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Seagate Slim review: A fast, compact drive for both Windows and Mac

In need of something light and fast to carry 500GB of data with you on the go? Seagate's latest Slim portable drive might just be what you're looking for.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
5 min read

The Seagate Slim portable drive is basically the previous Seagate GoFlex Slim without the flexible module design. Instead it now supports just USB 3.0 (compatible with USB 2.0) and can't be used with any other peripheral connection via adapters.


Seagate Slim

The Good

The <b>Seagate Slim</b> is fast, extremely portable, and works with both Windows machines and Macs without the need to reformat.

The Bad

The portable drive doesn't offer the same level of flexibility as its predecessor, caps at just 500GB, and includes a short two-year warranty.

The Bottom Line

The Seagate Slim is an excellent addition to your small laptop, especially one with USB 3.0, for both storage expansion and backup while you're out and about.

That said, the new drive is much shorter than its predecessor and is an incredibly portable storage device. In my testing, it offers fantastic performance, and it works on both a Windows PC and Mac, without the need to reformat.

The Seagate Slim's only shortcoming is its limited 500GB capacity, though that's plenty for most people. And if you're happy with that, the drive is very affordable, costing just $60. And the Seagate Dashboard software bundle, which includes backup, utilities, and a cross-platform read/write access software driver, is a great bonus. If you're looking for a great portable drive to carry extra data or for backup on the go, this is it. For more options in terms of capacities, check out others on this list.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 500GB
Dimensions (LWH) 4.5 x 3 x 0.4 inches
Weight 5.3 ounces
OSes supported Windows 2000 or later, Mac OS 10.4 or later
Software included Seagate Dashboard for backup and cross-platform access

Supercompact, cross-platform design
The new Seagate Slim shares the exact thickness of the GoFlex Slim drive. It no longer supports the flexible modular design, which enables you to use the drive with different types of peripheral connections via a swappable adapter. Instead, the new drive is now a straightforward USB portable drive. It works with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. The drive is bus-powered, meaning you just need a USB cable (one is included) to make it work with a computer.

The new Seagate Slim (bottom) next to the previous model, the Seagate GoFlex Slim. Note the GoFlex adapter design of the older model.
The new Seagate Slim (bottom) next to the previous model, the Seagate GoFlex Slim. Note the adapter design of the older model. Dong Ngo/CNET

While it's a little disappointing to lose this level of flexibility, this is not a big deal since most computers now support USB 3.0, which is faster than both FireWire and eSATA, and more than fast enough for a single-volume storage device. There's an added benefit, as well: the new Slim is now significantly shorter than its predecessor, making it one of the most compact standard portable drives on the market.

There are two versions of the new drive: the Seagate Slim and Seagate Slim for Mac. The only difference between the two is that they are preformatted for the targeted operating system (NTFS on a Windows machine and HFS+ on a Mac). But you can get either version, regardless of what platform you use. This is because the drive comes with software drivers that allow Windows to read/write Mac file systems and vice versa. The only benefit of getting the version designed specifically for your platform is that out of the box, the drive will work right away without you having to install anything.

Note that since Mac OS can read drives formatted in NTFS, the Windows version of the Slim comes preloaded with Mac software. If you want to use the Slim for Mac on a Windows machine, you will need to download the driver software because by default, Windows can't access a storage device formatted in the Mac file system.

The Seagate Dashboard software offers a few options to protect your local and online data.
The Seagate Dashboard software offers a few options to protect your local and online data. Dong Ngo/CNET

Helpful Seagate Dashboard software
The Seagate Slim comes preloaded with Seagate Dashboard software for both Windows and Mac machines. The software offers three main functions: Protect, Share, and Save. The Protect part is basically the local backup; here you can either customize real-time local backups or let the software, by default, pick what should be backed up for you. After that, the drive will back up continuously when changes have been made to data.

The Share feature allows uploading files to social-networking sites, including Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube. And the Save part does the opposite, enabling you to back up photos currently stored in your Facebook or Flickr account onto the drive.

The software worked as expected in my testing and is very straightforward. Backup files are basically the exact copies stored in a folder called Seagate Dashboard 2.0 on the drive. You do need to dig deep in this folder to find the backups you need in case of recovery. Note that the Mac version of the software doesn't include the Protect part. This is because Mac users are better off using Time Machine with the drive.

The Seagate Slim includes software drivers to make the drive work cross Windows and Mac platforms without reformatting.
The Seagate Slim includes software drivers to make the drive work with both the Windows and Mac platforms without reformatting. Dong Ngo/CNET

Despite the fact that it houses an internal drive that spins at 5,400rpm (the 320GB version of the GoFlex Slim spins at 7,200rpm), the new Seagate Slim did well in my testing. When used with USB 3.0, it offered the sustained speed of 110MBps for writing and 111.5MBps for reading. These put it among the top four fastest portable drives on the market.

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Canvio Slim II
WD My Passport Ultra
Seagate Slim
IoSafe Solo G3
WD My Passport Slim
Canvio Connect
Seagate Backup Plus
Toshiba Canvio Desk
LaCie Minimus
LaCie FastKey
G-Drive Slim
WD My Passport Edge
Seagate GoFlex Slim
HP Portable Hard Drive

CNET Labs USB 2.0 external hard drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
WD My Passport Slim
Seagate Backup Plus
WD My Passport Ultra
Seagate Slim
Seagate GoFlex Slim
Toshiba Canvio Desk
G-Drive Slim
WD My Passport Edge

When used with USB 2.0, it registered 28MBps and 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively, which is about the average on the charts.

Overall, the Seagate Slim is a very fast portable drive, and it worked well in my tests.

There are many portable drives with the "Slim" designation on the market, but the Seagate Slim is truly the thinnest and most compact among its kind. The drive's fast performance and helpful software mean that it'll make a great companion for travelers with a small laptop. Its minor shortcomings, namely the 500GB cap and the short two-year warranty, can be overlooked thanks to its affordable price of just $60. If you definitely need more storage space, the Seagate Backup Plus or the WD My Passport Slim are a good alternative, offering up to 1TB and 2TB, respectively.


Seagate Slim

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Performance 8Support 7