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Seagate FreeAgent Go Portable Drive 320GB review: Seagate FreeAgent Go Portable Drive 320GB

Seagate's updated FreeAgent Go is slim, attractive and offers a good mix of features and speed.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read

Design
The latest generation of Seagate's FreeAgent Go drives comes in a slender casing (12.5x80x130mm) and is certainly light enough for easy transport at only 160 grams. We tested the 320GB Blue version, although the Seagate site also lists Silver, Black and Red options. Other companies should take note here — Seagate's being quite daring just calling them by their actual colours, rather than something pretentious, like, say "Evening Silver" or the like. We like simple product names, in other words.

8.3

Seagate FreeAgent Go Portable Drive 320GB

The Good

Great visual design. Decent data shifting capability.

The Bad

Blister packaging ought to be outlawed.

The Bottom Line

Seagate's updated FreeAgent Go is slim, attractive and offers a good mix of features and speed.

Speaking of simple, the simple design of the FreeAgent Go shouldn't be understated. It's got a single mini USB connector and that's all. When you plug the drive in, the top lights up in a facsimile of those overlaid glow in the dark stars that everyone remembers from their childhood (or wishes they had, if they had a deprived childhood) on their ceilings.

The package also includes a humorously illustrated quick start guide. We say humorously, as it's tough to convey "plug it in the only possible way you could" in any kind of detail — and, in fact, the quick start guide doesn't have any other detail than that, aside from noting that an optional dock is available if your USB port has trouble charging the drive — or presumably if you favour the idea of a vertically standing drive.

One factor to bear in mind — at least when you're initially assessing the FreeAgent Go — is that it comes in some of the toughest and most annoying sealed "blister" packaging we've hit in a long time. Have a pair of scissors, plenty of patience and some band-aids handy when first unpacking it. Or, in other words, learn from our painful mistakes.

Features
The drive within the 320GB FreeAgent Go is a 2.5-inch, 5,400rpm model formatted in NTFS mode, so Mac users planning on using it will need to do a little reformatting first. Seagate do offer a Mac specific version of the Go, but at time of publication, pricing for that model wasn't available.

When you first plug the FreeAgent Go into an XP or Vista PC, it'll prompt you to install the Seagate Manager Installer, although like most portable hard drives, you can opt to ignore this entirely. Seagate Manager offers simple backup and encryption utilities.

Performance
One factor where external drives often annoy us is in ambient sound, and this is nowhere more true than in small portable enclosures. They're typically too small to effectively muffle the sound of the drives within, which can give them an annoying whirring noise. While we could tell the drive was powering up when holding it while plugging it in, once we placed it down on a desk, it was silent enough that we essentially forgot it was there.

From a pure data shifting viewpoint, we averaged a read speed of 23.8MBps with the FreeAgent Go and an average write speed of 25MBps, which is solid without being stunning for a drive with these characteristics over USB. Bear in mind that your choice of files — whether you're shifting single large files or folders of many files (and especially your operating system of choice), Vista for whatever reason is still horrible for file transfers, while XP and OS X tend to perform equally well — can affect your results. For the record, we tested under Windows XP Service Pack 3 with a 30-file folder weighing in at just over 76MB.

The Seagate Manager utilities are logically laid out, and as a bonus freebie with the drive (in essence) they're perfectly acceptable. We certainly can't suggest that people don't back up their precious documents, although only doing it to a portable drive that's most likely going to see a few knocks, drops and bumps seems like a foolhardy endeavour. Still, it's better than not backing up at all.

Note: The FreeAgent Go drive is also available in two other capacities: 250GB (AU$169) and 500GB (AU$369).