There are three principal reasons why you might consider an external hard drive storage solution for your machine. The first and most obvious is portability (for those times when a USB key just isn’t enough). External hard drives offer massive quantities of storage space that consumer flash memory-based solutions just can’t match. A quick check of of a popular e-tailer reveals that the largest USB keys top out at 16GB, while the most capacious external hard drive solution was a 2.5TB solution from LaCie that will set you back over a grand and a half, containing five 500GB hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration, such that the drives behave as a single volume.
Yet any of these external hard drive units are small enough to be tucked under one’s arm (with the possible exception of the 2.5TB LaCie), or zipped into a backpack or laptop bag and carried along. If you need to carry lots and lots of data with you (the video production professional comes to mind), you can’t do much better than a big external hard drive.
The second reason to consider external drives is the ease with which an external hard drive allows you to add more storage, particularly to upgradeability-challenged machines like laptops. If you’d rather not muck around inside your machine to add another drive, an external hard drive unit makes plenty of sense. An external hard drive can be connected to any machine that has a USB port, making it a snap to add large quantities of storage, and the speed of today’s external interfaces like eSATA and FireWire 800 helps external devices deliver performance that rivals internal drives.
The third reason to consider an external hard drive is their inherent suitability to backup applications. Hard drives typically last three to five years under continuous use, and the low-cost drives in many consumer PCs can’t always be expected to be exemplars of long life. With a newer external backup drive that’s of high quality, if your primary internal drive fails, you’re covered. But what about human error? Have you ever deleted a critical document file by mistake? If you’ve got a recent backup copy on your external drive, the day is saved. It’s easy to see why external hard drive storage continues to be a popular option, despite the size and speed of internal hard drives.
Seagate unveiled their new FreeAgent line of external hard drive-based storage solutions earlier this year, at the 2007 CES. Four product categories are integrated into the FreeAgent line, the FreeAgent Go, FreeAgent Go Small, FreeAgent Desktop, and FreeAgent Pro. All four models feature an elegant exterior design, a slim profile, and distinctive amber illumination, and are available in multiple capacities.
The FreeAgent lineup turned plenty of heads at CES with its handsome styling and Seagate drive technology under the hood, but the FreeAgent has still more to offer than just a tempting hardware component. The FreeAgent Go series of drives includes software that allows you to sync your own personal OS settings and other files like cookies and web favorites, so that you essentially carry your PC with you, in a package that’s slimmer and lighter than carrying a laptop.
The FreeAgent Pro drives, however, include Memeo’s powerful and configurable AutoBackup software, which is re-skinned with Seagate logos and colors. The Memeo AutoBackup software can manage multiple backup plans (even on a single PC), and supports backing up files to remote internet-based storage, a USB key, or even an iPod. The pairing of Seagate’s reliable drives with Memeo’s functional software results in one of the most attractive backup solutions currently available.
And lucky me, I recently received the largest member of the Seagate FreeAgent family, the 750GB FreeAgent Pro. This model features Seagate’s current largest 3.5" hard drive, and an even slimmer, more attractive exterior design than the FreeAgent Desktop, as well as interchangeable input modules that allow USB 2.0, Firewire 400, or even eSATA connectivity.
The opportunity to test the very latest and greatest doesn’t come along all that often, so that alone is enough to put a smile on my face, but as you’ll soon see, all the buzz surrounding the FreeAgent product line is well justified. I should note that it seems that Rob, Techgage Editor-In-Chief, accurately predicted the future when he mentioned back in his CES coverage articles that a review of Seagate’s FreeAgent product line would be forthcoming. I had originally requested a Maxtor OneTouch III drive, but Seagate (Maxtor’s parent company) sent the FreeAgent Pro instead. Imagine my surprise to find Seagate’s newest top-of-the-line external solution staring up at me from the open box, when I had expected one of their value-oriented products. Thanks, Seagate!
Okay, that’s enough futzing around; I’ll get on with the review now.