by Rob Williams on September 20, 2010 in External Storage
With our media collections growing larger by the day, it’s sad to look at a 2TB hard drive and picture it as not being “large enough” for our goods. To help remedy things a bit, Seagate recently released a 3TB external drive, and it today remains the only 3TB single drive offering. Let’s take a look and see if it’s worth your consideration.
This past spring, Seagate confirmed a rumor that we were all hoping to be true… that 3TB hard drives would see a release during 2010. But like many others, I was a little shocked to see the first launch happen the very next month, in late June. There was a catch, though. The first 3TB drive to hit the market wasn’t internal, but rather external, coming in the form of a Seagate FreeAgent.
Those who were hoping to pack their PCs with 3TB drives were no doubt left a bit disappointed at that announcement, but the lack of an internal option shouldn’t last too much longer, as Seagate is still set to release such a model before the year’s end. For those looking into what could be the definitive desktop storage option though, this 3TB number is one that’s hard to ignore.
According to its press release, Seagate states that 3TB is large enough to house 1,500 games (assuming each is 2GB), thousands of photos (at 4MB per photo, that’d be 750,000) and 120 HD movies. The company seems to be a bit modest with its figures here for some reason, because if you encoded your Blu-ray movies into a standard 1080p MKV (~10GB), you’d be able to hold about 300 of them.
Of course, with such a massive drive there’s a lot more it could hold than just movies, games and pictures. For me, all I can think about is “PC backup”, and apparently, so has Seagate, as it includes software compatible with both PC and Mac for that very purpose. To round out the product, the company also lets you customize the IO with accessories, which you might want to consider if you need FireWire or USB 3.0 support.
We’ll tackle the more technical bits throughout the article, but to kick things off, let’s take a look at the unit itself. As you can see, it’s about as black is it could be, with air holes littered on both sides and the top. Thanks to this design, no fan is required.
It’s difficult to tell, but it doesn’t seem like the holes up top are for increased airflow, but are rather just to continue the design. It’s likely that there was enough airflow due to the holes on both sides of the unit, so the top simply ties the aesthetic design together.
As mentioned earlier, Seagate has made the FreeAgent GoFlex Desk a modular unit by offering people the choice of using a dock that offers something other than USB 2.0. All of them look identical aside from the connectors in the back. To swap the dock out, you simply need to pull it apart from the drive – it’s simple. Once you have your replacement, you can simply click it back together, plug it in, and be on your way.
As much as I like the idea that this FreeAgent is modular, I don’t like the situation it leaves consumers in. Seagate doesn’t sell this drive pre-equipped with either USB 3.0 or FireWire, but rather only with USB 2.0. That leaves people with two choices. The first is to purchase the default kit, which does include the USB 2.0 dock, and then purchase the additional dock on the side. The other option is to purchase the drive without a dock, and then purchase the one you need.
That might sound simple enough, but the pricing of these docks is what makes me a little uneasy. Through Seagate’s site, the 3TB + USB 2.0 kit costs $250, but the same thing can be found at various retailers for as low as $200. The same can’t be said for the additional docks, though, so the best choice there is Seagate’s own site, which sells the USB 3.0 for $40. If your PC doesn’t have USB 3.0 capabilities, the company also sells a version that includes a PCI Express add-in card. That solution costs $60 through some e-tailers.
Any way you look at it, though, if you want USB 3.0 functionality from the get go, you’re going to have to haul out a lot more cash than just what the drive’s worth… at least $40. Ideally, Seagate should offer a USB 3.0 model right alongside its USB 2.0 model, rather than have people spend 20% more on top of the product just to add the functionality in. Another idea would have been to offer only a USB 3.0 model, since 3.0 is backwards compatible with 2.0.
Regardless, if you are able to take advantage of USB 3.0, you’ll absolutely want to splurge on the dock unless you have the patience of a saint. We’re dealing with 3,000GB here, and USB 2.0 offers us at best 30MB/s (0.03GB/s), so it’s easy to see how some file operations might be a little tedious. USB 3.0 will allow the drive to operate past 100MB/s, so clearly, that option is a good one, despite the added cost.
As for the drive itself, it’s a Barracuda XT model, which means that it’s going to be one of Seagate’s highest-performing drives. It’s hard to say whether the desktop variants are going to be the exact same or not, but chances are there might be some minor modifications to better suit it for desktop use.
The drive inside the enclosure sits inside a simple metal frame for improved heat dissipation, with rubber pads on each site to reduce the vibration – a good thing when this thing is bound to sit on your desk.