.49WD My Book Duo (RAID 1) 110.3 149.89ioSafe SoloPro G3 109.1 110.8WD My Password Slim 107.7 107.89LaCie Christofle Sphere 105.5 111.43SiliconPower Armor A60 104.3 114.48WD Elements 95.7 102.15Seagate Backup Plus 90.94 110.1
  • Write
  • Read
Note: Measured in megabytes per second, longer bars mean better performance.

The drive also works with USB 2.0 at around 30MBps, which is as fast as the USB 2.0 standard can offer. Overall, as far as performance is concerned, the Seagate Expansion is about as good as it gets for a drive of its type.

Conclusion

If fast performance, lots of storage space and a low cost are everything you're looking for in a storage device (I mean seriously, who isn't?), go ahead and get the Seagate Expansion. It's a great drive, no matter if you're a Mac or Windows user.

However, if your primary concern is protecting your data against cases of loss and theft, or you're looking for a longer warranty, this isn't the drive for you. In that case, you should instead look at the Backup Plus Slim or the WD My Passport Slim . Both of those drives allow you to password protect your content, providing some peace of mind which the Expansion just can't deliver.

Note, however, that the lack of sophisticated features on the Expansion has its own advantages. It allows the drive to remain simple and work well with different types of hosts, such as game consoles, something a password-protected drive can't do. All things considered, the Seagate Expansion is one of my favorite portable drives which I would recommend to almost anyone.

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8.1

Seagate Expansion Portable Drive

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 6Performance 9Support 5