Seagate Pushbutton Backup External Hard Drive
Seagate has entered the fray of retail storage products, and among its new offerings is the Pushbutton Backup External Hard Drive. Upon first examination, we were impressed with Seagate's new USB 2.0/FireWire external hard drive--that is, until we tested the drive's performance. The 400GB version we tested was slow with a capital S--falling so far short of the competition that we retested it on several machines to verify the results. Unfortunately, our original numbers were correct, and whether the problem relates to the bridge chip that translates IDE signals to USB and FireWire or whether it was something more subtle, this drive doesn't pass performance muster. If you like the idea of push-button backup, try the .
The Seagate Pushbutton Backup is a boxy 7.125 inches deep by 6.5 inches wide by 2.25 inches high (while lying flat). However, being chunkier than the average external drive has advantages, namely, better shock resistance and air circulation. The Pushbutton Backup drive survived several drops, and it runs very cool. Alas, despite Seagate's claims of ultraquiet performance, the Pushbutton's read/write head made far more noise--in the form of loud clicks--than competing products. Seagate offers three capacities of the Pushbutton Backup drive: 200GB, 300GB, and 400GB.
The medium-silver and dark-gray drive is stackable, thanks to a round footpad on the bottom and a round indentation on the top, and if you need to place the drive in a horizontally constrained location, you can use the included pedestal to orient the drive vertically. The drive has a power switch, two FireWire 400 ports, and a USB 2.0 port on its back panel. The front panel houses a power/activity light and a backup activation button. It also ships with both USB and FireWire cables; many vendors omit the latter.
Many retail drives ship with Dantz Retrospect, but the Seagate Pushbutton Backup drive includes CMS's BounceBack Express. BounceBack Express is an effective, albeit sometimes ungainly, program that performs native file backups (copying files without compressing them to a single large file, as programs such as BackUp MyPC and NovaStor NovaBackup do). The software works well, but we had a few problems with it. For one thing, once the program is installed, if you switch from a FireWire connection to a USB connection (or vice versa), the pushbutton won't work; you'll have to uninstall and reinstall the program. Also, you must perform the first backup manually; only subsequent incremental backups are invoked by the button.
If our quibbles were only with the software, we might still recommend the Seagate Pushbutton Backup drive, but the real deal killer is exceptionally poor performance. Over the USB 2.0 bus, it averaged only 5.76MBps writing a 400MB folder and 14.4MBps for a 1.9GB image file--the worst performance we've seen for a USB 2.0 drive, rivaled only by an olderusing FireWire 400. Connected via the FireWire 400 port, the Seagate drive was both faster and slower: it averaged 8.58MBps copying the 400MB folder but only 6.92MBps copying the 1.9GB image file. Reading from the drive back to our test system wasn't much better: 12.37MBps for the folder and 15.53MBps for the image file using USB 2.0 and 10.78MBps and 8.11MBps with FireWire. Drives regularly average 15MBps and from 20MBps to 35MBps in the two read tests.
Seagate provides a one-year warranty with the Pushbutton Backup drive, but toll-free phone support is available for the life of the product, although only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. The quick-start guide is concise and offers more than enough information to get you started. You can find more extensive documentation on the installation CD. Seagate's exceptional Web site provides downloads, FAQs, a technical library, and troubleshooting tips, and it helped us work through some of the BounceBack Express glitches mentioned earlier.