Editor's note: This review was initially posted on April 5, 2011, then updated on June 22, 2012 to add the 500GB version.
The 320GB Seagate GoFlex Slim differentiates itself from the rest of Seagate's GoFlex family of portable external hard drives, including the excellent 500GB GoFlex Pro, by being about 40 percent thinner, at only 9 millimeters. The new design alone makes up for its slightly higher cost per gigabyte compared with the rest of the family.
The Slim also supports USB 3.0 out of the box and offers fast performance. If you're looking for a portable and flexible external hard drive to accompany your USB 3.0-enabled laptop, at $100, the GoFlex Slim definitely makes a good buy. If money is not an issue, however, we'd also recommend the LaCie FastKey.
Design and features
|Drive type||Ultrathin 2.5-inch external USB hard drive|
|Connector options||USB 2.0, USB 3.0|
|Size (LWH)||4.1 inches by 3.2 inches by 0.35 inch|
|Available capacities||320GB, 500GB|
|Capacity of test unit||320GB|
|OSes supported||Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac OS 10.4.6 or higher|
|Software included||NTFS driver for Mac OS and HFS+ driver for Windows.|
Other than the fact that it's much thinner, the GoFlex Slim shares the same concept as the rest of the drives in Seagate's GoFlex family of external hard drives. It 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. (The internal hard drive used for the GoFlex Slim, however, is much thinner than standard drives on the market. Standard SATA internal hard drives, used in previous models of portable GoFlex external hard drives, are 9.5mm and already thicker than the GoFlex Slim drive itself.) On one side, the 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 Slim 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 any connection types simply by using other adapters; these, unfortunately, cost extra. However, as USB 3.0 is currently the fastest peripheral connection for external hard drives -- until Thunderbolt-enabled drives are available -- and backward-compatible with USB 2.0, it's unlikely that you'll need to buy any other adapters. The GoFlex Slim's adapter works with those of the regular GoFlex portable hard drives and its hard drive works with regular GoFlex adapters; this means if you have bought eSATA or FireWire adapters to use with previous GoFlex drives, such as the GoFlex Pro or the GoFlex Ultra-portable, you can use them with the GoFlex Slim, too.
As with all other GoFlex drives, we really love this innovative, flexible design, as it allows you to use the hard drives and the adapters interchangeably when you have multiple GoFlex portable drives available. This also means you can use the GoFlex Slim's adapter with any 2.5-inch SATA internal hard drive, including those made by other hard-drive vendors. This will come in handy if you want to pull information off an old laptop's hard drive.
The GoFlex Slim comes in black and white. The former is preformatted using the NTFS file system (Windows) and the latter preformatted with HSF+ (Macs). However, each comes with a software driver that enables the other platform to have full read/write access to the drive without having to change its file system. This is similar to the rest of the GoFlex family and significantly increases the flexibility, as well as the value, of the drive in terms of usage. Prior to this, the only way for a drive to work with both platforms was to use FAT32, which limits the maximum file size to less than 4GB (unsuitable for storing high-definition content).
We tested the GoFlex Slim with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, using a testbed running Windows 7. While the drive didn't top our charts, its performance was consistently very fast, especially considering its compact physical size.
In USB 2.0 tests, the Slim scored 27.7MBps and 37.3MBps for writing and reading, respectively, about in the middle of the chart. The drive did slightly better with USB 3.0 with 82.4MBps for writing and 101.9MBps for reading. At these speeds, the drive will work quickly when you need to transfer a large amount of storage.
We were also impressed that the drive remained cool during operation, despite the fact that it seems to have no ventilation slots. The drive looks like it's a solid piece of metal.
Service and support
Seagate backs the GoFlex Ultra Slim with a three-year warranty, which is one year longer than the GoFlex Ultra-portable's warranty. Seagate's Web site contains a comprehensive list of forums, knowledge bases, driver downloads, installation help, and FAQs to help you troubleshoot your drive. The company's technical support is also available via live chat, e-mail, and phone from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT weekdays.
By being significantly thinner, the GoFlex Slim further enhances Seagate's GoFlex portable drive family. In fact, the drive would earn our Editors' Choice award if it came in higher capacities.