Unless you consider three interface options to be intense, there's nothing particularly extreme about the Seagate FreeAgent Xtreme hard drive. Despite its mundane nature, we still found a lot to like about this external drive. We appreciate its simple and functional design, fast performance, and easy-to-use software. The drive features three connection interfaces (USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and eSATA), while keeping its price-per-gigabyte cost in line with drives that offer fewer connection options. Really, only that handful of users with FireWire 800 ports will find it lacking in the connection department. And it worked quietly throughout testing--an important consideration for any drive that may become a semi-permanent resident on your desk. The fact that eSATA sometimes needs to be reset after idling is the only shortcoming we found in the drive. Other than that, it's an all around good external hard drive that offers relatively high value on our cost per gigabyte chart.
|Drive type||External hard drive|
|Connector options||USB2.0, FireWire 400, eSATA|
|Available capacities||500GB, 640GB, 1TB, 1.5TB|
|Capacity of test unit||1TB|
|Dimensions (HWL)||6.89 inches x 1.33 inches x 6.77 inches|
|Notable design features|
|OSes supported||Windows 2K, XP, Vista, Mac OS X|
|Software included||Seagate Manager|
|Service and Support||5-year warranty|
Design and features
The new FreeAgent Xtreme is slightly smaller in size than the previous generation of Seagate's FreeAgent product line. Unlike the previous model that only stood upward, the new drive can now work in both vertical and horizontal positions and has a detachable base.
On the front, the new FreeAgent drive has one large LED that glows white-ish light to show the status of the drive. On the back, there are two FireWire 400 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and one eSATA port. The drive comes with a compact power adapter, but it doesn't come with an eSATA cable. You only get one FireWire 400 cable and one USB 2.0 data cable out of the box. There's nothing else but a well-illustrated QuickStart Guide in the box; no CD or printed manual, and the bundled software is stored on the drive itself.
Preformatted for a Windows PC, the drive worked immediately once plugged in. It comes with Seagate Manage, a light software suites that including backup, sync, and security functions, all of which worked very well.
You can command the backup software to backup a recommended area of the hard drive or a set of selected folders and files. You then can create backups immediately or schedule them to run automatically. The sync function does a little more than that, by making sure that the content of one or more local folders or drives is synchronized with the FreeAgent Xtreme. This way, you can have two exact copies of the same data.
On the other hand, the security function of the software is rather cumbersome. First you need to create a password for encryption, then you need to drag and drop existing folders or files into the encryption software's virtual folder, and then you have to delete the originals. In order to open and edit files within the encrypted folder, you first need to decrypt them. The software only supports drag-and-drop encryption for files, but not a whole folder, making the process very time consuming if you want to read multiple encrypted files.
The FreeAgent Xtreme also works with Macs, but you will need to reformat it. However, Mac users might want to check out the FreeAgent Deck, which Seagate makes especially for Mac by replacing the eSATA port with FireWire 800 ports.
Cost per GB
The FreeAgent Xtreme can be found on the Internet for around $220, which translates into about 22 cents per gigabyte--about the same as the SimpleTech (re)drive . However, though not as eco-friendly as the re-drive, the FreeAgent Xtremes comes with more connection and capacity options.
|Model||Capacity||Est. street price||Cost per GB|
|Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus||250GB||$90||$0.36|
The Seagate FreeAgent Xtreme's USB 2.0 performance met our expectation, though it was still a little slower than that of the SimpleTech (re)drive or the WD My Book Mirror. The drive performed significantly faster with FireWire 400, and especially with eSATa--where the writing speed got up to 440Mbps.
The drive also performed very smoothly and quietly; it stayed relatively cool during the testing process, too.
We did notice, however, that the FreeAgent Xtreme's eSATA connections would appear disconnected after an hour or so of idling, and we had to repower the drive for eSATA to be recognized by the system again. While this doesn't affect the data stored on the drive, it's a nuisance--especially since eSATA says this is the connection that shows the best throughput performance on the drive.
Service and support
We believe you won't need much support for the FreeAgent Xtreme beyond the duration of the warranty. And Seagate delivers! It backs the FreeAgent Xtreme with a very generous 5-year warranty. Toll-free phone service is available weekdays, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (PT), or you can e-mail technical support via a Web form. Seagate's support site offers installation and troubleshooting assistance, a download library, a knowledgebase, and a drive troubleshooter.