The GoFlex USB 2.0 drive really isn't much of a looker in the external hard drive space. Small, rectangular and black are really all the adjectives we need to describe this particular drive, although we could be cruel and use "boxy" as well. External drives aren't all pretty, but this isn't even an ugly duckling. It's merely a functional bit of IT with one rather interesting trick up its sleeve.
Most USB 2.0 external hard drives still use Mini USB connections and cables for connecting up to compatible devices, and at first glance, the GoFlex seems no different. Where it gets tricky is that the connection plate behind the mini USB port also comes off, revealing a bare SATA port. Seagate sells a variety of different connection adapters for the GoFlex line. So it might start life as a USB 2.0 drive, but you can change that up for eSATA, USB 3.0 or FireWire as you need it, and changing the drive is as simple as pulling off the unwanted connector and popping on the new one. The one challenge here is that while the USB 2.0 connector is comprised of a cable and separate connector, the other options fuse the cable to the connector. Snap the cable accidentally, and the whole thing is junk.
Seagate supplies a small suite of software add-ons including backup and encryption for the drive, none of which are necessary for standard file operation. The drive itself is formatted by default as NTFS.
As mentioned, there are options for USB 3.0, Firewire and eSATA connectivity, but these connectors don't come in the box. Instead, you'll have to lay out extra cash for each one of them. USB 3.0 is the cheapest at an RRP of AU$39, while eSATA will cost you AU$49 and FireWire 800 will set you back a hefty AU$69.
The stock drive comes with a USB 2.0 connector, so that's what we tested with first. But we knew full well that the limiting factor here wouldn't so much be the drive as the USB interface itself. Its read speed, tested with HDTach came out as a dead average 36.4MB/s, and likewise its write scores (with a 499MB AVI file and 1.6GB folder) of 21.97MB/s and 17.47MB/s were pretty much dead on what we'd expect from any USB 2.0 drive.
Switching out the USB 2.0 connector for a USB 3.0 connector sped matters up nicely. Read speed jumped from 36.4MB/s to 68.2MB/s. The write speed for the AVI file went up from 21.97MB/s to 60.12MB/s, although the the folder of files only increased in speed from 17.47MB/s to 27.66MB/s. In other words, plug the right interfaces into this drive and it can fly, but out of the box it's an otherwise pretty ordinary drive.
We like the idea of being able to interchange the connections at will, but it's a missed opportunity for Seagate not to have made USB 3.0 the default. It'll still work just fine on USB 2.0 systems, but allow for future compatibility without leaving owners with additional cost. The drive itself certainly performs well, and for those who regularly interface with systems with better-than-USB 2.0 connections it's well worth considering.